How can we identify the audiences in our community?

The most complete information is available from the U.S. Census website. Another U.S. Census source, QuickFacts, has specific details on social, economic, housing, and demographic data. You also can Google “U.S. Census 2010, [the name of your town]” to find information about race and ethnicity, population figures, financial data, level of education, and much more. Many communities also have some census information on their city’s website. The U.S. Department of Education and the local chamber of commerce are other helpful sources.

How can we find out if the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to our site?

If your site is open to the public, it is a place of public accommodation and the ADA is in effect. There is no minimum number of required employees. The law applies whether your site is privately supported or is a government entity. Special considerations may affect historic properties. The ADA website has information about specifics, such as accessible design, service animals, readily achievable barrier removal, and links to websites with disability-related resources.

A useful publication about accessibility is David Woodhouse, ADA: What It Means for Your Museum (Chicago: David Woodhouse Architects, 1992).*

How can we engage our audiences strategically?

An article by Jeanne Vergeront in Museum Notes, May 2, 2011 addresses this topic. The author mentions some trends affecting museum audiences, including: “the introduction of universal pre-K; increasing costs for businesses to bring students for field trips; decreasing money for field trips in school busses; expectations for museum visits to map tightly onto school curriculum; baby boomers hitting the bulge; demographic shifts in ethnic groups; and population shifts between suburbs and cities.”

She describes four specific audience attributes that can affect attendance: age, interest, availability, and group (who visitors are with). She recommends identifying small audience segments and prioritizing audience groups. After gathering information, she suggests some engaging strategies that can serve a museum audience more fully.

*IHA Circulating Library