Success factors for effective museum audience research and evaluation

Background to the Research

This research was undertaken for my doctorate which I completed in 2009 at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, in the area of Media and Communication Studies with a focus on Museum Communication, in conjunction with the Institute for Museum Studies of the State Museums of Berlin – Prussian Heritage. Supported by the German National Academic Foundation.

Aim of the Research

The aim of the research was to empirically identify best practices, i.e., factors crucial to an effective utilisation of audience research in museum contexts.

Scope of the Research

The research focused on museums which are very active in audience research and represent best practice institutions. Different types of museums were looked into: art museums, history museums, science and technology museums, natural history museums, multidisciplinary institutions and museums with a special subject. To cover the range of issues relevant to the different museum contexts, this study has an international perspective, looking at museums in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Research Approach

The research used in-depth case studies of 21 institutions representing best practice in audience research around the world. Data collection and analysis methods ranged from qualitative content analysis of depth interviews with museum staff and audience research experts as well as organisational documents towards more quantitative staff surveys.

Objectives of the Research

The study:

  • described the kinds of audience research undertaken within institutions
  • described the integration of audience research in the work of institutions
  • identified the impacts audience research has on the work of institutions
  • identified factors contributing to best practice in audience research and
  • made suggestions for improvements

Outcomes of the Research

The research:

  • provides knowledge as to what factors contribute to best audience research practice
  • helps develop the body of knowledge in the fields of audience research and museum management
  • enables practitioners in the field to provide a better service to institutions
  • further develops the field of audience research in the museum sector
  • supports advocacy for audience research within the museums and other sectors

For more information, please consult the resulting publications.