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  • 1.  Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-07-2017 02:31 PM
    Hello, all!

    My name is Mackenzie Boileau and I am the Curatorial and Administrative intern at the Iowa State University Museums. We have an awesome permanent collection displayed on campus and in three museums. I've quickly learned that museums across America tend to ask the same question- "how do we get people in the door?" In our case, I think it's important to connect with our extremely young community of undergraduate and graduate students. I would love to hear how your institutions effectively reach out to 18-28 year old young professionals through exhibits, marketing, and most importantly- programming. As a young adult myself, this question should be easy to answer, but we're finding that a lot of the students at Iowa State University, which is an engineering-heavy school, don't find that museums are approachable. What strategies have you used to reach out to your young communities? 

    I hope everyone's coffee is strong and your Monday is short!

    Mackenzie Boileau
    Curatorial and Administrative Intern
    University Museums, Iowa State University
    Ames, IA

  • 2.  RE: Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-08-2017 09:18 AM
    Good morning! It's Tuesday but just as fun.

    I work for the Museum of South Texas History. We started MOSTHistory Happy Hour in 2016 and it's been a roller coaster ride. We've done a lot of research on this particular programming because it is not a novice idea in the museum world. But, we've seen how it's gotten young people excited about the museum.

    So far, we have noticed that the young people in our area who mostly work at the county courthouse or are part of clubs at the university down the street attend the happy hours. There's a formula for us: Beer and wine tasting, light appetizers/dinner, live music and an interactive game. In 2016, most of the happy hours were heavy on "displaying" artifacts not part of the exhibits. Not many people were into that -- just depended on who it was. This year, we relied on the permanent exhibits (no food or drinks, though!) and created scavenger hunts. It's been far more successful because of that. We don't allow individuals 20 and younger because we are serving alcohol.

    Hopefully some of these things will spark an idea or two.

    Pamela Morales
    Communications Officer
    Museum of South Texas History
    Edinburg TX

  • 3.  RE: Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-08-2017 09:53 AM

    Hello,Mackenzie -

    This is a demographic that has a lot of things competing for their attention (and their dollars).  I'm not sure what the magic formula is to guarantee success with them, but it probably involves using multiple platforms to make the connection.  With the caveat that my perspective is skewed by the peer group with which I associate, an interesting trend I've noticed is the popularity of what I call "geek content" in online media.  This ranges from things like "The Brain Scoop" to "Adam Ruins Everything" to "IFL Science", all of which to some extent are basically informal science education programming.  Getting someone from watching a 3-minute video on their phone to going to a museum may be no small task, but I think that the proliferation of this content suggests that there is a certain level of general interest in science-based content.  Can any of your museums explore producing similar content based on your collections, and use it to inspire people to visit in person?  Many museums now have staff members whose primary task is social media communications, and it might be worth talking with some of them to see what they're doing.  

    As far as reaching college students goes, I think the chances improve when the museum is used as an academic/educational resource to the fullest extent possible.  When museum curators are also professors (or when professors have access to the museum collections for research), they can do some of their teaching in the museum.  At my university, the museum has had classes in fine art, art history, anthropology, history, geology, museum studies and paleontology take place within their space.  This helps students to see the museum as more than a collection of old stuff, and for some is their first introduction to the museum.  



    Michael Holland
    Michael Holland Productions
    Bozeman MT

  • 4.  RE: Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-08-2017 10:25 AM
    Cincinnati Museum Center started a series of events for young professionals last year. Our research indicated that the events need to be regular (monthly in our case) and not expensive and engaging. We grew the series, called CurioCity, from less than 20 at the first event of the season to over 200 at the last one. Events usually take place outside the museum in a place where alcohol can be served. Here is the website description and a link to find out more:

    "Experience history, science, art and more over drinks with friends while you pick the brains of local experts. Learning doesn't have to be boring. So CMC kicked it up with timely topics presented in fun ways. Learning doesn't have to take place in the classroom. So CMC took it out to bars and other locations across the community. Learning doesn't have to be dry. So CMC poured you a drink. CurioCity invites you to loosen up with friends, local experts and topics that will keep the conversations going and the curiosity flowing.

    "CurioCity is back for its second season at new locations with new topics, new games and new ways to experience history, science and art like only CMC can provide. Up for geeking out with Cincinnati Museum Center? Grab some friends and meet us in some of our city's best bars and hangouts to uncover the fascinating science of the seemingly ordinary and celebrate the history of Cincinnati's extraordinary. CurioCity is a 21+ social series that gives community members a fresh way to see our collections, meet our curators and engage with experts. Monthly events will be held at bars and breweries around the city."

    Robyn Gibboney PhD
    Director of Grants
    Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
    Cincinnati OH

  • 5.  RE: Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-09-2017 03:23 AM
    I suggest you think about the interests of your audience. If they are mostly engineering students, are the exhibitions you are presenting matching their interests??

    There are plenty of artists that use math and/or science as a springboard for their work. I've seen some amazing representations of fractals, and artists who coax molds to grow into their pieces, and artwork made with 3-d printers is factinating. 

    While after hours alcohol might get them in the door, isn't your real goal to engage them in the artwork you are presenting??  If you can convince them to come back to see the art, then you can cultivate people who love your museum not just the parties you throw. 

    Elizabeth Chilton
    Manager of Curatorial Affairs
    Arab American National Museum
    Dearborn MI

  • 6.  RE: Bringing Young Adults into the Museums

    Posted 08-10-2017 02:44 PM

    Hi Mackenzie,


    This might be more information than you're looking for, but these publications by Bob Harlow on building arts audiences have a lot of good info. You can read case studies here: I'd suggest "Opening New Doors" and "More Than Just a Party." For larger reports check out "The Road to Results" and "Taking Out the Guesswork." The Utah Division of Arts and Museums recently had Bob out to speak and I thought it was helpful.



    Megan Mizuta

    Associate Registrar, Loans and Exhibitions

    (801) 587-5774

    Natural History Museum of Utah

    Megan Mizuta
    Associate Registrar, Loans and Exhibitions
    Natural History Museum of Utah - University of Utah
    Salt Lake City UT