Iain Watson, Acting Director

When you tell people that you work in museums they always want to share with you their thoughts about museums – almost everyone has experience of museums and has views about what they like and dislike.

Visitors in Discovery Museum

Visitors in Discovery Museum

As well as all the people I meet who tell me what a great time they’ve had in our museums and galleries, three particular friends, all of whom work in areas very different to museums come to mind when I think about what people want from museums. One friend every time I met him would say to me, teasingly, ‘How’s the museum, still got all that old stuff? Can’t you get any new stuff?’

Another friend said to me, when I was talking about the improvements we’d been making to our museums and galleries, ‘Oh, but I loved the old museum in the town where I grew up. We used to play tig around the mahogany cases with the brass rails and then be chased by the museum attendants. It was great fun. That’s how museums should be.’ Another friend often asks me ‘Have you got any more seats in that art gallery yet. It’s a great gallery but there’s not enough seats.’

Different people want different things from museums and galleries. Sometimes the same people want different things on different days – if I’m visiting with my 10 year old son I might want lots of activities, if I’m showing round visitors to the area I want to highlight items with key significance, sometimes I just want be in the presence of great art.

People queuing outside the Great North Museum: Hancock when it re-opened in May 2009

People queuing outside the Great North Museum: Hancock when it re-opened in May 2009

I’m really keen to know what people want from our museums, galleries and archive. I’d love it if people would share their stories of a great visit to a museum. What made a difference? What changed the way you felt or thought?

In the present economic climate it’s easy to focus on cuts, job losses, pension problems. Museums, galleries and archives are even more important in helping people develop their sense of place, learn more about themselves and sometimes just have a moment of escapism. If you’ve got a museum story to share please respond to the blog.

2 Responses to Iain Watson, Acting Director

  1. Anthony Poulton-Smith says:

    An excellent point well made – we all indeed want different things. However in these days of the global information network perhaps links or references to further information would be informative and quite affordable, while also promoting other museums – whom I am sure would willingly offer the same compliment in return.

  2. IAIN WATSON says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anthony. I think there’s certainly more we can do using new technology to point people to further information. Museums have been quite good at joining up for cross-promotion as a marketing tool and at engaging people in online debate. When it comes to referring people on for information we’ve probably relied a bit too heavily on personal contact and word-of-mouth. Will feed this back to colleagues. If anyone knows of good examples where this approach has worked well I’d love to hear from them.

    Iain

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