Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.
- Museums Association definition of a museum
Core to a museum’s purpose is its role in engaging with visitors and users. By creating a welcoming and accessible environment with appropriate services and well maintained facilities, a museum can ensure it attracts and maintains visitors.
What to consider
- Who will visit and why? Make sure your museum appeals to enough people and will provide the facilities they will expect
- Create an attractive environment. Ensure you keep the museum looking appealing
- Identify whether or how you want to broaden or increase your audience
- How far do you want to involve your visitors? Will you run as a social enterprise, provide outreach work, run groups for the community or projects in the community?
- How will you bring your collections to life through interpretation? (See our interpretation section)
- Will you create a specific offer for schools and others that want to learn? Will you provide loan boxes or tours?
Museums bring learning to life, inject fun and can increase educational attainment, but remember you will be competing with other leisure opportunities and attractions in your area.
Understanding, knowing, listening and communicating with your users is at the heart of designing relevant programmes, services and exhibitions and promoting them more effectively.
While it is best to target a particular audience(s), you also need to ensure that you have removed or reduced any potential barriers to access – either physical or intellectual.
In order to attract visitors and ensure they enjoy themselves, you’ll need to have a range of facilities alongside your collections. Ensure this is open and accessible – take into account how people will find, enter, use and move about the space.
For more advice in this area, read our ‘Creating a visitor attraction’ page.
VisitScotland.org contains details of their Quality Assurance Scheme and how to get involved.
Euan’s guide is a site that used by disabled people to review, share and discover accessible places to visit. Any venue can list their details on the site, which will ask about your range of accessibility. They also have resources and top tips for venues wanting to improve their accessibility.
The Association of Independent Museums has a success guide entitled Successful visitor experiences with resources on how to offer your visitors better experiences. Also, their Hallmarks project has a 'Visitor Focus' element with further information and case studies.
Kids in Museums works with museums to help them welcome and include families, teenagers and children.
The Scottish Government introduced its Community Empowerment Act and associated action plan in 2009 to help communities shape the services that are offered to them.
The ‘Open Up: Museums for everyone’ project, made possible through funding from Arts Council England, AIM, MALD, Museums Galleries Scotland and National Museums Northern Ireland, is designed to help all size museums to increase the diversity of their visitors. Resources and further information are now available on a dedicated website.