Analysing visits to English museums 1850–2015: a research note
Understanding why people visit museums is of interest to both cultural economics and museum studies. Most existing research relies on survey data concerned with visitors, their immediate background, and their experience of a particular museum. Very few studies have taken a more general perspective and analysed macro-level societal factors, such as inflation, educational attainment and unemployment, and their influence on the number of visits to museums. The conventional approach relies on visitor surveys to understand what drives visits and people’s general views on museums.
In a departure from these conventional approaches, this article presents a macro-level approach, using a unique dataset of visit counts for 40 English museums and visitor attractions spanning the period 1850–2015. It examines the effect of socio-economic factors on visits using panel data analysis and macro-level variables. The results suggest that inflation rates, average earnings, and educational level (using the indicator of secondary school attendance) all significantly influence the number of visits made. However, the most important variable is the number of visits recorded for the previous year. These findings are discussed in relation to existing studies, and some suggestions for future research are proposed.