Museums; their missions; their civic, social responsibilities; and their modes of engagement with communities are in a constant process of transformation in response to social and economic imperatives at local, national and global levels. There is a need for museums to stay relevant and be responsive to pressing social and environmental issues such as population and sustainability, social justice and Indigenous rights. Funding bodies and stakeholders now acknowledge that museums and programs need to demonstrate impact and value within their local communities in order to attract further funding and ongoing support. Several models of impact have been developed in Europe and the United States, and a number of benefits are claimed for participation in museum programs and museum visitation. However these have not been subject to rigorous testing, particularly in Australia.
This paper discusses challenges for museums in measuring impact and meeting audience needs drawing on results from two major research projects: Investigating the impact of small museums in their local communities and Exhibitions as Contested Sites – the roles of museums in contemporary society. It can be downlaoded from the right-hand side of this page.