One of the most interesting facts that I have learned from my recent visitor studies at the Australian Museum was that many inner city dwellers use the museum as their backyard (metaphorically speaking of course).
I found that a number of families live in apartments in the inner city and have taken out museum membership to regularly come and play at the museum. I don’t mean running around kind of play but definitely spending hours in the Search and Discover section of the Australian Museum and certainly doing craft activities (when available) in Kids Space. This was a revelation to me because I’ve never lived in a small flat with children. My kids have had a backyard, local parks and plenty and activities available to them as they grew up.
For city based museums this is an interesting discovery. Most museums want to grow their memberships and attract repeat visitors and be known as being family friendly. If people are visiting often with children, particularly the pre school age group – are museums doing enough to keep those families and children interested? The usual museum approach would be to develop the Summer Blockbuster exhibition and limit most of the child focussed activities to school holidays only, but perhaps there are a number of children not at school who could benefit from some permanent free play spaces and child focussed exhibits all year round. Such spaces need not be underutilised and would be attractive to interstate and overseas visitors as well as school groups on excursions all year round.
Of course it helps parents to plan a family visit if you provide a link on your website like the Smithsonian Top 10 Kid’s Tips or you are mentioned in an article like The 10 best Family Friendly Galleries in London. Museums and galleries do have programs for families and put a lot of thought into being “family friendly” but do they also think about satisfying the frequent visitor or tourist that might not visit during school holidays or on weekends when most of these programs are available?