The National Survey for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries was commissioned by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) and conducted by DC Research in mid-2022, to gather essential information about the museums and galleries sector in Scotland.
This was the first sector-wide survey of this scale in twenty years. It provides us with a baseline of sector priorities and needs.
Given the huge scale of economic and social change over the last few years, this has been an important exercise in determining what support is needed to ensure the future sustainability, relevance, and success of museums and galleries in Scotland.
The findings from this survey will help to inform how we, as a sector, deliver the strategy for Scotland’s museums and galleries and will also help us to mark progress against the strategy’s priority areas. MGS will explore the survey results in more detail to draw out learnings and opportunities. This will help us to be more targeted with our support, to help museums deliver the strategy. It will also provide us with data to advocate for and raise the profile of the sector.
Key findings against the three strands of the strategy:
- The survey demonstrates clearly how the sector has been affected by the pandemic – 5.2 million visits in 2021-22, and 12.8 million in 2019- 20, with a drop in international visitors, but an increase of local visitors.
- Two-thirds (64%) of the sector report that they actively engage in the health and wellbeing agenda through targeted programmes and more than half of respondents (55%) report they have agreed plans to increase their collections available to view online. These findings suggest that the pandemic did not stop all museums programming, but meant the sector had to adapt, to ensure continued contact and connection within their communities
- The relative growth in national and local visitors since the pandemic, despite the decline in international visitors, exemplifies how essential museums and galleries have been through what has been an isolating and difficult time for many people. Museums have offered opportunities for wellbeing, learning and connection, demonstrating how important culture is to people at the most difficult times.
- The survey shows that families are the most proactively targeted group for museums to engage with and tailor programming to (73% reported this), followed by older people (61%), closely followed by those living in deprived areas (58%) and youth engagement (also 58%). These findings are in line with the evidence collated for the literature reviews, commissioned by MGS, that demonstrate the impact museums have on health and wellbeing, as well as education and employability.
- There is less information on the demographics of the people who visit museums and galleries or the people who work in our organisations. The survey suggests there is scope to understand our audiences and workforce better, and we can also work harder to ensure all communities are represented in museum programming. The strategy’s priority area on inclusion, will help guide this work so that all people in Scotland can benefit and enjoy what museums and galleries have to offer.
- The past few years have been a challenging time for the sector. The survey indicates a strong need for support and resources around retaining workforce and meeting skills gaps, and prioritising capital spend, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and climate resilience.
- The strategy for Scotland’s museums and galleries aims to support the sector in a challenging and changing context. The climate emergency is critical to the resilience of museums and galleries. This is reflected in the survey results which show that 79% of respondents describe climate change and sustainability as critically, very, or moderately important.
- In terms of the challenges that museums face in becoming more environmentally sustainable, the main challenge that was identified, was around financial resources (71% reported this as a challenge). This was followed by staff/volunteer resources (46%), and time (41%). This would indicate that grants need to be targeted to meet the priorities in this area.
- The survey shows how reliant the sector is on volunteers and how critical their contributions are to the work of the sector, with most museums (93%) involving volunteers.
- This information will help to ensure that skills development programmes offered by MGS, mentorship schemes and resources, take into account the growth in certain roles within the sector. It will also help us to understand where external social and economic pressures might influence the ability of museums to carry out certain work i.e. the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on the recruitment of volunteers.