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Why should kids have all the fun? Museums have an incredible potential to not only educate adults, but also engage and entertain them. Through using collection objects and community spaces, museums can draw in adult audiences to learn, play, create, unwind and more…
In this article, we’ll share ten creative programmes ideas to engage your adult visitors. From multilingual classes to virtual date nights, we hope you’ll glean some inspiration to create your own dynamic programmes.
London’s Victoria & Albert Museum lecture series takes inspiration from the collection and current exhibitions. They offer both physical and digital talks with varying price points to maximise accessibility. These lectures are designed for curious minds that want to process museum themes and work through ideas post-visit or exhibition.
Another great lecture series to note is the “Packed Lunch” series at the Wellcome Collection in London. This series affords adults the opportunity to spend their lunch hour listening to a conversation between a museum programmer and scientist about their current research. Participants are encouraged to bring their lunch which makes break time a little more exciting!
Take a (hidden) note from The Spy Museum in Washington DC by bringing in the young professionals’ demographic with exclusive events promising networking and an evening to remember. Even if your museum doesn’t have the stunning DC rooftop space that The Spy Museum does, you can still elevate your event and draw in crowds by offering drinks, nibbles, and private gallery hours.
Now that in-person events are again taking place, young professionals are eager to network at events where they can see and be seen. Make your museum a destination by tailoring an event to this crowd and making it a calendar staple.
The “museum late” trend has taken off over the last two decades with museums now regularly offering “adults only” hours complete with food, drinks, themed quizzes and more. Whether these are income generating events or not, they offer the opportunity to get people in the door that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise visit the museum during daylight hours.
A few of our favourites are The Science Museum Lates, Tate Modern Lates, Metropolitan Museum of Art Date Nights and Vincent on Friday at The Van Gogh Museum.
Missouri’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art offers Citizenship Preparation Classes for English Language Learners that focus on the USCIS 100 questions using the art collection. Nelson-Atkins uses their extensive collection to teach four lessons at the museum: Geography and American Indian Culture, The War of Independence, The Civil War, and Voting Rights and the Civil Rights Movement.
This programme offers a great example of serving a community need whilst utilizing the collection and its educational potential.
North Carolina Museum of Art offers a terrific outdoor film series that screens a variety of films to cater to every age group. Tickets, which are free for members and an affordable $7 for non-members, tend to sell out due to the popularity of this cinema programme.
Forgot to bring popcorn? NCMA even offers picnic baskets that you can pre-order to enjoy during the films. Although this film series screens primarily box office hits, there are many other museum film series that showcase movies relating to their collection like MoMA, Neville Public Museum, and Cincinnati Art Museum.
Scientific studies show the art of mindfulness can relieve anxiety, depression, pain, and stress and actually change the way you feel, think, work, and play by opening new pathways in the brain. Phoenix Art Museum demonstrates that community wellbeing is a priority by hosting weekly mindfulness sessions that are free and open to the public.
The consistency and accessibility of this programme is key to its success. Presented in collaboration with Hospice of the Valley, it’s free entry and RSVP-free booking make it all the easier for participants to stop and take a moment for reflection in a beautiful, cultural space.
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has developed a robust virtual offering over the past few years including a reflection and activity series for children called “Look, Think, Do” and “Look Imagine Move” which is an artworks in focus film series.
Within the same vein as these instructional-based videos, The Fitzwilliam Museum has also debuted a series called, “MUSE” which features museum education staff demonstrating art techniques. With two videos currently focussing on painting with watercolour and acrylic, we can’t wait to see what they decide to film next.
Although the final definition is yet to be established, both currently proposed ICOM definitions of the word “museum” include that it operates in service of society and in a participatory manner. The Holburne Museum in Bath takes this to heart and supports a Peer Led Museums Group called “IMAGE” for people with experience of mental health issues.
The Holburne Museum acts as a host and support alongside Bath Preservation Trust sites, The American Museum & Gardens and Bath Abbey. IMAGE has developed participants’ skills through artist-led workshops which have resulted in artworks that were then displayed and sold in museum gift shops. Supporting a programme like this isn’t typically onerous and deeply aligns with the duty of museums to serve society and promote community wellbeing through creativity and culture.
Catered to meet the needs of the adult immigrant community in Queens, the New New Yorkers is a multilingual learning programme offered by Queens Museum with Queen’s Library.
This programme is based in art and creativity using engaging with artists and their work as a catalyst for expanding language acquisition. Classes are primarily held in Spanish, Korean and Mandarin but have also been held in other languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Croatian, Hindi, Nepali, Persian, Portuguese and Tibetan.
Photo: New New Yorkers, Queens Museum, https://queensmuseum.org/new-new-yorkers
Dallas Museum of Art offers a fun, accessible and inexpensive way to put a new twist on spending quality time with their innovative virtual dates. There are currently nine different virtual date themes to choose from including “Fright Night”, “Au Naturel” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
Each virtual date night theme includes a cocktail recipe, Spotify playlist, crafting suggestions and activities relating to the collection. Rather than ask people to plan their date at the museum, DMA has cleverly taken the collection to them in a highly participatory way.
Unlike children, adults don’t have field trips to the museum and parents who taken them for activities on the weekend. Museums need to work a little harder to extend hours and create programming that works for adult schedules and interests.
Taking the time to build a more participatory relationship with adult audiences can pay off in dividends especially as they, unlike children, can be prospective donors and attract other visitors to your museum. Take a leaf from the programming books of the museums mentioned above and have a go at creating programming that serves adults audiences as well as your museum. Now, go forth and programme!
Looking for more creative ideas for your museum? Join us for our virtual museum conferences for even more inspiration.
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Fresh ideas from museums around the globe in your inbox each week