Museums and Heritage Show 2011

Museums and Heritage Show 2011My first gig back at Audiences London (after 9 months on maternity leave…) was at this year’s Museums and Heritage Show at Earl’s Court.  AL was again invited to curate one of the seminar series (making it our third year at the show).  So amongst the giant blow-up frankenstein monsters, a multitude of audio guide providers, interpretation experts and cabinet makers and a frenzy around social media… we offered a tranquil space to think about visitors.

Sarah Boiling and Sangeeta Sathe of South London Gallery talked about the virtues of sustained audience monitoring in the context of the visual arts benchmarking project. Quickly followed up by a focus on segmentation, the driving force for a collaborative project and campaign byLondon’s orchestras to attract those less knowledgeable about classical music.  We then took a quick trip into the world of tourism with highlights from Susanna Mann from the Royal Collection on Group Tour Organisers and Operators.  Another royal connection followed as Helen Ball talked about the FUSE project developed with the Royal Parks to engage young people with the arts organisations surrounding the park. And finally a romp through any other kinds of relationships that organisations had developed a sustained…

Relationship building themes of the day for me were… know your visitors; hand over the reins to your visitors – give them the opportunity to develop ideas and run the show once in a while; collaborate and the return on investment can last for years; and finally keep evolving, don’t stand still… and you’ll  have more engagement, income and happier visitors!

What would Tesco do? (if they ran a museum…)

Just back from the Museums Association Conference in Manchester. Could only be there for one day but managed to hear from keynotes Ed Vaizey and Neil MacGregor.

‘What would Tesco do?’ (a variation on one of my personal favourite creative thinking solutions) was used by consultant John Newbigin to get museums he was working with to think differently… their response was that if Tesco was running their museum they would know a lot more about their visitors and they would be using this information to improve their services and target potential visitors more effectively.

Quite right.

Worringly they seemed to think you need complex computer systems and processes to do this properly. It’s not the case – an organisational dispostion to listen and respond to customers is crucial; and then as we know there are all sorts of practical options (many low or no cost): informally chatting to visitors; through a regular survey – online or in person;  comments and suggestion cards; visitors books; holding discussion groups etc etc.  

Listeing to Neil MacGregor  felt rather strange that he wasn’t coming out of the i-pod in my kicthen (his History of the World in 100 Objects is one of my favourite podcasts). He spoke passionately about the role of a national museum, as a  ‘lending  library’ for partner museums up and down the country to access objects, and the unique ability of ‘things’ to tell stories and connect with other people, other times and other places. Finished with a plea to consider our national collections as one shared resource – to use to learn and study together.

Ed Vaizey was charming… (really, he was) and I thought was given an easy time by the delegates. I was struck by the contrast between Nick Serota’s heartfelt and hard hitting Guardian attack on the propsed spending cuts yesterday  and the deafening silence from the leaders of some of the country’s national museums in the room.

Some of the specifics I picked up from his speech

  • State won’t subsidise those organisations that won’t help themsleves
  • Partnership and collaborations  (or cultural convergence as Ed calls it) are the way forward (and not just with other museums)
  • Post Renaissance funding will go to ‘core’ museums which are ‘efficient, imaginative and innovative’

Interested in culture?

Of course you are! I recently picked up my first copy of Monocle magazine and was blown away by the quality of text, images and content. It’s hard to explain what Monocle is about as it covers lots of different grounds, but it has an excellent Culture section which shows you interesting projects happening all over the world right now. This month they focus on the trend of museums becoming places of social gathering rather than to educate. So pick up a copy if you can. They’ve also got a great website which you can access here, although content can be restricted.

Banksy and Saatchi in top 30 most visited global exhibitions in 2008/9

the phone-box lost the fight with the axe

The Art Newspaper published its annual listings showing the most popular exhibits and galleries in the past year across the globe. Japan seems to be king of exhibit attendances, but the UK doesn’t fare so badly!

As Art Newspaper quotes, ‘The Art Newspaper’s 15th annual survey of attendance figures confirms that Saatchi has hit that target, tempting 1.2 million to visit. “The Revolution Continues: New Art from China” exhibition and “Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East” attracted 4,139 and 3,828 people a day respectively, tallied by automatic counter. This made them the first and third most visited shows in the UK. Only the “Banksy effect” stopped Saatchi securing a top one and two in the UK. The street artist/local boy made good drew almost 4,000 people a day to see his interventions, or “remix”, of Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery.’

Looking at museum attendance, The British Museum was the second most visited in the world (behind the Louvre), National Gallery came in fourth and Tate Modern fifth. Check out the full article on Art Newspaper’s website here, or download the full list here.

Changes to family tickets for museums?

An item in the news yesterday caught my eye… Ed Balls, Children’s Secretary, has commissioned Kids in Museums to undertake a consultation on family tickets. It is thought that the traditional ‘two adults plus two children’ standard family ticket may no longer be appropriate now that the nuclear family is no longer necessarily the norm.

Click here to read an article from the Daily Telegraph with more information.

The Postcodes Project

postcodesprojectThe other day Hannah was helping me update our database; what fun doing returns from a big mailing, but so important – how annoying is it to be sent two copies of the same thing, and how useless to your organisatsion to send information to the wrong address! It’s important for us to log the borough of companies we’re communicating with for reporting purposes and I do notice that this isn’t always recorded.  So I showed Hannah a tool which can help identify this. In fact I was a bit taken aback to find that I was the only person in the AL team who seems to be using The Museum of London’s Postcodes Project to do this!

If you select the “Places” tab from the menu on this minisite, you can view boroughs by postcode. It’s not fool proof, as some postcodes cross more than one borough, but it is incredibly useful; especially when you’re needing to report on this sort of thing for your funders! There are lots of other fun tools to utilise too, such as themed tours and an oppportunity for you to submit your own stories about your area.

Museums and young people

ippr publication - Learning to LiveNew publication from ippr which addresses key questions about the role of museums and other institutes of material culture in young people’s wellbeing and learning.