Measuring the Public Value of Art Museums

 

The premise of this year-long research study was that if one had the ability to communicate the value of museum experiences to the decision-makers and policymakers who support and fund museums, using an approach that directly spoke to how they themselves define value, then it would be much easier to convince them to make support available. Equally important, if one truly understood the value that makes so many people want to use museums again and again, then it would be much easier to know how to enhance the value that current users receive as well as extend that value to the many individuals who currently are not served by museum offerings.

Building on Falk’s recent theoretical and pilot research (see Falk, 2021; 2022) which has demonstrated the feasibility of using well-being as a framework for understanding and measuring, as well as ultimately monetizing the value of art museum experiences, this study brought together The Barnes Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, Hillwood Museum and Garden, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Milwaukee Art Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, Saint Louis Art Museum and Walters Art Museum to rigorously document the well-being-related value the public perceived they gained from visiting these eleven museums. In addition to measuring the perceived enhancement of personal, individual, social and physical well-being, the study also measured the resulting monetary value created by the public’s museum experiences at these eleven major art institutions.

It is hoped that this research will help to move discussions of the public value of art museums beyond conversations about hotel-night stays, learning outcomes, and long-term preservation of important collections, to one that demonstrates the true societal value – personally, intellectually, socially, physically and economically – art museums generate as a consequence of their core public-facing activities.

Project Team: John H. Falk Ph.D., Judy Koke, Nicole Claudio, David Meier