Phil and I get calls all the time from people asking “do you know of a study on x?” “Where can I find numbers about y?” All too often, our answer is “we don’t know of any published research on that topic.” Deep down we suspect there IS research that would give this person the information they need—but it’s proprietary, locked up in a file cabinet somewhere, probably forgotten even by the people who commissioned it.
To me, this is just plain wrong.
CFM’s 2010 report “Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums” ends with a call for museums to develop a culture of shared data. Clearly, one statement in one report isn’t going to change the world. It may take a few blog posts, too, right? Seriously, if enough people speak up about the need for museums to change our attitude towards sharing research, we can make that change. Reshaping our own organizational cultures, however difficult, is still easier than, say, slowing global warming or fighting the obesity epidemic.
I enlisted some of my favorite museum research geeks into this campaign for sharing. Together, we compiled a list of “hidden research” we bet exists, and that we hope will come to light if we poke around:
Analyses of attendance and revenue after admission fee changes (free to paid, paid to free, raising or lowering)
Attendance projections (with details on methodology)
Community studies that pave the way for tax or bond proposals
Crossover studies looking at cultural and or leisure activity audiences that overlap with museum audiences
Exhibitions: cost, size, ROI; traveling exhibitions impact on attendance and revenue
Large format film research: cost of building and operating theaters, income, ROI
Measuring community impact, including non-economic metrics
Niche marketing analyses
Visitor demographics/psychographics, with a particular need for info on bilingual audiences
Of course, after we coax this data out of hiding, we will need a place to store and share it. One potential model is IssueLab, supported by the Foundation Center, which shares the “gray literature” related to social issues from foundations, think tanks, and related institutions. A similar project is the Policy Archive a “universal, easy-to-use, free, and open digital archive of foundation-funded and other public policy research” maintained by the Center for Government Studies. Hmmm. Who is the natural host for a site devoted to museum research, and how would it be funded?
Your turn. Please use the comment section to share:
What “hidden research” would you like to find?
What here-to-for hidden data are you willing to share?
What is yourfavorite model for a research-sharing platform, and how would you like it to operate?