This hierarchy is the second in a series I developed out of my broader population work and my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers. Please see my introductory post on why I hate Maslow's hierarchy, and why I am using his model with very strong reservations.
My second hierarchy looks at the motivations for museum visitation. At the bottom, the two broadest swaths of people: those who do not visit museums at all and those who only visit extremely casually (and probably less than once a year). Combined, this is probably about 2/3 of Americans, as both of the broader population samples I am working with validate.
Please note that one's motivation to visit a museum is not an assessment of individual worth or character. That implication is what I truly hate about Maslow's hierarchy, and one I want to be VERY clear I am not implying. I am using this graphic because it is the most accurate one I have been able to create.
As we move up the hierarchy, however, we begin to see motivations for visiting museums.
As a general model, this hierarchy works. And for museum-goers, one motivation tends to build on the next. That is, those who are intrinsically motivated also feel museums help them gain knowledge/broaden perspectives, will visit museums that have content they are specifically interested in, and enjoy museums for social reasons. Motivations tend to aggregate.
But please be mindful that what I share below isn't necessarily true for every single person. For example, an individual could fit easily in that "intrinsic, love of learning" category, but always visit museums alone. It may not even occur to them to visit with friends or family. Additionally, motivations can shift from one visit to another. I am highly intrinsically motivated in most of my museum visits, but not all; the umpteenth visit to one of my local museums is because my daughter loves it, not because of my intrinsic motivation (which disappeared around visit four, to be honest).
And finally, as I have said before, one's place on the hierarchy is not an assessment of character or worth. There are many external reasons for why someone may have higher or lower capacity for learning motivations, both intrinsic and extrinsic. I'll explore that a bit more in my third hierarchy.
A note about fielding research. I hold dear the idea that research for the field, about the field, should be shared with the field. But that only works when museums work together to make it possible. Since individual museums are needed to field this work, the survey also benefits participating museums on an individual level by providing benchmark data on visitation rates, motivations, attitudes and preferences, and demographic questions … all of which can then be tracked over time in the future. Participating museums are also allowed to add 1 - 2 custom questions specific to their needs.
Which means if you value this research, want more of it in the coming years, and want to track your own museum's progress over time, please support this work by enrolling your museum in the 2018 Annual Survey of Museum Goers. The fee for 2018 is only $1,000 per museum.
The questions for these surveys have been inspired by ongoing conversations within the museum field (who does/does not go to museums, why they do/do not visit, and what that means for communities) and ongoing research in the fields of education and psychology around lifelong learning and intrinsic motivation.