Museums are a great place to spend time with family and friends. We all know that.
Research confirms that many museum visits are driven by a desire for a good social experience with those we care about (why museums are chosen over other options is where motivations get really interesting, but I digress). And let's be honest, we choose museums for time with our families and friends as well. I know I do.
But when we think of who drives that social experience, many of us think of women. Moms making choices for their families. Wives bringing husbands. Groups of female friends at the art museum or botanical garden. Women also comprise a significant majority of museum email lists … and thus are typically more aware of what is going on at museums.
There are exceptions (visions of my father and WWII museums in Europe come to mind), but generally … women. Right?
What if we're wrong?
In broader population research I fielded last fall, I asked respondents, both museum-goers and non-visitors, if they were to visit a museum, what their primary reasons would be. When it comes to spending time with family or friends, here's what I found:
Yep, men were 1.3x more likely to cite time with family and friends.
Museum-going men were 10 percentage points more likely to cite this reason than museum-going women, 42% vs. 32%.
And even among non-visitors, men were still more likely; 24% of men said if they were to visit museums, this would be a reason versus only 17% of women.
So maybe we need to rethink our assumptions a bit, and consider how we can attract and engage more men in ways that motivate them to say "hey, let's go to the museum today" with their family or friends.
And a final note. Spending time with family or friends wasn't the top reason why someone might visit a museum for either men or women. Learning experiences for themselves was number one for both, at 37%.
The questions for this survey 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.
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.