Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

6. Performance of museums

The performance of museums can be measures in terms of visits / visitor. The satisfaction of visitors can be used as comparative data for different events, actions and campaigns. Museum directors and staff have to decide what to advance first and how to mix. Usually there is the matter of relating permanent to temporary exhibitions while rotating items in the permanent to ensure that visitors come again because they have yet to see all!

Measuring the performance of museums

Some evidences in Greece

“The new Benaki wing on Pireos has establishes its reputation within the art-loving crowd through prominent exhibitions such as ‘Ptychoseis – Folds and Pleats: Drapery from Ancient Greek Dress to 21st Century Fashion’ and its café and shop. The same goes for smaller venues. The Museum of Islamic Art and its permanent collection saw 22,600 visitors in 12 months, while ther Herakleidon museum had 19,500 visitors at its debut exhibition, ‘The Art of M.C. Escher’.” [1]

Some explanations may be needed to point out following factors:


According to what indicators / tools of measurement

“Who evaluates museum quality? Visitors’ attendance is definitely a factor, but not the surest criterion.” [2]

Greece – Benaki museum

By venturing into a foreign field the Benaki museum has altered the disposition of Greek museums focusing solely on Greek culture. According to curator Anna Balian who did the current exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art, she pointed out to journalist Margarita Tournara that they did not take anything for granted, are making a constant effort to come with fresh things in order to renew the visitor’s interests and that they producing a small guide to the museum introducing the visitor to the idea of Islamic art. Seen in the broader perspective of ongoing discussions in Europe about Islam especially due to recent events (murder of film maker Van Gogh in Holland, bomb attacks on the tube and bus in London on July 7th), it makes sense that Greece and its people begin to take up the dialogue with Islamic culture. Again Anna Balian is quoted as saying the following:

“People don’t necessarily need to be persuaded of the beauty and wealth of Islamic aesthetics to simply come through the door. Those who are prejudiced will say, ‘Why do we need this museum in Greece?’ So far, however, our visitors, both Greek and foreign, have been pleased. In the future, we would like to attract more Muslims who live in our country. As you know, there are many immigrants from Muslim countries living in the Keramikos area. Why shouldn’t they be aware of the existence of a museum featuring works of Islamic art?” [3]

Qualitative measurements

Means of understanding the atmosphere a museum conveys compared to whether or not it fulfills its mission, aims and objectives.

Museums can also be evaluated from many other angles e.g. Peter Higgins – they should be not only places for visiting exhibitions but places where people want to meet and discuss even if only in the restaurant and this because the place is considered to be of importance for such a discussion.

But if one takes experiences of oneself as a tourist in a foreign city, then museums are places of refuge because there one can step inside quiet, often cool rooms and immediately discovers how pleasant it is not to be lost anymore in wild and noisy streets but finds oneself in spaces that allow concentration but also communicates a different sense for the place one happens to be visiting. This can be accentuated by the term ‘sanctuary’: people need quiet places to recuperate, to gather their thoughts, to take a distance from everyday life of which they are reminded of constantly if in the streets of other cities were there is as much hustle and bustle as in the hectic streets back home.

Crucial for structuring such experiences is what the German philosopher Ernst Bloch said once about a traveling alienating himself by going abroad and then coming back estranged to his own immediate setting, but this double sense of being alienated and estranged at one and the same time from the ‘self’ known of before having departed, that this allows a reflection of how one has come to a certain ‘self understanding’ and what differs now that one is back but now filled with new experiences and a different understanding of one’s own self understanding.

The meanings of that far away place brought home so as to retain a linkage to Ancient Greece through a vase bought in the gift shop or a better understanding of Indian culture by putting up on the shelf at home a picture of a Wigwam. The shelves at home reflect very often the treasures brought home as each person wants to be reminded by these tiny objects of what they mean in a different context experienced when visiting those places and especially the museums that house evidence of those past times.

First reflections

A great deal depends on training of staff, organization and what degree of interactivity in what spaces and sequence of time is made available to visitors.

It depends whether or not the museum has ongoing evaluation and monitoring according to a clearly worked out benchmark system or whether the staff of the museum opposes modernization efforts and thus leaves the museum as it is: coping but without energy and resources for effective changes in response to new needs.

The treatments of visitors depend on how differentiated are organisational structures and kind of museums. A common ticket for a cluster of museums is easier if they create together a kind of island than if in different parts of the city or region.

Visitors will be treated differently according to free entrance / free entrance for permanent collections – prizes for temporary / differentiation according to categories: children / students / pensioners / members / groups / other – e.g. ticket contingent given to government in exchange for funds

Services offered that go with the ticket price or extras – guides, multi media means, access to libraries, archives and other institutions linked to the museum as a whole e.g. research into restoration, maintaining and expanding on collections.

One important issue came up with regards to visitors: ICOM policy advocates one day of the week must be free of charge. This was discussed within HERMES onhand of experiences made by small museums like the Ethnological one in Krakow. They experienced few visitors came during the ordinary days while too many showed up on the day when entrance was free. The result was a counter problem leaving the museum's management to face a difficult choice in view of low revenue through tickets while people taking advantage of the free day helped to improve access to culture. Most of the people who came on the free day were families with children or those with low income.

Of interest is that all national museums in the UK do not charge anything for entry. This conscious policy expresses a desire to give free access to cultural heritage, a principle emphasized especially by the British Museum with regards to heritage from world civilizations, including the Parthenon or Elgin marbles. This type of argumentation is called the international one and relates to universal value claims.

By all accounts of modern museums, visitors are differentiated into various categories while there is also a distinction between visitors and members.

Example: Tate Modern

Members are offered

i. a year’s free entry to all Tate exhibitions with the slogan “leaving you free to visit and revisit favourite exhibitions and discover less familiar artists at no extra cost”

ii. use of members rooms at Tate Britain and Tate Modern to relax or meet a friend

iii. TATE etc. magazine, and a bi-monthly guide with advance notice of the programme, sent to you throughout the year

iv. Priority booking for busy exhibitions where time tickets are issued

Choosing membership


Individual membership – 49 pounds (perfect if regular visitor to Tate exhibitions)

Plus Guest (add 20 pounds - making it 69 pounds in total)

If you like visiting with a friend you can bring a friend ie. you can bring a guest free to exhibitions and then relax together in the Members Rooms.

Plus Guest plus Extra Card (Add 40 pounds - 89 pounds in total)

In addition to the benefits of Member plus Guest, receive a second card.

Each cardholder can visit exhibitions and Members Rooms independently, offering you maximum flexibility.

Plus London Private Views

Add 20 pounds to any membership type in order to receive invitiations for you and a guest to enjoy daytime and evening private views of six major special exhibitions at Tate Britain and Tate Modern

Plus Tate Liverpool / Tate St Ives support

Add 5 pounds to any membership type and thereby directly support Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives and in return enjoy exhibitions there with a guest, receive an extra card admitting two adults and six children, as well as invitations to exclusive Member events and private views.

Note: all Members may bring family children aged 16 and under, free, to all exhibitions.

Prices valid to 30 September 2006.

Consent to Gift Aid and your membership will be worth over 12 pounds more to Tate, at no extra cost to you. With Gift Aid, Tate is able to reclaim the tax you have already paid on the individual element of your membership. You need consent only once to allow Tate to claim Gift Aid for each year of your membership.

Ways to join:

In person – at the Members desk in any gallery

Online – www.tate.org.uk

Tel. +44 (0) 20 7887 8752

Post – complete the form and return by Freepost


friends of the museum

expert advisors

This is another measure as to what kind of support the museum finds in society at large and in the international world.


Measuring satisfaction

“you can’t get no satisfaction out of me”

In society ‘what you pay, what you get out of it’= level of satisfaction

Reliance upon ongoing experiences

Satisfaction seems to depend upon the quality of ‘experiences’ made while visiting the museum. To understand further the term 'experience', following aspects should be considered further:

- Carol Becker puts emphasis put upon a special kind of ‘experience’, namely how she grew up in the museum in Brooklyn but not to stay within the locality. Rather she got to know the world, including its many unique and even mystic aspects e.g. when seeing a canoe of the Indios or a hut of a tribe in Africa.

- experience can be looked at from different angles. This has to include what follow-up the museum supports so that the experiences made while at the museum become the base for further learning. By deepening afterwards the experience made, it can create the wish to understand further what the museum has to display and to show. If reflecting upon experiences indicates how the visitor connects to the museum and therefore comes not only once, but many times (Peter Higgins), then it is crucial how this experience is transformed into something lasting by what means. The linkage between museum itself and web based experiences making access to the museum possible even from at home has become through the age of the Internet an increasing endowment of the museum itself.


Centre for IBM e-business Innovation
L'arte di raccontare l'arte. Musei e visitatori: analisi dell’esperienza. 10 casi di studio

IBM, Milano, 2004
a cura di Alessandro Bollo





L'Arte di raccontare l'Arte è uno studio di IBM che affronta in modo originale il problema della valutazione dell’esperienza di visita al museo. Il concetto di "esperienza" ha trovato ormai da tempo una sua accoglienza nel lessico della letteratura manageriale di settore e il sostantivo "esperienza" viene lì convenzionalmente utilizzato con un significato più lato rispetto a quello di "conoscenza acquisita attraverso l'osservazione e la pratica", ovvero coincide con l’intenzione di abbracciare con un solo vocabolo il contesto e la situazione nella quale si generano le reazioni (cognitive, affettive, percettive) e le conseguenze del fare esperienza di un oggetto culturale durante il suo consumo o la sua pratica. A tanta fortuna semantica corrispondono però pochi modello interpretativi che, in modo rigoroso e puntuale, siano in grado di descrivere le determinanti, il funzionamento delle componenti e i modi di valutazione dell’esperienza di un oggetto culturale.
Lo studio dell'IBM è quindi uno dei pochi tentativi di analisi dell'utilizzo e dell'applicazione della Customer Experience – intesa come l'insieme di tutti gli aspetti di interazione tra l'utente e l’organizzazione, i suoi servizi e i suoi prodotti – all'ambito museale. Per sperimentare il potenziale e l'adeguatezza dell’approccio metodologico al comparto in esame sono stati valutati 10 musei (di cui 5 italiani e 5 stranieri) particolarmente rilevanti per notorietà e numero di visitatori.
Molto interessante e chiara è la parte introduttiva che spiega il modello di funzionamento, i concetti chiave e gli elementi che consentono di valutare la Customer Experience. Utile inoltre come strumento di autovalutazione è il processo di analisi del valore atteso (Value expectation) che in funzione delle aspettative e delle necessità dei diversi target consente di individuare i "Momenti della verità" e gli "Irritanti" dell'esperienza (durante, ma anche prima e dopo la visita). I primi rappresentano i momenti strategici di interazione tra l'utente e il museo a cui il visitatore dà un'importanza primaria e in base ai quali può decidere se proseguire o interrompere la relazione, gli Irritanti sono promesse dell’organizzazione o aspettative dell’utente che vengono disattese e che provocano frustrazione. La ponderazione degli elementi della verità e degli Irritanti contribuisce a definire il livello di soddisfazione dell’esperienza per ogni target analizzato.


Handling complaints and other feedback from visitors:

How complaints are measured, received and responded to?

Example: Greek museum – Archaeological in Athens – texts are too high to be read easily / only guides of museum allowed to conduct tours, no private initiative / not well presented – out of context / no comparison to what is still available in the archives compared to what is being shown / inadequate explanations to understand the historical background


a. policy differentiation possibilities

American museums have been outstanding in how the manage visitors / friends of the museum through all kinds of activities. As this requires a trained staff to implement a differentiated approach to visitors – see here the development of services, education, guides, products of the museum etc. (the best example being MOMA’s exhibition in Berlin with guides not taking visitors through the exhibition but mingling amongst the visitors and when overhearing questions, comments, remarks etc. step into the ‘intimate distance between visitor and object’ to deepen the ‘visitor’s performance with regards to the art work’ by enhancing a discussion and substantiating the knowledge base for that experience to make possible a transition from ‘Erlebnis’ to ‘Erfahrung’ (the German distinction between two kinds of experiences – sense impression compared to validated experience as knowledge base for future judgments and responses)

b. Kingman Museum Strategic Plan: Benchmarks and Performance Statistics[4]

Benchmarks and Performance Statistics

The performance indicators shown in the table below are used by the American Association of Museums and the Association of Science-Technology Centers as

indicators of the business performance of museums and science centers. The table shows performance statistics for American natural history museums, museums

with similar size budgets, general science-technology center museums, and science-technology center museums with similar size public spaces as that of Kingman

Museum. These statistics are used as benchmarks against which Kingman Museum compares its own performance and sets its goals.


Merritt, E. E. (2003). 2003 museum financial information. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums.

Troester, H., Pollock, W., & Sutterfield, C. (Ed.). (2003). ASTC sourcebook of science center statistics 2002. Washington, DC: Association of Science-

Technology Centers Incorporated.

c. research possibilities

Centre for Audience and Visitor Research – Vis a Vis (Visitor – Audience – Visitor)

University of Salford, UK

Vis A Vis a new initiative within the University of Salford, incorporating a wider vision that will explore the total audience/visitor experience from design through to user interface. Vision is to facilitate a centre of excellence that links opportunities across a wide range of related fields including the arts, heritage, museums, cultural tourism, leisure, media, management, marketing and design.

It aims to encompass all aspects of audience and visitor research in the Arts, Museums and Heritage sectors from commissioned research projects, to publications, to training and consultancy. Membership of the Centre is drawn from academics and professionals in the field and the intention is to link both audience and visitor research across a range of attractions including art galleries, theatres, historic houses, museums, zoos, theme parks and other visitor attractions.

The Centre for Audience and Visitor Research engages with the arts, museums and heritage sector, regionally, nationally and internationally, seeking out research project opportunities for collaboration to enable visitor attractions to exploit their strengths in a competitive market place. The organisations develop and test rigorous methodological models, building a research community with professionals development and training. The organisation will expand and offer in-house training opportunities in the field with workshops and short courses. There will be conferences to share knowledge, research and expertise. It is also establishing an on-site database and archive of material profiling audience and visitor research. There will be a Journal of Audience and Visitor Research to provide a much-needed repository for academic papers and dissemination of good practice and insightful models of audience/visitor research.

Contact: University of Salford

T +44 161 295 7057

F +44 161 295 7058

E vis-à-vis@salford.ac.uk

W www.artdes.salford.ac.uk/visavis


d. inquiries

There are visitor projections when planning future exhibitions. They are essential for allocation of resources and for anticipating future demands upon the museums and in particular upon its service capacities. Obviously visitors can only be handled properly if there is adequate staff available and the gift shop equipped to handle the extra demand due to a special exhibition running at that time e.g. Frieda Carla at the Tate Modern.

As museums attempt to retain some independence from this singular measure of success, it will become crucial to see what measurements are made


"Julie Carpenter" <jcarpenter@phillipscollection.org>

Subject: Projecting exhibition attendance

Date: Fri, 19 Aug 2005 14:28:38 -0400

Hello H-Museum folks,

Does anyone know of an online site or other service that collects museum (especially art museum) attendance data by exhibition title or type with the date of the exhibition? Or even if something like this is in the works?

Also (especially for those of you in art museums) how do you formulate your attendance projections for your exhibitions? Do you take into consideration the daily attendance of exhibitions of similar type or artist at other sites? If so, how do you collect attendance information from other venues?

Any input would be greatly appreciated!


Julie Carpenter

Marketing Associate

The Phillips Collection

1600 21st Street, NW

Washington, DC 20009-1090




Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation of the performances of a museum cannot rely solely on number of visitors coming to the museum. There must be made as well an evaluation of the promotional and marketing side of museums nowadays.

“To raise visitor numbers, museums have been using a variety of creative methods that go beyond their original mission of collecting, preserving and showing works of art. As in other cultural arenas, such as cinema, some observers worry that marketing departments and money concerns are overriding artistic ones.” [5]

This is not the only worrying trend as museums are often pushed in the wrong direction when applying for special grants demanding of recipients of such funding to be more extensive in an educational sense when doing specific exhibitions and thereby distracting or taking away museums from their original mission, namely to collective, preserve and to show their collections. [6]

Some of the methods used by museums are the following:

Strategy of the Herakleidon museum in Athens with Nicholas Kondoprias its director who said to Margarita Pournara:

“Our strategy includes distributing material on the museum to hotels, air carriers and ferries, as a means of informing those visiting Greece. The work of Dutch artist Escher is well-known world wide and that adds to the increase in attendance. The café area will be ready in September, and we are currently preparing our educational programs. Exhibitions of other artists, whose works are part of the museum’s owner’s collection, will be presented in the near future.” [7]

Extension of evaluation

From: Charles E. Clark <cclark@uwsp.edu>

Subject: consultant needed

Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 08:55:33 -0600


The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) has a museum of natural history under the administrative control of our College of Letters & Science.  UWSP is a comprehensive university with approximately 8,500 students.  The Museum of Natural History is quite small, though very diverse in its holdings.  (See website attached.)

The Dean of Letters & Science is seeking consultation with an outside reviewer to determine whether the museum is prepared to seek accreditation.

If you are interested in being considered for this consultancy, please e-mail Associate Dean Charles E. Clark at the address below, including with your message your vita and experience as a museum evaluator.


Charles E. Clark, PhD

Associate Dean for Academic Support & Budget University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 130 Collins Classroom Center

Phone: (715)346-4224

Fax: (715) 346-4213

Mail: cclark@uwsp.edu





[1] Margarita Tournara, “Athens: city of new museums”, Kathimerini, Tues. August 23, 2005, p. 7

[2] Margarita Pournara, “Museums: Houses of education – Lesley University Professor George Hein talks to Kathimerini about the role of these institutions today”, Kathimerini, Thurs. Nov. 4, 2004, p.7

[3] Margarita Pournara, “Athens: city of new museums”, Kathimerini, Tues. August 23, 2005, p. 7

[4] http://www.kingmanmuseum.org/GrantsReports.htm

[5] Heidi Ellison, “In search of continuity through impermanence”, International Herald Tribune, ‘Picturing the art world in 2005 – Preservation: the world of museums”, Monday, December 20, 2004

[6] Carol Becker, Museums and the Neutralization of Culture: A Response to Adorno (unpublished draft paper 2005)

[7] Margarita Pournara, “Athens: city of new museums”, Tues. August 23, 2005, p. 7

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