What Does the Millennial Museum Visitor Want?

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

April 21, 2020

With focus shifting to millennials as the majority museum visitor, it’s important to review what the millennial museum visitor wants from a museum trip.

We’ve covered a couple of different angles on millennials in prior posts: Do You Know the Millennial Museum Donor? and The Numbers on the Millennial Museum Visitor. Make sure to read up on these as you get to know the millennial museum visitor. This post will dig into some of the numbers on why millennials visit the museum.

Why Are Millennials Visiting Museums?

In the survey “Assessing Millennial Engagement in Museum Spaces,” (as referenced in Halee Sommer’s Assessing Millennial Engagement in Museum Spaces) question 7 asks what typically motivates millennials to visit a museum. Practically tied by the difference of 3 votes are the following: “An opportunity to learn something new” and “An opportunity to have a unique experience”. These two prompts make up a little more than 57% of the responses and are absolutely actionable for museums. In fact, “learning something new” has historically been a primary outcome for museums, and “a unique experience” has increasingly become a museum field focus as we reimagine what exhibit experiences can look and feel like.

For Millennials Who Aren’t Visiting Museums, It’s Not Because They Don’t Want To

Further optimism can be added when we consider the statistics covered in question 8: What are the factors that prevent you from visiting a museum? Only 3.41% indicated museums weren’t relevant to their life and 13.04% indicated they’d rather spend their time elsewhere. That leaves 83.55% of respondents who indicated they do have reasons why they want to visit a museum— and that the reason(s) they can’t attend as often as they’d like involve external barriers.

Sommer’s conclusion for this section also comes with some forecasting for museums to pay attention to: 

For museums, this positive statistic considers millennials may desire to spend more of their time in museums as they age. If cultivated properly, millennial visitors could easily transition into museum members, increasing the probability of acquiring major donors in the future.

How Do We Put This into Practice?

To put this into practice I recommend holding a strategy meeting to evaluate the top two reasons millennials gave as their motivation to visit. It’s always good practice to reevaluate museum strategies and learning outcomes—and these two answers can serve as inspiration for future planning. Museums need to explore ways to improve delivery of museum experiences millennials will seek out. 

Some prompts to consider for millennials who wish to learn something new:

  • How can we frame this exhibit narrative in a way that highlights the discovery of new information?
  • How can we craft display experiences that will encourage active learning as a primary focus and prompt critical thinking?

Prompts to consider for millennials who are seeking out a unique experience:

  • How can we deliver a new experience with the use of collections and technology?
  • How can we make exhibit experiences accessible to different learning abilities?
  • How can we offer an experience that visitors will want to talk about and can easily share on social media (a major communication channel for millennials)?

Conclusion

Millennials are here for at least the next half-century so if you’ve not gotten to know the millennial museum visitor yet, it’s time! The good news is there’s a lot of new research and analysis out there by practitioners such as Sommer and Colleen Dilenschneider. I encourage you to dig in, get to know the millennial museum visitor, and have fun experimenting with how the museum can better meet their museum experience expectations.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Read Ms. Woody’s other posts on millennials and museums and check out Lucidea’s unrivaled CMS, Argus, that empowers you to make your museum more visible and accessible then ever before—to all types of visitors and audiences.  

 

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