How to broaden your museum’s audience

Donna Williams for The Met in New York

Donna Williams for The Met in New York

On Thursday 25 June Donna Williams, Chief Audience Development Officer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, spoke at Te Papa about how the Met is diversifying its audience.

Here are the main points I teased out of the talk:

Relationships is the key word
The Met started the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative with a diverse committee of people who are involved in and believe in the arts.

Pick people from organisations with the right criteria to work with you. Listen to these people so you know what you are doing right and wrong. Listening to what they think should be part of your museum’s strategy.

‘Friendraising’ to make your museum work
Make everyone feel like they are a friend of your museum. Approach and welcome new and diverse communities, multicultural and multigenerational groups to be a part of your museum’s fibre.


  • With other museums.
  • With your staff members. They are the best ambassadors for an initiative like this, internally as well as externally.
  • With your museum’s trustees. They are just as interested in diversifying the museum’s audience as you are.

Celebrate all communities
Acknowledge and celebrate all heritage events. The Met celebrates Martin Luther King Day, Diwali, Women’s History Month, Latino Hispanic holidays, and has a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community group that enjoys special events in the Museum as well.

Don’t be afraid to ask people
Get out in your community and ask people to be part of your museum. Ask people to help you. Celebrities in New York have started doing public service announcements and interviews about the museum on TV for free!

Get out there!
40% of Donna’s time is spent out there in the communities, letting people know they are all part of the same story and the same museum family. Do whatever you can to find out about relevant events you can tag your museum onto.

Media outreach
Make sure you are in the community papers as well as the main paper. Most people read both. By getting your presence in both, it shows you care.

Local outreach
Reaching out to the local community is even more important now in this economic climate. Don’t just target the international visitors – you have to get the people at your own back door to come more often. Make it attractive to them.

Diversity in programming
Acknowledge different communities’ celebrations at your museum. Through exhibitions, lectures, gallery talks, receptions, and education programmes the Met recognises Native American Heritage, Hispanic/Latino heritage, Asian heritage, South Asian heritage, African American heritage, women’s heritage, social justice etc.

Branching out

  • Mentoring programme for college students. These are potential future staff members. All communities should be represented. The Met is able to help students go forward in their careers. They are able to come and work at the Met for 10 weeks and receive a stipend. One of their most successful initiatives was a toga party that attracted over 3000 young people into the Museum.
  • In addition there is a College Advisory Group at the Met for 18-23 year olds. This age group is often forgotten about. Twenty-five students from all over New York strategised about how to get their age group to the Met.

Family programming

The Met has visitation programmes that cover a lifetime.

  • Starting with programmes for parents with babies.
  • The Met then has family programmes which attract 500,000 students a year.
  • Visitors can then move onto the high school internship programme.
  • Then the college group.
  • Then adult membership.

Everyone needs to be able to find a spot in the museum circle.

Listen to Donna Williams’ talk or download Donna’s presentation

This blog is also on NZMuseums

One Response

  1. marrow

    useful info. used in reseach


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