Children have been proven, on many occasions, to be “carriers” of information at home and “influencers” of family behaviours (e.g. recycling). In our qualitative study (April 2020)*, that examined differences between museum visitors and those reluctant / avoidant towards museum visiting, we identified a number of interesting insights regarding the role that children can play in their parents’ museum visiting behaviour. For example, parents consider taking children to museums a “parental obligation” and, even the most reluctant and avoidant museum visitors, will act upon it. Our social media analysis also found that children are targeted systematically by museums in many different ways. The specific search, aiming to establish whether there is a social discussion regarding museum visitation, who is initiating it, who participates and how, was confined within the last six months of 2019 (1st July – 31st December). Our main concern was that, after that, the pandemic effect would confound with “noise” our findings. The “listening” included news, forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube (for the last two, only public pages).
The main insights from our focus to children as museum audiences involve:
“Adult” museums create special exhibitions and activities directed to children (News, “”Mystika tou Valtou” gez alive within a specially created diorama from Playmobil, displayed at the Macedonian Struggle Museum.”, https://www.dailythess.gr/ta-mystika-toy-valtoy-se-playmobil/, 31/12, News, “Activities for children at the Historical Museum of Alexandroupolis”, , https://www.alexpolisonline.com/2019/12/blog-post_64.html, 27/12, News, “Natural History Museum of Crete – University of Crete. A movies workshop that gives children the opportunity to go through all stages of a movie creation and experience roles behind the camera.” https://www.patris.gr/2019/12/28/ena-kinimatografiko-proino-sto-mfik/, 28/12). Twitter & News “Eurolife ERB supports this year too the Children’s Painting Contest of the Museum of Cycladic Art”, https://www.nextdeal.gr/asfalistikes-eidiseis/idiotiki-asfalisi/109929/i-eurolife-erb-stirizei-kai-fetos-ton-paidiko, 18/11, Twitter & News “Ioannina: Children create ornaments for the Museum’s Christmas tree”, https://www.epirusnow.gr, 13/12).
Others engage children and parents together opening up towards families in an inclusive and – often – playful way ((News, “I play, I learn, I create… with my parents: Meetings with family audiences.”, https://www.culturenow.gr/paizo-mathaino-dimioyrgo-me-toys-goneis-moy-synantiseis-gia-oikogeneiako-koino-sto-momus/, 27/12)
Free museum entrance for children is offered (especially around Christmas), sometimes associated with free entrance for parents, while in other cases parents have to pay (News, “Parents and children, enjoy and get guided for free at the Museum of Γονείς και παιδιά, διασκεδάστε και ξεναγηθείτε δωρεάν στο Museum of Mineralogy and Petrology” (1 & 8/12)”, https://www.infokids.gr/goneis-kai-paidia-diaskedaste-kai-ksen/, News, “Acropolis Museum: Weekend Festive programmw”, https://portnet.gr/politismos/24391-mouseio-akropolis-eortastiko-programma-to-savvatokyriako.html, 27/12)
Of course, museums dedicated to and engaging children as their primary audience have to continuously create new visitation opportunities (Twitter & News, “Weekend at Exploration Children Museum!” https://www.cretapost.gr/525445/savvatokyriako-sto-pediko-mousio-exploration/, 18/11, Twitter & News, “The other Me: Visual art exhibition for Vaggelis Iliopoulos at the Museum of Greek Children’s Art”, https://www.culturenow.gr/o-allos-ego-eikastiki-ekthesi-gia-ton-vaggeli-hliopoylo-sto-moyseio-ellinikis-paidikis-texnis/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter, 12/12).
All of the above bring us back to our original quest for more triggers that could motivate those less prone to museum visitation to give it a try. This learning indicates that the role of school can be quite important in familiarising and exposing children in a fun and educational way with museums. Then, children can act themselves as initiators of family museum visits. Furthermore, museums can “employ” children’s persuasive power and develop programs and activities where they can invite children to bring their parents to the museum and then act as their guides. Such programmes could allow those sceptical towards the benefits of museum to enjoy an indulging, relevant and fun visit that they may wish to repeat.
*The Report on the findings of our April 2020 Study “A Study for the Museums” is available upon request