Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG)

Addressing the museum attendance and benefit gap: inequality, representative participation and implementation science

Survey data on who visits museums and decades of research in cultural sociology internationally tell us that museum visiting reflects the socio-economic gradient, closely tracking inequalities in education, income, employment, mental health and other indicators of social wellbeing. Despite the scale of existing evidence, including evidence that the attendance and benefit gap may be increasing, government policy, professional guidance and research undertaken by museums themselves continue with little or no recognition of this wider context and macro data and, as a result, have failed to develop sustainable evidence-based solutions to address inequalities in museum attendance and benefit.

To move beyond ‘intuitive’ approaches to inequality and social change, make credible claims about their contribution to society and positively impact deeply entrenched and unequal patterns of attendance and benefit, museums need new knowledge, new strategies and significant analytical support.

This Network explores the hypothesis that a deeper understanding within museums and museology of (1) the nature and experience of inequality and (2) how large-scale social and behaviour change is approached in other fields, such as health, would open up the capacity in museums and amongst museum scholars to understand, theorise, design, implement, evaluate and sustain practices which may address the attendance and benefit gap.

It brings social science scholars with deep expertise in inequality, poverty and low educational attainment, experts in culture and health, public health, epidemiology and cultural attendance and scholars of Implementation Science with expertise in rigorous approaches to intervention development and harnessing research towards large-scale change, into dialogue with museum leaders committed to representative participation and research-led practice, cultural policy makers and museum scholars.

Find out more about the Network on the extended project website.

Back to top