We have seen some cities facing multi-million dollar investments to build museums methodologically to measure their social impact, check the return – success – of the assumed expenditure. If they were private investment would worry anyone return, and when we talk about return not only believe in the economic, but they are not, they are public museums, we pay them among all Spaniards, and if there has been a European grant, we pay it among all Europeans. In a world where commercialism it has invaded everything, including culture, we should require the measurement of the economic impacts of everything and everybody, including museums. And not by choice, or because we say it, or apply a methodology the modern world calls as well. We do market research applied to the culture to the very survival of the museums and of the same culture. Sounds like a contradiction in terms: cultura-mercado, doesn’t sound good? Basically because they are terms that are usually not appear in a sentence. The was of wasteful Government and grant-making wage model “what is mine,” have been terminated, the party’s over and now what? Workers of the State museums, can be reassured? No, we believe that it is time to plan returns now and forever, not to close options that can improve certain approaches and decisions that affect people, at all us. Culture is an asset which should be free, a universal right to everyone but, unfortunately, at this juncture of our ‘every man for himself’, our cultural goods at much risk. How to ensure profitability? Museums are related to market studies? The first thing is to know the potential audiences in depth and know he wants, expects the visit to a Museum and then acts accordingly.
There are examples in Spain about the proper use of market research methodologies and that should be extended even to the centers of interpretation, why not? Many times have museums spent funds to deal with a new museography without knowing if it will be accepted or not by the public? Altamira Museum, without going any further, in 1998 commissioned a comprehensive external opinion study – “pulling pipe”, i.e., using the technique of telephone surveys-, in parallel to the construction of the new Museum, especially taking into account the enormous investment that would meet with the mounting of the Altamira “Neocave”. Know in advance with potential audience was going to count was essential at that time. The conclusions that would affect on the whether or not deal with investment, were: Altamira is known by 98% of the Spanish population; visits are concentrated during the summer; the visits would be in groups of three to four people; the visitors hopes the Museum car; and, most importantly, almost everything the world liked the idea of building a replica of the “Sistine Chapel of the art rock”, they would go to visit her. The traffic light was on green.
Another example is that of the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, which commissioned a study to apply techniques of information collection: in-situ observation, questionnaires to the public, interviews in depth, groups of quality, brain-stormings, etc). The goal was the assess the acceptance of the public about exhibitions. It was intended to study the public about the orientation of a future Museum project that was on the table. In these studies mentioned, information obtained serves to plan the Museum, as reasoning main in addressing new strategies museological and museographic even innovative approaches. In other words, never working blind relying on that very Latin which is the of: My intuition dictates it to me. It is a form of decision-making which is very expensive. Still and all, analyzing these two examples above, not currently relevant study projects that, unfortunately, and much less at least in this country. We as professionals of museography never has us been provided a market study that would support a project. If they would have given it us the fainting would be secured printing.
Ilustration: Jean Julien
Should the citizenship building and a new museum about the transformation of an existing one be opinion? We believe that it is not pushing people to the polls so that they can decide this or the other, is studying data. That Yes, we must have data to study them; If there is no data back to the dangerous strategy of intuition “every man for himself”. Who should collect this data? When designing a Museum, many believe a study of market or public computer? There are many variables that study before taking decisions that shall be definitive for the success or failure of the project muselogic. Are conclusive data not important? We would reverse our own money on a project that we do not know the study of reliable data if it will be a potential success or not? We invest money by importing a temporary exhibition to the Museum having not studied its possible impact on public opinion previously? If you don’t, what risk assumes that decide to import this exposition? What risk assumes that that without a prior study of public decides that it is time to renew all of a Museum? Who decides that it is better Jean Nouvel to Gerhy to design the multimillion-dollar project? Are we a rich country? Obviously, if it has been a success is that with so much money at stake it turned out to be a less risky and kilos of lucky intuition of someone. It is also true that, if a public survey on certain aspects of decision-making on a museum – science fiction-, which is falling, possibly the physical integrity of the poor interviewer would face a serious threat. The new museum plan in Spain is very stood and stood, there are no surveys that make, unemployment queues are filled with specialists in market research. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
ALARCÓN, Reinaldo (2007): “Sociología y estudios de público en los museos españoles”, revista “Museo” de la Asociación Profesional de Museólogos de España.
HOOPER-GREENHILL, Eilean (1994): “Museums and its Visitors”. Editorial Routledge, Londres.
PÉREZ, Eloisa (2000): “Estudio de visitantes en museos. Metodología y aplicaciones”. Editorial TREA, Gijón.