Museums and Their Visitors

By Eilean Hooper-Greenhill | Go to book overview

9

Managing museums for visitors

A SWOT analysis for the future of museums

A number of forces demanding the development of the museum as a communicator were discussed earlier. Increased competition from within the museum industry and from other parts of the leisure industry, greater demands from audiences, especially the school audience, and increased accountability to government and museum governing bodies, all emphasise the need to develop new ways of demonstrating relevance and value for money, and new ways of attracting and satisfying audiences. What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that will influence the ways in which museums will repond to these demands?

Museums have many strengths. They represent ideal learning environments, and they have enormous resources in their collections, buildings and staff. New methods in museum communication are being developed and within a close and collaborative profession are quickly shared. The public perception of museums is, on the whole, good: they are seen as places of worth, value and integrity.

There are also some weakness. Fear of getting too close to people is one of them; some museum workers find it difficult to contemplate incorporating either other museum professionals or representatives of the audience into work patterns. Lack of training is another; many museum workers are undertrained and this can lead to narrow horizons, lack of vision, lack of knowledge of alternative ways of doing things and fear of change. The training that is required must enable museum professionals to expand their horizons, to explore new and sometimes controversial ideas, and to act in problem-solving and creative ways.

Lack of strategies and forward plans, and lack of policies, particularly in the area of communication, is another area of weakness. This leads to a paucity of management information in relation to visitors and audiences in general. Without information, planning for exhibitions, education and marketing represents no more than a stab in the dark and a waste of resources.

The opportunities for museums are sometimes not perceived. In general, the early 1990s is felt to be a period of desperate survival in the face of decreasing

-171-

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Museums and Their Visitors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Plates ix
  • Figures xi
  • Tables xiii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Forces for Change 6
  • 2 - Communication in Theory and Practice 35
  • 3 - Who Goes to Museums? 54
  • 4 - Research and Evaluation 69
  • 5 - Welcoming Visitors 84
  • 6 - Responding to Visitor Needs 100
  • 7 - Language and Texts 115
  • 8 - Museums: Ideal Learning Environments 140
  • 9 - Managing Museums for Visitors 171
  • Glossary 183
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 198
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