Older visitors in museums

Why do they visit and what do they do?

A pilot project focusing on the motivations and needs of older visitors was undertaken at Melbourne Museum by researchers from the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria.

The research included 103 surveys and 39 semi-structured interviews with visitors aged 60+ years old. The study found that whilst there was a diversity of particular reasons for visiting, some common themes emerged. Reasons for visits included the expectation of learning and stimulation, the focus on an enjoyable social experience with a friend, partner, or other family members (often grandchildren) and the desire to follow up on a particular interest. The museum visit was also described as inspiring and uplifting.

What emerged from the study was a description of the many ways that museum visits are valuable experiences for older people, as places of social inclusion and intergenerational experiences. It also highlighted a role for museums to embrace and promote a positive view of older people, challenging ageist stereotypes and not pigeon-holing all older people into a single homogenous group. This has prompted Museums Victoria to review its programs for older visitors.

The findings were presented at the national Museums Galleries Australia conference in June and was well received as many museums now realise the importance of older visitors as a growing audience group and as champions for museums, often inducting their grandchildren into the joys of museum visiting.

The study was titled ‘The museum multiple: understanding older visitors’ and was supported by the McCoy Fund for collaborative projects between the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria https://research.unimelb.edu.au/support/funding/internal/mccoy-seed-fund

For more details contact: Kate Phillips kphillips@museum.vic.gov.au

[Source: Kate Phillips, Senior Curator, Museums Victoria]