A couple months ago, I shared research that only 14% of the broader population said yes, museums are charity. I posited that Americans define "charity" more narrowly (likely more along the lines of food banks and international relief than museums).
But that doesn't mean museums don't help people. Indeed, 60% of Americans in my broader population sample agreed that yes, museums help people.
Which reinforces that semantics matter. When thinking of museums, some words, like "charity," seem to create dissonance. But helping people? Yes, that works.
But how, in the eyes of the broader public (and museum-goers) do we help people? That's a totally different question.
I'm currently deep in coding of open-ended questions in my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers (our visitors, not the broader population), which may shed some light on that how. In turn, this will help me understand what new questions to ask the broader population to better understand what they think the role of museums might be (even if they don't visit themselves).
And, to be honest, I'm pretty curious about the 4 in 10 that did not think that museums help people. My initial question indicates that half of that group, (22% overall, to be precise) simply had never thought about it enough to feel they could answer the question. They don't know us well enough (or at all?) to even have an opinion. A finding that I'm not at all surprised by.
So, as always, more to come.
I respectfully acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people. I thank them for the care of this land, and I endeavor to help museums bring forward a more complete and inclusive history and culture in their work.