Experience Mining: Understanding Cultural Participation in Museums


Robert Stein, American Alliance of Musuems, USA

The era of “Big Data” is upon us. Everywhere you look products and services are being designed to better match our needs and to become “smarter” by understanding data about us, our preferences and behaviors. Whether we consider entertainment companies like Netflix who can accurately predict what movies we like, or health services that can help us better manage a healthy lifestyle, the ability for these products to understand and respond to data about their customers is driving an entire generation of commercial endeavor.

Conversely, museums are relative newcomers to the data-driven ecosystem that we live in today. Since the early 1990’s, Museums have been attempting to quantify metrics for success that can help lead our organizations towards data-driven decision making. For the most part, we’ve been unsuccessful.

While many museums can quote attendance statistics and financial budgets, our real understanding of visitor behavior and cultural preferences is largely based on anecdotes, not data. At the Dallas Museum of Art, we are exploring ways that we might begin to build communities and collect data about participation in the art museum that can generate the quantitative data we need to drive analytical decision-making while pursuing a relationship with our audience that emphasizes experiences with art and a desire to build the relevance of the museum and our collections in the lives of our visitors.

This talk will discuss how museums can begin to think about structuring their efforts to build data collection and analysis into their normal workflow. Efforts underway at the Dallas Museum of Art called DMA Friends will be presented and early data analysis resulting from that program will be shared. The presentation will discuss a collaborative effort underway in the United States to expand a network of participatory membership programs like DMA Friends to other major museums. Such a network would allow a new understanding of visitor behavior in museums.

Bibliography:
The era of “Big Data” is upon us. Everywhere you look products and services are being designed to better match our needs and to become “smarter” by understanding data about us, our preferences and behaviors. Whether we consider entertainment companies like Netflix who can accurately predict what movies we like, or health services that can help us better manage a healthy lifestyle, the ability for these products to understand and respond to data about their customers is driving an entire generation of commercial endeavor. Conversely, museums are relative newcomers to the data-driven ecosystem that we live in today. Since the early 1990’s, Museums have been attempting to quantify metrics for success that can help lead our organizations towards data-driven decision making. For the most part, we’ve been unsuccessful. While many museums can quote attendance statistics and financial budgets, our real understanding of visitor behavior and cultural preferences is largely based on anecdotes, not data. At the Dallas Museum of Art, we are exploring ways that we might begin to build communities and collect data about participation in the art museum that can generate the quantitative data we need to drive analytical decision-making while pursuing a relationship with our audience that emphasizes experiences with art and a desire to build the relevance of the museum and our collections in the lives of our visitors. This talk will discuss how museums can begin to think about structuring their efforts to build data collection and analysis into their normal workflow. Efforts underway at the Dallas Museum of Art called DMA Friends will be presented and early data analysis resulting from that program will be shared. The presentation will discuss a collaborative effort underway in the United States to expand a network of participatory membership programs like DMA Friends to other major museums. Such a network would allow a new understanding of visitor behavior in museums.