"I look to museums to help me teach my child. I need all the help I can get!"
- This and all quotes from parents responding to 2018 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers
Parents and caregivers are stressed. They are trying to pack a lot of things into a busy schedule (and affordably). Sometimes, even if they want to visit a museum, it just seems so hard. So hard to pack up the gear, deal with timing and a toilet-training toddler, corral children into the car, motivate a tween to come along, and then get out the door to stand in line and, hopefully, have a great day.
So we need to make it easy. And when I say that, I don't just mean easy to visit logistically (though we need to do that too), I mean making parents lives easier. Be a deliberate, explicit solution in their lives.
Being easy means fulfilling needs. Parents today are barraged in their life with advice about how to make their kids smarter, better thinkers, more compassionate, better athletes, and so on and so forth. Ad nauseum. It is relentless. And it isn't always clear how to best accomplish any of it.
Which brings us to museums as solution.
In the 2018 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, I asked museum-going parents to consider what a community or world without museums would be like, and how it would affect their parenting. Most were horrified at the thought, and shared how a lack of museums would make their job as a parent so much harder. For example:
Parents don't always feel they have the ability to nurture creativity in their children:
Parents realize they don't have the expertise to explore every subject with their children:
Parents don't have the time and resources to create interactive experiences for their children:
And parents would struggle to make the complexity of the world tangible (at least, not without the help of museums):
I could go on (after all, I have thousands of these quotes). But for all of these parental challenges museums are a primary answer. And without museums around to provide these things, parents would feel even more pressure, stress, and anxiety.
Now, most museum-going parents don't articulate this role of museums in their lives, that museums make their job easier. Indeed, as I recently shared, most parents find museums only slightly more pleasure than pain to visit. Why? Because parents are in the weeds of everyday parenting, and are seeing the everyday challenges of getting kids out the door to a museum. Consciously thinking about, and articulating, the overall impact of museums is not something most parents take time to do. Yet when presented with a world without museums, that impact became instantly clear to them.
So, museums are already a solution … a unique, easy-to-access, solution for parents. Museum-going parents can articulate that. But we need to do a much better job of articulating it for parents, and presenting museums as a feel-good, affordable, easy solution to encourage broader museum attendance from all families, whether museum-going, casual visiting, or non-visiting. Because when we articulate and deliver on these needs our impact is clearer, our case for support is stronger, and our ability to transform lives expanded.
By the way … if you would like a daily dose of a randomly selected #imaginenomuseums quote from museum-goers, follow my Twitter feed @susiewilkening or my Facebook page @wilkeningconsulting.
Make the 2019 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers possible!
Do you value this research? Does it help you in your work at your museum? Do you want it to continue to help you and our field?
If so, consider how useful it would be to know how your museum's stakeholders feel about your museum, lifelong learning in museums, and more. By enrolling your museum in the 2019 Annual Survey of Museum Goers, you can easily benchmark the visitation rates, motivations, attitudes and preferences, and demographics of your stakeholders. Additionally, you can compare your results to your peers, begin to track them over time, and gain far more contextual information through your custom results and report. The fee for 2019 is only $1,000 per museum.
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.