University of Leicester and Birmingham Museums Trust join forces to tackle museum attendance and benefit

University of Leicester School of Museum Studies (Credit: University of Leicester)

The Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) will host a series of public workshops to address the museum attendance and benefit gap.

Working alongside Birmingham Museums Trust, as well as a whole range of university and culture sector partners, RCMG, which is based at University of Leicester, hopes to understand more about the factors driving museum attendance which mean that, generally, people who are better off and more highly educated benefit from shared cultural resources.

Suzanne MacLeod, co-director of RCMG and project co-lead, said: “The project brings together leading-edge scholarship and expertise around inequality, museum leadership, data analysis, implementation science and evidence-based museum practice to address a long-standing question in the cultural sector about who visits and benefits from museums.

“Providing an opportunity to bring wide ranging expertise to bear on a key challenge for museums, the team will develop strategies to support museums in their ambitions to develop museum audiences that are representative of society as a whole.”

Project co-lead Dr Mark O’Neill said: “We hope that by bringing museum leaders into contact with the latest research on inequality and on how changes happen, we will be able to give museums the tools they need to make a real difference.”

Project co-lead Professor Dave O’Brien: “I'm delighted to be part of this project that will have a significant impact on how museums think about their contribution to contemporary society. Issues of inequality are at the forefront of major social questions, and this network, along with the capacity building and data analysis it promises, will mean museums can better answer these pressing social concerns.”

Sara Wajid, Co-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust said:” We’re proud to host the first session in this important network. At Birmingham Museums we are absolutely determined to make the service relevant and useful to a much wider group of people across society well beyond the traditional ‘museum-going classes’. We know we can’t do it alone so we’re bringing together world-leading experts from different disciplines to solve this one.”

A series of workshops exploring this topic are planned to take place over the next 18 months bringing together leading social science scholars, experts in health and the public.

  • Understanding Inequality: the primacy of Low Educational Attainment as a predictor of non-attendance
  • Understanding Inequality: Poverty as a predictor of non-attendance
  • Understanding Health Inequalities: What evidence to trust?
  • Implementation Science as a route to Building Sustainable Change

The first of these workshops, Understanding Inequalities: the primacy of Low Educational Attainment as a predictor of non-attendance, took place on Tuesday 24 October 2023 at Thinktank in Birmingham.

Keynote speakers included University of Leicester’s Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Henrietta O’Connor and Professor Diane Reay from University of Cambridge.

Learn more about the project, including future events.