50 museums in 50 days

In Awards, Museums on April 14, 2015 at 9:28 am

I’ve just returned home from a trip around the globe – and I reached my goal of visiting 50 museums in 50 days. It was touch and go for a while, but like Phileas Fogg I just made it. Here’s my summing up of the trip (which is actually just me showing off) …

Best museum bar – Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, mostly for the view over the bridge and opera house.

Most jaw-dropping interior – the Alhambra. I hadn’t expected it to be quite so beautiful.

Finest collection – National Gallery of Australia is just packed with hit after hit. Such a shame that it’s locked away in Canberra where nobody goes (apart from civil servants and museum geeks.)

Tea room of the trip – not an easy category to judge. While the Museum of Australia and Hong Kong Maritime Museum both have a great views from their terraces, there’s no beating the splendid vista from the Getty Villa.

Best guided tour – Susannah Place Museum. Definitely take this tour if you’re in Sydney. Be sure to call in advance and book.

Surprise of the trip – Australians know how to do museums

Weirdest display – For years this would normally have been taken by the Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles), but perhaps the crying wooden statues next to the bed where St John of God died (Granada) were the most full on. Or the home butchery and blood-letting display at the folk museum in Seville. Or the Mars Attacks display in Hong Kong’s space museum. Hmm, tough one to call. I’ll just have to go again in search of more.

If you can deal with any more museological gloating, here’s the full list of 50 museums I visited. I hope it makes you jealous:

Sepulveda Block Museum, Los Angeles
América Tropical Interpretive Centre, Los Angeles
Avila Adobe, Los Angeles
Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles
Japanese American Museum, Los Angeles
LA Firefighting Museum, Los Angeles
Getty Villa, Malibu
Wende Museum, Culver City
Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Catalina Island Museum, Avalon
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
USS Hornet, San Francisco
SFO Airport Museum, San Francisco
Maritime Museum, Hong Kong
Art Central, Hong Kong
Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum, Hong Kong
Space Museum, Hong Kong
Museum of Art, Hong Kong
Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
Anzac Memorial Museum, Sydney
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Museum of Sydney, Sydney
Susannah Place Museum, Sydney
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney
Cockatoo Island, Sydney
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
National Library of Australia, Canberra
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
National Film and Video Archive, Canberra
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Archives, Canberra
Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra
Immigration Museum, Melbourne
Melbourne Old Gaol, Melbourne
Melbourne Museum, Melbourne
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Museo Reine Sofia, Madrid
XIII-Century House, Cordoba
Archaeological Museum, Seville
Museum of Popular Art and Folk Culture, Seville
Museo de la Real Maestranza de Caballera, Seville
General Archives of the Indies, Seville
The Chain House, Cadiz
Museo de San Juan de Deos, Granada
Alhambra, Granada

Right, back to the real world.

Around the world in 50 museums

In Museums on February 23, 2015 at 7:30 am

I’m taking some time out from the day job working on museums and visitor experience to take a round-the-world trip. Some might call it a sabbatical, but it’s actually more of a vacation.

Phileas Fogg was set the challenge of journeying around the world in 80 days. I’m doing it in 50, mostly because I can’t really justify taking 12 weeks off work. And also because the world is a smaller place now. I will cross paths with Fogg only twice – once in San Francisco and again in Hong Kong. It took him 28 days to get between the two cities – it’ll take me just over 11 hours.

But in Around the World in Eighty Days how many museums did Fogg visit? It’s been a while since I read it*, but I don’t recall many museums or galleries on his trip. I think he stopped at a landmark or two, but there were certainly no trips to the museum café or gift shop.

So, to bring the challenge up to date, I intend to try and visit 50 museums in 50 days on my travels. Fogg left London by train at 2045. I’ll be on Virgin Atlantic 1100 to Los Angeles, but like Fogg the clock starts when I leave the UK. We’ll see how I do.
If you want to keep up with progress, I’ll be posting the museums I visit on Instagram museumofsteve.

*I say read, I mean watched the movie and the cartoon adaptation.

Audiences within audiences

In Museums on November 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

A large part of my work time is spent thinking about audiences.

We tend to think of audiences in terms of theatre-going audience, but in the wider heritage and cultural sector we use the word audience to mean anyone who interacts with an organisation – museum visitors, library users, participants in community arts projects etc.

It’s only when we truly understand who the audience for a cultural product is that we can create content that’s suitable for them. It might not be rocket science, but it’s really important. There’s little point an art gallery putting on an academic display if their main audience is mums and prams. Likewise there’s little point offering soft play if you’re audience is professors.

Those are rather extreme examples. And the kinds of organisations I work with tend not to have just one audience – that’s why we talk about audiences. Plural.

The trend over the last decade or so has been to carve the audience  up into audiences – something we might call an audience segmentation. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can sort your audience by gender; by age; by postcode. You can arrange by height order, if you like (not actually as silly as it might sound if you’re a theme park!)

Audience segmentations are generally arrived at in a more though way though. A motivational segmentation might look at why people come to your institution. A behavioural segmentation will respond to what they do when they are there. Or you could combine them both.

It’s only by doing audience research that we can arrive at these segments. And then we tend to give the individual segments hilarious titles such as ‘Cultural Explorers’, ‘Learning Families’ or ‘Inspiration Seekers’. Names aside, it’s a really useful way of thinking about who your audience – and audiences – is/are.

The majority of orgasniations I work with who use a bespoke segmentation might have, say half a dozen key groups that they look at. It means when they’re planning a project they can consider how each of the segments might behave, what their needs are, how they learn and what their expectations might be. Great stuff.

But at a conference this week I was introduced to the notion of micro-audiences. These are segments within segments – or even tiny groupings of people who move between segments. Dr Who fans. Electronic music fans. Great British Bake Off fans. Ex-pats. Diplomats. Red-heads. Transsexual wheelchair-users. Public transport fans from Oxfordshire. Weavers from Perthshire. Left-handers from Northern Ireland.  etc. (NB: at least two of these are audiences I have worked with recently.)

Now there are audiences within audiences, I’ve got a whole new working philsophy to get through. And it’s going to take some time. But if you’ve been playing with the notion of micro-audiences of late, I’d love to hear from you.


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