Benoit Pailley / Courtesy New Museum
Museums Urged to Think More Like Ben & Jerry's
Not traditionally known for nimbleness, museums are experimenting with big data, business incubators and some helpful but potentially creepy surveillance strategies to get visitors in the door.
"Museums have a long view in their DNA," said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), but faced with limited funding and staffing "it is possible to get bogged down in the day-to-day."
Ideas for getting out of the bog are outlined in a new report from the AAM's Center for the Future of Museums, which encourages museums to learn tricks for increasing foot traffic from the likes of Toms Shoes, Ben & Jerry's and websites that offer free access in exchange for personal data.
"The pace of change is increasing rapidly," said Elizabeth Merritt, CFM director and the author of the report. "So we're trying to increase the speed at which museums adopt some of the latest trends."
The Dallas Museum of Art, for example, has significantly increased memberships — and funding — by making admission free.
In January 2013, the museum scrapped its $10 general admission fee and began offering free entry and memberships in exchange for personal information shared by visitors. Participants can also earn points, badges, credits and discounts by participating in certain activities.
In the first year, 48,000 people enrolled in the program."By increasing access and emphasizing participation, we are enhancing the DMA's role as a cultural convener in our city," said museum director Maxwell L. Anderson. The museum has also seen an increase in donations and is building a database that can be mined for valuable information about its audience.
Taking a cue from mission-driven, for-profit companies such as Toms Shoes and Ben & Jerry's, some museums are getting entrepreneurial about delivering services.
"The pace of change is increasing rapidly, so we're trying to increase the speed at which museums adopt some of the latest trends."
Museum's need to innovate to attract the new younger patrons that will sustain them in the years to come. Provide services that the community needs, fill the gap created from school art budgets being slashed. It's not enough to be an exhibition hall that brings in a yearly traveling show. Most young collectors and art aficionado's know artists themselves and already follow trends. Museum's must reflect the regional taste, know the local scene and become a gathering place. Showing and promoting local artists would be a great start. Engage the community and be a reflection of it, helping to grow a unique esthetic. GL