The great sustainability challenge: How visitor studies can save cultural institutions in the 21st century
Sustainability will be the great challenge for many cultural institutions in the first quarter of the 21st Century. Changing patterns of government, corporate, and individual support, new demographics, and new ways of creating, preserving, and sharing information are all challenging the sustainability of museums and other cultural institutions. In 2001 a meeting of science museum leaders in Bristol identified 3 distinct but interacting dimensions to sustainability: financial, intellectual, and social. Financial crises are the most obvious threats to the survival of institutions, but intellectual and social weaknesses can be equally dangerous and can make a temporary financial problem fatal. Visitor studies have the potential to provide crucial understandings that cultural institutions will need to build new, more sustainable models than the ones which served the previous century.