Millennials & Museums: A Match Made In Heaven?

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We have all been there – elementary school field trips during which we visited countless museums that looked way too big, were way too serious, and where we were warned multiple times not to touch anything or we would ruin it. Most Millennials had their first encounters with museums this way, so is it really a surprise that not many young people love museum-going? Having in mind that this generation is already the biggest demographic in the world, what does this mean for museums? Will Millennials be able to initiate change within these traditional institutions, or will the institutions disregard the needs and views of youth once more?

A shift in the museum world has already happened. Most institutions today are aware that they need to adjust their approaches and presentation methods to the audience. There are still numerous museums that are presenting their exhibitions in the old-fashioned way, but these are mostly very historically important museums that are aware of the value of their collections and that have decided to keep their style as a part of their image. They don’t need to worry about the number of visitors, the important pieces of art or other artifacts that they exhibit – usually unique in the world – will ensure that the visitors will keep coming. However many museums do not have such valuable collections, and their paychecks depend on the number of people who pay the entry fee. Let’s explore the methods these museums are using in order to attract Millennials – the group that will make or break any company/industry in the future.

The first thing that comes to mind is marketing! But having a good marketing strategy may ensure one visit to a museum – but even if young adults like the exhibition, the social environment, and the space that they discover, it is highly unlikely that they will return. So to put it in other words, marketing may be a good start, but Millennials are able to read between the lines and see through ads. So here are a few tricks that museums’ directors have used and that have actually helped strengthen the bond between Millennials and museums.

Engagement

This is a term that museum workers often don’t get. They aware that their institution needs to be present on social media platforms and that it needs a marketing strategy, but what they often disregard is the actual meaning of engagement. When we say that Millennials want engagement and respond well to engagement we don’t mean just digital. A museum should feel like a safe, inviting space – so the museum has to focus on visual representation and the quality of the experience that a visitor to the museum has. Visitors need to feel safe, appreciated, and well taken care of. Learn from MoMA – they offer charging stations that combine comfortable seating and a bank of electricity ports so that Millennials feel welcome to stay longer.

Avoiding language barriers

All museum staff members know the value of their collections and why they need to be presented to the public and appreciated, but a lack of the requisite ability to articulate important information about the objects on display may result in losing the audience. Visitors need to find a connection between the objects and themselves in order to create that life-long bond with a museum. And the museum staff needs to present the objects and artwork in such a manner that most Millennials will be able to create that bond.

Feedback, feedback, and once more feedback

Most museums are notorious for not taking into account the needs and desires of their audience. Previous generations have tolerated this policy because, well, that was just the way museums worked back then. Millennials, however, will not tolerate a lack of relevance in museum exhibitions. Millennials demand that these institutions start working for the public, as they should. And now Millennials are the biggest target group, so what can museums do? They can start working on collection feedback and adjusting their exhibitions and policies according to the audience. Or they can close.

Leadership switch

Leadership is the key to every change that anyone wants to make. Many museums have changed their policies and have started to apply the above-mentioned methods to attract the public by instituting major leadership changes. Choosing a supportive leader – the one who sees the long-term effects of each initiative and change that can or should be introduced into an institution – is the first step to putting useful changes in place to make museums and Millennials a match made in heaven.

 

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