This isn't really a surprise, now is it? In my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, the majority of museum-going parents visit museums so that their children have learning opportunities. Overall, it is an extrinsically motivated reason for visiting.
The interesting part is looking at the parents that are intrinsically motivated as well. One doesn't preclude the other, yet look at how few are intrinsically motivated at children's museums and science centers. Only 12%. (And science centers, when I look just at your regular visitors, it only goes up to 18%.)
As I'll lay out in a few weeks, the motivation gap matters. A lot.
Though to be honest, what I'm most curious about is broader population response. They are thinking about all types of museums, not a specific type, and in that context, their response makes a lot of sense; it is almost an average of the responses from my sampling of museum-goers.
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 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. In particular, this question is similar to versions fielded by, among other organizations, the Smithsonian's Office of Policy and Analysis, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, Visitors Count!, etc.
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.