Category: Audiences

Innovative Approach to Families in Galleries

Four contemporary art galleries in the North bring in new family visitors with innovative approach

Evaluation shows new approach, funded by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, brings in 123,000 visitors but lessons are also learnt 

Four contemporary art galleries in the North of England have successfully brought in thousands of ‘under represented’ new visitors by commissioning special exhibitions aimed at a family audience and using an innovative communication approach, their new evaluation shows.

The Gymnasium Gallery in Berwick, Central Art Gallery in Ashton-under-Lyne, Towneley Hall in Burnley and the DLI Museum and Art Gallery in Durham worked together to create the Generation Tour which visited the galleries between September 2014 and September 2016. 

The Tour used a research-based approach to audience development and commissioned artists to develop four brand new hands-on contemporary art exhibitions designed to appeal to families. 

Lucy Jenkins, Art Curator for Durham County Council, said “This has been a very successful project with rich learning along the way that we can build on. We hope others in the culture sector can also gain something from our discoveries.” 

“We embarked on this project because family audiences were under represented in our venues. This was a missed opportunity, not only in terms of visitor numbers but because contemporary art can enrich the lives of families and encourage a lifelong appreciation and interest.” 

“We were delighted that the Generation Tour was so successful. More than 123,000 came to see the exhibitions. Nearly 1,500 filled out questionnaires that showed 83% were visiting as families and the average approval score was 8.7 out of 10.”

“We were especially pleased to see that 14% of those visiting had never set foot in an art exhibition before – getting visitors to try a completely new cultural genre is not an easy thing to do.”

To achieve these results, family focus groups were used and previous research applied to find out what the barriers were to families visiting and what they wanted from a visit. The clearest message was that contemporary art galleries were perceived as ‘hands off’ places where curious, noisy children would not be welcome. Many found the terminology used in marketing off-putting too – even the use of the word ‘art’ was a turn off for many.

The Generation Tour responded to this with exhibitions that were very much hands on, colourful marketing literature that was instantly recognisable as ‘for families’ and training for staff to ensure a warm welcome for this audience.

For all their mainstream appeal, the exhibitions didn’t compromise on artistic quality. Generation AIR by Spacecadets created ambient, breathing inflatables inspired by the human body; Generation NOISE by Owl Project offered huge wooden interactive sound machines; The Tree, The Caterpillar and The Butterfly by Aether and Hemera invited families to bring a nature garden to life using Xbox Kinect technology and Musical Chairs by Hellicar and Lewis offered the chance to compose a changing soundscape by joining hands with other humans. They successfully brought in many families but not everything went to plan.

“We learnt there was a tricky balance between showing families that contemporary art galleries could be hands on but also getting the message across that it was not exactly the same environment as a playground.” said Lucy Jenkins. ” When you’re encouraging people to interact with artworks you need to make sure they are really robust otherwise things can stop working and it causes stress for front of house staff”. 

“We’re now looking at our next steps and would like to commission new exhibitions. Funding permitting, these will use interpretation, exhibit robustness and staff training to help families interact with exhibitions in a way that’s both enjoyable for them and sustainable for the art offer.”

“With this learning we’re confident we can deepen the engagement for families further still and continue to play our part in turning around the perception that contemporary art galleries are not for families.” 

An infographic overview of the Generation Tour is available here and the full length evaluation here. Video interviews with families who attended the exhibitions are also available here.


Diversifying Museum Visitors

Within an increasingly diverse society how might UK museums grow attendance and engagement?

How do we move beyond talk to action in increasing diversity, inclusion and equity to start to make real and lasting change in the museums sector?

Diversifying Museum Visitors is a ground breaking project designed to help museums increase the diversity of their visitors. 

The key focus of the project will be on providing tools and guidance to help museums make long-term change.  The sector has been talking about diversity for so long. Diversifying Museum Visitors provides a great opportunity to address and breakdown barriers.  To help people take a first step and then the next, to make a meaningful, lasting, real change.

                What are the factors for success?

                What practical steps can museums take to improve visitor diversity?

                What do we need to change and influence both internally and externally?

The literature and practice review (underway at the moment) is highlighting that there is a complex interplay of factors which affect diversity and inclusion within museums.  The project team will therefore consider all of the protected characteristics, but will place a particular emphasis on socio-economics as a key, cross-cutting influence on engagement.

The project steering group is led by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) together with the Museums Association and four other organisations who are funding the project – Arts Council England, the Museums Archives and Libraries Division of the Welsh Government, Museums Galleries Scotland and National Museums Northern Ireland. 

Get involved

AIM has appointed a trio of consultants – Julie Aldridge, Mel Larsen and Pam Jarvis – to lead on this project and they are now looking for people across the UK museums sector to get involved.

Help us to make a difference by informing the creation of a suite of tools and guidance that works well for a broad mix of museums (of different types, size, geographical locations etc.)

Deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm, Friday 5th May 2017

Register your interest to share your experience as part of a pioneers group

Register your interest to explore the ideas further with a group of other museums

Register your interest to find out more about future stages of the project

Consultancy Opportunity: Viewpoint review, MDNW

Fee: £5,000
Start date: May/June 2017
Completion: December 2017

MDNW hold a regional licence until March 2018 with CRT for the use of Viewpoint devices and software at 69 museums across the North West that use them to capture audience feedback. Many museums have benefited from free audience data collection for at least six years.

We would like to commission a review of how effectively the devices are being used to capture and analyse visitor data and provide support for those who could make more of the technology in their museums.

We would also like to commission consultation with Viewpoint users to find a sustainable future for the programme post March 2018 when MDNW will cease to pay for the regional licence.

Contract – key tasks

  • To review the effective use of Viewpoint machines and software at relevant museums (including data capture, analysis, location in the museum and its visibility, knowledge and confidence of staff in using technology) and impact on audience development
  • To use information from the review to inform MDNW as to what practical and operational support museums would need going forward to improve the effective use of Viewpoint technology
  • To carry out consultation with Viewpoint users individually and/or via area museum networks to explore various licencing options for April 2018 onwards and report back to MDNW with recommendations
  • Liaise with CRT to discuss licence options for individual or consortia of museums with support from MDNW
  • To inform MDNW of devices that are not being or are not intended to be used by individual museums to enable us to redistribute where appropriate 

Budget and timescale
The programme will start in May/June 2017 and all work must be completed by December 2017. A report on the review of effective Viewpoint use, a report on consultation outcomes and recommendations of future licencing options will be expected at the end of the work.

The total budget is £5,000 (inclusive of VAT) and is to include all associated expenses.

To see the full brief please click Viewpoint Consult Brief 2017-18.

Future of Museums: Audiences

Wellcome Collection, London
Wednesday 29th March
£55.00 – £195.00

From the Museums Association:

How will our rapidly changing society affect the relationship that museums have with audiences in the future? Chaired by Tonya Nelson, head of UCL Museums and Collections, the event will look at the influence that demographic, technological and other trends will have on the needs of audiences, including families, young people, older visitors and those with disabilities. Speakers will discuss how museums can deepen their engagement with the public and have a greater impact on their lives.

Tonya Nelson, head of UCL Museums and Collections


– Jane Falkingham, director of the ESRC Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton, will shed light on future demographic trends.
– Anne Torreggiani, CEO, The Audience Agency, will talk about the audiences of the future.
– Maggie Appleton, chief executive, Royal Airforce Museum and board member of the Museums Association, will explore how museums can strike new relationships with audiences.

– Sebastian Crutch, neuropsychologist, UCL Dementia Research Centre
– Miranda Ballin
, ArtWorks, Artistic Director at Valleys Kids
– Sam Tatlow
, talent coordinator for talent agency Think Bigger
– Becki Morris
, a specialist in inclusion and representation of disabled people in museums and collections assistant at Warwickshire Heritage and Culture
– Laura Phillips
, head of learning and participation, British Museum, and member of the Age Friendly Museums Network
– Mark Miller
, Circuit programme leader and convenor of young people’s programmes, Tate Britain and Tate Modern
– Clare Haywood
, family programme producer, National Maritime Museums
– James Peto
, head of public programmes, Wellcome Collection

Registration will start at 0930 and the event will finish at 1700.

After the event the Museums Association is holding one of the launches for its new Museums Change Lives publication. All delegates are welcome to attend. This new publication is being launched at events throughout the UK in 2017.  Museums Change Lives is the MA’s flagship campaign to enhance the positive social impact that  museums can deliver working with their communities. The new publication features case studies from a range of museums demonstrating the difference they are making and advocates the value of museums to society.

Full timetable will be available in due course

To book your place online please click here

To download a booking form please click here

If you require an invoice please download and complete a booking form to send with a purchase order number.

Follow this event on Twitter: #MAMuseumsFuture

Audience Diversity Academy 2.0

From AMA:

The AMA is recruiting for participants to take part in Audience Diversity Academy 2.0 – the innovative online programme which supports professionals working in arts, culture and heritage organisations across England, to help diversify audiences.

Fellows of the programme develop and conduct experiments with real audiences, identifying challenges and testing new ways of working. We use the word diversity in its broadest sense and are looking to recruit Fellows aiming to engage audiences of different ages, sexualities, genders, ethnicities and socio economic backgrounds.

The programme offers you the support of an international expert Mentor with one- to-one sessions, access to tailored online training to develop your skills, and the opportunity to take part in Action Learning Sets to learn from your peers.

If you want to build new relationships with diverse audiences and are committed to seeing audiences better reflect society you should apply for a place on the programme. You’re likely to have marketing, education, outreach, audience development or engagement in your job title.

The simple application form and further information can be found on the AMA website. The deadline for applications is 12pm on Friday 17 March.

“No one can afford to ignore diversity issues nowadays but many cultural organisations still struggle to think through and apply new practices. This programme will give many organisations the on-going, in-depth support they need to try new approaches, get great results and embed the learning into their organisation.”

Culture24 Digital Programme

Closing date tomorrow!

Do you want to work with Culture24 to engage audiences with your digital collection? 

Culture24, working in partnership with Museum Development North West, is looking to support staff in 10 museums in the North West to understand how to reach and engage adult audiences and communities of interest with digital content from and about collections. This programme has been made possible with ACE Resilience Funding.

We want to help museum professionals and volunteers understand how to make their content fit for purpose to meet audience needs and understand better what motivates (or doesn’t motivate) people to discover and visit museums on/offline.

We want to work with museums most in need of help and ensure individuals in those museums are able to embed new approaches and learning into their work once the project is over. Each museum will be paid a £200 honorarium to support participation.

Participants from each museum will work together as a group to identify/understand their target audience needs; create and publish fit-for-purpose digital content on Culture24’s and their own websites; reach out to and engage communities of interest via a range of channels then track and analyse usage and engagement using online analytics tools.

Interested? What you need to take part:

-A digitised collection
-To be an accredited museum
-To be near the beginning of your digital journey or to be in need of help and support with audience engagement via digital publishing
-To have a desire to experiment and explore the possibilities of your own collection via digital publishing and digital storytelling

Time to be able to take part:

  • To be able to attend two workshops over the 18 month period in a venue to be decided in the North West region (first workshop January 2017)
  • To have time to write and develop content (this will depend on the project / experiment we identify – according to capacity and need)
  • To be able to partake in occasional Skype surgeries, phonecalls, emails and webchats in order to develop projects and ideas
  • To be able to take part in user feedback as part of the evaluation of the project.

This would equate to approximately one day a month time commitment over the 18 months.

If you would like to be considered for the project, please fill in the brief questionnaire and return it to Kaye Hardyman, Museum Development Officer: by 5pm on Friday 11th November 2016. You must have support from a senior manager to participate in the programme (where appropriate). 

If you want more information on the programme before submitting your questionnaire contact Richard Moss, Editor at Culture24 Tel: 01273 523987

About Culture24 

Reaching and engaging audiences is central to Culture24’s work. We support museums to create and curate high quality digital content with the aim of building sustainable, engaged online audiences around subjects and within relevant communities of interest.

We help museum professionals understand how to make their content fit for purpose to meet audience needs. In the last year Culture24’s online publishing generated 3,651,509 page views and 2,187,550 user sessions from 1,829,107 users.

Knowing Your Audiences Workshop Four: New Audiences and Co-Creation

Thursday 10th November
The Bluecoat, Liverpool
10:00 – 15:30

This is the second of two related workshops in strand two of our Knowing Your Audiences programme looking at,Consultation and Engagement.

This session will focus on new audiences and co-creation. Delegates will gain an overview of the kinds of health and wellbeing programmes being delivered in museums. As well as understanding of how these relationships contribute to their organisations sustainability and resilience as well as its moral purpose. They will be given the opportunity to collaborate to create a Network to support Audience Development in the North West.

For more information contact Kaye Hardyman –

To book a place visit our eventbrite page.

The Audience Agency Free Surgeries

Helping you address audiences and use insight as part of a Funding Application

The Audience Agency is continuing to offer free one-on-one NPO advice sessions or ‘surgeries’ to help cultural organisations tackle specific areas of their National Portfolio Organisation application.

Organisations who took part in our surgeries to support their Catalyst Evolve fundraising applications were collectively awarded over £1.4 million.

Like these, the new surgeries will again help you use the data and insight from Audience Finder as well as drawing on our team’s extensive knowledge and expertise in audience development and making funding applications.

You can choose from a range of subjects particularly useful in Arts Council England NPO applications.

Surgeries last for about 90 minutes, and offer an opportunity to discuss challenges specific to your organisation. By the end you should have some new ideas, suggestions and resources that will make your application stronger.

Surgeries are available to anyone about to make an arts funding application. You don’t have to be funded currently, or even part of a constituted organisation. 

Find out more and apply at the Audience Agency website.

Let’s Get Real – Young Audiences Phase 2

A quick overview

How do we digitally engage young audiences? If arts and heritage organisations are to connect with children and young people as a core audience group it is imperative that our digital content and the way we use digital tools and channels are relevant to their needs.  If you are interested in better understanding strategic and practical ways to digitally engage children and young people, this could be the project for you. We are looking to work with 25 to 30 arts and heritage organisations over 7 months starting in November 2016, to help them better reach and engage children and young people online.

For more information please visit the website

Sign up here – Deadline is 31st October 2016

Halloween Museums at Night Festival Visitors Survey

Following the inaugural Halloween Museums at Night festival, which was a great success with over 200 events, the organisers are looking for feedback from those who took part, this will help them shape the festival in future, as well as evaluate the advice and resources the festival offers to venues.

The short survey is available here, and on top of that, a prize of £40 of Montezuma’s chocolate is being offered to whoever sends the best image of the Museums at Night event they attended. they want to see people having a good time in an arts or heritage space at night.

Send your images through to Nick or Rosie