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Museum value not reflected in ‘blockbuster’ visitor data

Image: JShook [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Using visitor numbers to measure the success and relevance of national museums and art galleries often overlooks the long-term worth of their research collections, according to research by New Zealand academics.

The study found that intense competition for government funding had led to museum managers using visitor data from special events and “blockbuster exhibitions” to demonstrate their value to the taxpayer.

Lee Davidson and Conal McCarthy from Victoria University of Wellington’s museum and heritage studies programme looked at visitor records for eight national institutions in NZ and Australia, including the Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The findings are published online in the journal Cultural Trends.  

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