Nurturing Engagement: How technology and business model alignment can transform visitor participation in the museum

Robert Stein, USA

Published paper: Nurturing Engagement: How Technology and Business Model Alignment can Transform Visitor Participation in the Museum

In a world in which museums are frequently seen as stuffy and formal, cultural organizations are in a fight for the public's leisure-time attention. While informal learning spaces like museums are broadly appreciated as a “good” thing, the 2010 census survey on Adult Participation In Leisure Activities reports that only 14.5% of US Adults visited museums in the prior 12 months (Census, 2012).

It’s not surprising then that the topics of Audience Engagement and Participatory Culture have garnered a lot of attention in the field of museums recently. Following Henry Jenkins’ publication on the topic (2006), many contemporaries in museums have expanded on the impact these ideas are having on museum practice. (Simon 2010)(Richardson 2011)(Stein 2012)(Mack, et al 2012)

This paper will discuss the Dallas Museum of Art's approach of establishing a digital platform for museum engagement called DMA Friends that attempts to structure and measure the repeat engagement of visitors with the Museum and its programs. The paper will share the underlying approach in design of the Friends program, some technical detail about the implementation, and some significant initial findings from the project launch in January 2013.