Document: Cultural Tourism and Museums

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Paper presented at the 2009 International Symposium on Art Museum Education: Innovation in the Art Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, October 17-18.

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A large assortment of people visit museums: from the very young to the very old; and in a range of groups: families, friends, schools, couples. Museums are exciting places for visitors as they tell stories about the objects they hold and the research they undertake in a variety of ways. Museums have always been tourist destinations. The earliest museums were founded on the premise of “education for the uneducated masses” (Bennett, 1995), “cabinets of curiosities” (Weil, 1995) established to ‘… raise the level of public understanding … to elevate the spirit of its visitors … to refine and uplift the common taste’ (Weil, 1997, p.257).

Before leaving home most visitors have Googled, read reviews, commented on blogs and otherwise interacted with our museums, often without us even knowing about it and this is increasingly so for international visitors. The Australian Museum recognised that international tourists are a key market for the museum, and increasing the percentage of these visitors is identified as a key strategy action. Given this emphasis, a study of tourism was undertaken by the Museum during the early part of 2006 to provide market information about tourist audiences in order to enable the development of marketing strategies aimed specifically at encouraging more tourists to visit the Museum. In particular, we looked at what trends are likely to occur in tourism to Australia over the next 10 years and the profile of tourists who do and do not visit the Australian Museum.

This paper outlines the findings from this study and discuss how the Museum is meeting needs of international tourists and what else could be done to engage this audience.



Bennett, T. (1995). The Birth of the Museum: history, theory, politics. London: Routledge.

Weil, S. (1995). A Cabinet of Curiosities: Inquiries Into Museums and Their Prospects. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Weil, S. (1997). The Museum and The Public. Curator, 16(3), 257-271.

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