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Study of Young Adults

[2011]
An audience research study with an art museum
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to study its young adults. The study, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provides a profile of the young adult audience, including their demographics, behaviors, perceptions, and values. The DAM intends to use the results of the study to inform future programming and communication with DAM’s young adult visitors.

How did we approach this study?

RK&A employed two data collection strategies: standardized questionnaires administered online at Surveymonkey.com® to young adult program participants and telephone interviews with core program participants. Questionnaire respondents were recruited through a series of three email blasts by the DAM as well as advertisement on DAM’s various social media and Internet sources; 203 completed questionnaires were completed by young adults 22 to 34 years old. A total of 19 telephone interviews were conducted with core program participants who were identified by the DAM.

What did we learn?

Young adults engage with the DAM in many ways—either by visiting the DAM, attending programs, or accessing DAM’s social media and online resources—and with relative frequency. Three-quarters of DAM young adults have visited the Museum at least twice in the last year, and nearly two-thirds of young adults visited the Museum in the last two years with the specific purpose of attending a program. When it comes to DAM program offerings, young adults place greatest importance on the most traditional characteristic among a list of 10—“learning about the Museum’s collection or a special exhibition.” Other highly rated program characteristics reveals some of the more unique experiences that we expect young adults to value: “encountering unexpected ideas or subject matter,” “trying something new,” and “doing something that feels creative.”

With regard to online resources provided by DAM, young adults used all six of the social media and online informational resources studied but to varying degrees of breadth and depth. Among the offerings, the DAM Web site has been visited by the greatest percentage of young adults, primarily as a source for planning a visit, and thus, it is used infrequently. By contrast, Twitter is used by a much smaller percentage of young adults, but of all the online sources surveyed, it is most often used daily.

What are the implications of the findings?

Findings demonstrate that, first and foremost, young adults value DAM’s programming and online resources because they are museum-based. However, young adults also desire museum-based experiences that are unexpected, dynamic, and enriching, which is exactly what the DAM has been delivering and to great acclaim. Yet, participatory experiences, like “being able to actively participate” and “personalizing the experience based on my interests,” rated relatively low, which may reflective of social norms—not everyone wants to actively participate.

Also, the Museum may wish to consider drafting unique goals for each of its many sources of online informational, taking into consideration the characteristics that are important to DAM young adults, such as engaging with unexpected content. This deliberate thinking will help the DAM create a niche for each online resource and even increase the awareness of various resources in the process of making them distinct.

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