Just what are visitors doing when they visit museums and galleries? It’s a question asked by many museum professionals and one which Smartify is seeking to answer using information and data gathered from its three million unique users.
From questions such as How can gender inform what visitors are looking at? to The impact of age upon behaviour, Martin Jefferies shared how Smartify can help find the right audience for an exhibition in this presentation at the MuseumNext Digital Summit 2022.
Smartify on gender
Smartify is a social enterprise designed to help people connect with art and heritage and help museums reach audiences. The team are building a shared audience of arts and culture enthusiasts with three million registered users to date. All actively browsing the millions of artworks housed on the platform from partner museums and galleries.
Now that Smartify has reached a critical mass of people and museums, the data can be used to gain real insight into how users are interacting with artwork at home both via the platform, and onsite in museums and galleries.
For instance, of the top 20 artists on the site it’s probably no surprise that Vincent Van Gogh is most popular regardless of age, gender or location. Much like the other top 5 artists, it’s just one piece that is propelling him into the top spot – Starry Night. This is a great example of how the power of one object can propel people in a digital environment.
But what does that top 20 look like when filtered for gender of the user? The top 5 stays largely the same but in the top 10, female and male users do have preferential artists. Sargant makes an appearance for women, for example, despite not appearing at all in the men’s list.
When looking more specifically at engagement and how a user interacts with artwork on Smartify, there is an even clearer split on gender. Renoir, for instance, seventh most popular with women and yet 17th with men. Leonardo da Vinci, fourth place with women but number 14 for men.
What does this mean? Quite simply, the level of engagement implies that in a situation when a museum might be planning an exhibition of Dutch Old Masters, it can’t be assumed that a strong automatic bond will happen with female audiences. It suggests they will stop and look at those paintings but may not form anything like as close an engagement as maybe male audiences would.
Age and its impact
Van Gogh and Starry Night was still the most popular artist and artwork amongst all age groups but interestingly, over a six-month period, not one person over age 65 scanned the painting. This difference was reflected across the generational divide, with the 18–24 year group concentrating on old masters and impressionists whilst seniors focused on 20th century moderns.
From the data, it appears the old masters resonate most with younger audiences, Romantics with mid-life audiences and 20th century and modern artists among senior audiences. There are many questions here, none of which are clear in their answer. Is the interest in Renaissance Greats with younger audiences related to engaging with the familiar and the famous or is there something about the epic and the grand nature of this genre that seems to resonate with young adults?
Smartify’s new look
Smartify will be re-launching with a brand-new contemporary design this year. It will be triple-A accessibility rated and include all key functionality of the platform including tours, scanning, shop, tickets and wayfinding. Personalisation will be a focus to help empower users to share what they’re interested in and curate experiences by matching their interests with some of the trends and the demographics the team are seeing.
This also means that for partners, Smartify will be able to connect with people to promote exhibitions and events based on interests.
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About the author – Tim Deakin
Tim Deakin is a journalist and editorial consultant working with a broad range of online publications.