Surprised? I was too … by how low the numbers were in my 2017 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers. After all, cameras are ever-present in our lives.
So first I do have a methodological caveat: this was an answer choice among several choices about museum experiences. Thus, respondents who didn't mark it may take photos as well … just not feel as strongly about it.
My bigger point is different. Museums are places of bonding and connection. Photos help reinforce those bonds and memories. I'll be coming back to this idea in my longer essays, but in short, young adults share with me that museums are great places to go with friends as they jumpstart interesting conversations. And families. They share that museums provide meaningful family bonding experiences, as the content gives them something to share, discuss, and do together without the distractions of daily life.
So of course these segments of museum-goers are more likely to want to take and share their photos!
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.