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Behind the Numbers at the Museum

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 25, 2011

In 2009, 5,823 people took in an event at the Museum of Art. The following year that number jumped to 6,846 . This season more than 7,900 visitors attended an exhibit or participated in a program at the museum, an increase of more than 30 percent in two years.

Part of the reason for the step up in attendance can be attributed to what the museum does, which is offer high quality exhibitions, programs, and events to the public free of charge. And part is due to good planning.

“This is a significant step forward for the Museum of Art as it strives to become more relevant to the community as a cultural resource and an effective teaching tool across the disciplines,” says Wes LaFountain, interim director of the Museum of Art.

According to LaFountain, an analysis of museum’s general audience was done two years ago and divided into constituent parts.  In consciously articulating who the primary audience was--the campus community with its three components (students, faculty, staff), and secondarily the community-at-large (Durham and environs, the Seacoast region), they were able to gain focus.

Then, with President Mark Huddleston’s push for more interdisciplinarity in the UNH Strategic Plan, the museum sought to be a major resource for lots of disciplines, everything from anthropology to zoology. 

“We reached out to professors in various departments (engineering, psychology, the humanities, the arts and more) and worked with them on how visual art could inspire an innovative way to connect to their own discipline,” LaFountain says. “It is very satisfying to realize that our strategy is working.”

He went on to praise museum staffers Catherine Mazur and Cindy Farrell for “energizing this approach, one that improves our reach as an educational institution as it deepens cultural awareness for our audiences.”

“To see the numbers back us up so significantly proves our approach to be sound.  We are helping to develop awareness of the arts for students and non-students alike through our dual mission of academic programming and community outreach, and through our capacity as a ‘window to the University,’”  LaFountain says. “We’re pleased to play a key role in developing the next generation of museum-goers, collectors and patrons, as our students move out into the world and incorporate the arts into their lives and careers.” 

The attendance number for programs and school groups to date:

2008-09   1,216
2009-10   1,049
2010-11   2,791

School groups/tours

2008-09    1,058
2009-10    1,231
2010-11    1,228

The numbers do not reflect those attending summer art camp, now in its third year.

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