Measuring the Public Value of Finnish Museum Experiences
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 a pilot study of six museums in three countries, including Heureka in Finland, which demonstrated the feasibility of using well-being as a framework for understanding and measuring, as well as ultimately monetizing the value of museum experiences (see Falk, 2021; 2022 for summaries of this effort), this study brought together the Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki City Museum, Heureka, Museum and Science Centre Luuppi, Museum Centre Vapriikki, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Serlachius Art Museum and the National Museum Finland, in collaboration with the Finnish Museums Association, to rigorously document the well-being-related value the public perceived they gained from visiting these eight 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 eight institutions.
Results indicated that the public overwhelmingly perceived that their couple-hour museum experiences resulted in feelings of enhanced well-being that lasted for the average person for several days, and for many weeks and months. The calculated financial value of each person’s one-day museum visit was equal to over 520 € (equivalent to over $520), with the cumulative, overall value of each museum’s public offerings totaling in the millions of EUROS (for more detail, see the Final Report).
It is hoped that this research will help to move discussions of the public value of Finnish 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 – museums generate as a consequence of their core public-facing activities.
Project Team: John H. Falk Ph.D., Nicole Claudio, David Meier