University of Cambridge Museums

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Audience evaluation at the Fitzwilliam

The Fitzwilliam Museum worked with a small number of volunteers to evaluate its two major exhibitions during 2015: Treasured Possessions and Watercolour.

Exit surveys were conducted digitally on tablets in two waves from 30 June to 19 July (pre-school holiday) and 18 August – 6 September (during the school holiday) to provide a good analysis of the cross section of people that visited. 163 responses were recorded for Treasured Possessions and 203 for Watercolour, leaving a margin of error of around 7%.

The research tells us that the majority of people found out about the exhibitions through lamp post banners, our website, newspaper/magazine, London Underground posters and posters around the city. From the data we can see that a number of people discovered Treasured Possessions having come originally for Watercolour. 49% of visitors to Treasured Possessions said they came specifically to see that exhibition, and 55% to Watercolour.

Both of the exhibitions received positive feedback with 98%/99% of visitors rating the show as very good or excellent to Treasured Possessions and Watercolour respectively.

I wouldn’t normally take an interest in things like sewing or pottery but it made me think differently when I could see how they were owned.
Anon, Treasured Possessions

I learned about Chelsea pottery, the tea set and development in manufacture. There were a lot of facts but on a bigger scale it made me reflect on what I value and what should be valued. I could go there a 100 times and still see something new. I was attracted by things I had no interest in before. A learning experience in the learning about oneself and the meaning of what it is to be human.
Anon, Treasured Possessions

I liked the historical and practical elements that added dimension to the show. It was good to see things close up to see how the medium developed. As a painter myself I was inspired to be more adventurous in my own use of watercolour.
Anon, Watercolour

It has given me an admiration for a seemingly simple technique that has so much depth.
Anon, Watercolour

Over 90% of visitors were visiting the exhibitions for the first time, with repeat visitors usually returning 2-3 times. Over 50% had been to the Museum previously, indicating that most people already have an interest in culture.

It is striking that the majority of the Museum’s visitors are female – over 60% to both exhibitions. Most of the visitors to Watercolour were over 45 (63%), compared to Treasured Possessions where the majority were under 55 (54%).

The majority of the Museum’s visitors are UK based – 69%/75% respectively for Treasured Possessions and Watercolour, with a large number of overseas visitors coming from the United States and France. Postcode data also shows that a large concentration of people are from Cambridge and that people are travelling from places within a 60 minute drive time, such as London and Norwich.

Understanding the Fitzwilliam Museum’s audiences is critical to communications and planning for the future, and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of volunteers. Next year the Museum will be celebrating 200 years since it was founded and hopes to hold similar surveys for its two major exhibitions: Death on the Nile: Uncovering the afterlife of ancient Egypt (23 February – 22 May) and Colour: The art and science of illuminated manuscripts (30 July – 30 December). If you would be interested in helping out with surveying, please email Tracy Harding.

Tracy Harding, Marketing Coordinator, Fitzwilliam Museum

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This entry was posted on October 2, 2015 by in Behind the Scenes, Culture, Goal 2, News and tagged , .
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