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)

    What value do museums, art galleries and heritage properties contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand?

    New report released by Museums Aotearoa

    Museums Aotearoa released a new report that brings together academic research with data collected from New Zealand museums and their visitors.

    It shows how cultural institutions are making an active contribution to cultural well-being, social cohesion and the economy in addition to their vital role as kaitiaki of knowledge and taonga.

    PDF icon media release

    PDF icon full report