Money, Morals and Metrics: How Should We Measure the Success of Museums?

Why attendance is too crude a measure

Thought-provoking article with a variety of views from international museum directors about measuring the success of museums and why attendance is not enough on in other words.

Some highlights:

  • “…how do you measure ‘quality’ in numbers? It’s much easier to track attendance than to try to answer that question.” (Emilie Gordenker, director The Mauritshuis, the Hague)
  • Attendance can “act as an ‘index of relevance’, but the numbers should be tempered with a “kind of high-level of responsibility towards … society at large, in saying: ‘Are we doing something together that will make us as a people more intelligent, maybe more tolerant and certainly more visually acute?’” (Richard Armstrong, Director Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation)
    • “Museums should be ‘of the people and for the people’ by generating debate” (Taco Dibbits, director Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
    • A more interesting measure … is stickiness: do people want to visit more frequently and spend more time at the museum looking and thinking about art?” (Glenn Lowry, director Museum of Modern Art, New York)
    • “You can very well as a museum decide you want to attract a different group of visitors, which might lead to a decline in numbers, but that will have achieved the objective that you set. … Attendance on its own is simply too rough a measure to be meaningful.” (Emilie Gordenker, director the Mauritshuis, the Hague)