Welcome to the new blog, Museums for Real. This blog stemmed from two of my passions—learning and museums. I’m writing for people who are interested in museums (I’m hoping that’s you)—visitors, potential visitors, students, and individuals who are volunteering or working in museums and see them as places for socializing, reflection, learning, debating, creating, relaxing, contributing, and/or having fun. I aim to make this a dynamic platform with insights, ideas and thoughts on how to make museums dynamic spaces that provide approachable and engaging experiences, as well as relevant and meaningful ones.
My approach to museums is from an outsider’s perspective; I’m not from the inner circle of the museum world. I’m an educator with experience in designing curriculum for online platforms and creating digital learning strategies. I’ve written extensively about learning on my other blog, Online Learning Insights (OLI), that shares insights, resources and research about teaching and learning online. I started OLI in 2012; it’s had over one million views to date, reaching over 90 countries. With a recently completed Museums Studies Certificate, and my curriculum design and learning development experience, I hope to provide a unique viewpoint as well as useful ideas and resources.
What prompted me to start this platform was realizing the significant barriers that exist for people in terms of engaging with, and attending museums, and from determining that museums have an image problem, especially among younger groups, who feel they ‘don’t belong’. Also, after further research, discovering that museum attendance overall is not growing (in the US), especially among younger audiences.
Data from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Survey reveals that almost half of
millennials (ages 22 to 37) in the United States feel that orchestras and symphonies are “not for
people like me, 40% of millennials don’t feel that art museums are for them, and a third don’t feel
science centers or science museums are for them”. (Dilenschneider, March, 2019)
The most troubling findings from the data is the belonging aspect. It’s more pronounced among younger adults (millennials), an important group of museum-goers—important because they are a large group. Pew data shows millennials make up a quarter of the US population and are projected to overtake BabyBoomers as American’s largest generation (2018). It’s a significant number of potential museum-visitors. Furthermore, these adults are, or will be, parents raising children—our next generation of museums-goers and cultural supporters. If millennials feel they don’t belong in museums and don’t engage with cultural institutions, how will museums be sustainable in the future?
But can you really blame those who don’t rush out to museums to seek the next great experience? Museums are not known for rolling out the welcome mat. There are significant barriers to visiting that include, exhibits that don’t engage visitors, staff who frown upon visitors interested in touching or getting close to art or exhibits, or who don’t behave in certain way. Or what about the museum labels that don’t make sense with their scholarly terms or confusing instructions, or the buildings that are hard to navigate, are intimidating, or lack amenities. Then there are the entry fees, and some museums that charge ‘peak pricing’ (like Disneyland and Disneyworld do), charging more on weekends. It’s no wonder that people want to stay home, or invest their time in other more enticing, approachable experiences.
Yet we can do something about it, and my primary goal with this blog is to share not only thoughts about museum exhibits, events and programs, but also to share constructive suggestions on how to make museums more approachable, engaging, participatory and fun. I hope to prompt blog visitors to consider how to enjoy and participate in museums, to encourage discussions with family, friends, even museums employees, volunteers and decisions-makers about how to make museums and cultural institutions places where people want to go and feel they belong. I also want to share my ideas and resources for learning more about museums, and to share the programs I create for family and individual museum learning programs.
Thanks for visiting Museum for Real; check back soon for more posts and resources.