Sunday, February 16, 2014

Some People Just Don't Like Museums. Is That A Problem?

I've been thinking a lot about museum visitors lately, and how to shift them from being passive viewers and to turn them into museum fans.  (I've written about this before in previous posts here and here.)

It's hard for some museum workers to accept, but there are some people who just don't like museums. Is that a problem?  And if it is, what are the best solutions?

Even if they could get in for free, some folks just don't seem to click with museums.  Just like some people don't like football or opera or amusement parks. 

The difference between museums and those other things, though, is that often museum workers really, really think that there should be ways (if we only try hard enough!) to get those museophobes to change their attitudes about visiting museums.  Maybe so.  But should we change to create museum converts, or better spend our time trying to build on our existing strengths?

It seems that places like The City Museum or The American Visionary Art Museum (to name two of my favorite examples) just keep trying to forge unique paths with a strong institutional ethos rather than getting tangled up in parsing different demographic groups.  And as a result, they develop a wide range of fans who are so excited about those institutions that they make a point of telling other people to visit, too.

What does it mean to be truly welcoming to the widest possible audience for museums without merely pandering to different communities by dumping a bunch of free passes on them?

Maybe the best way to attract a wider audience is to start on the inside and take a hard look at ways to become truly fan-worthy, instead of trying to wheedle or cajole people to step in from the outside.

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