WAM has set a goal to be a top cultural center by 2020. To achieve this goal, they partnered with WPI students on a project that aimed to find the opinions of parents and caregivers of young children, ages 0 – 4. WAM recognizes that in order to reach their goal, they need to evolve into an institution that is appealing to all ages. It is challenging for an art museum to mix well with children. Therefore, WAM needs to know what this demographic needs from them in regards to amenities and child content. The project used three methods to find these opinions: surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
The survey questions were designed to obtain the opinions of parents and caregivers, whether or not they’ve brought children to WAM. The survey showed reasons people are not bringing children to WAM, as well as current visitor experiences in regards to amenities and child content. The survey presents statistics on museum visitor-frequency, difficulty of amenity based issues, and how many people bring children to WAM.
One-on-one interviews were conducted with parents as a method to obtain similar information gathered from the surveys. Interviews gathered beneficial information in regards to amenities and content. Furthermore, interviews were held with staff from the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Children’s Museum. Their perspectives provided insight into issues parents have when visiting museums with young children, and the child-museum relationship.
Focus groups were another means to collect qualitative data. Focus group questions were designed to invoke deep thought into aspects of museum content for children, the amenities that parents need, and past experiences with WAM. Since the focus groups were conducted in person, obtaining qualitative data was easier than the surveys. Parents pondered and expressed their past experiences with WAM to identify the amenities and content they need for their children.
The methodologies revealed several findings, but there are three overarching themes among them: children need more hands-on activities, parents and children need convenient amenities, and many parents are unaware of what WAM offers young children.
Recommendations in regards to content, amenities, and advertising were made. First, WAM needs more child-focused content that stimulates multiple senses, as well as animal-based exhibits. Second, WAM needs to build a family bathroom with child and adult-sized amenities; both should be hands-free. Third, there are child-care facilities in Worcester who WAM should be more involved with. WAM should also advertise child-focused content on social media. The recommendations made are a result of not only the findings, but the research conducted on child engagement, why museums should focus on children, family learning, and what WAM is currently doing to attract children.