FEATURE ARTICLE: MUSEUMS - FACT SHEET
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What is a museum?
How many museums are there?
How many people go to museums?
How many objects are kept by museums?
How many people work in museums?
How are museums funded?
How can I find a museum?
This article presents information about museums, including social history museums and historic properties and sites. Art museums are excluded except where data sources do not distinguish between museums and art museums.
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WHAT IS A MUSEUM?
In its role as Australia's official statistical agency, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) produced the Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications, 2008 (cat. no. 4902.0) (ACLC). This document defines many aspects of the culture and leisure sector. Using this classification, museums fall under the heading of museums, antiques and collectables. These include art museums, other museums and antiques and collectables dealings and restoration. The focus of this article is on other museums that are 'mainly engaged in the acquisition, collection management, conservation, interpretation, communication and exhibition of heritage objects and artefacts'. Data about art museums are excluded from this article except where data sources do not distinguish between other museums and art museums. Art museums include national and state/territory art galleries and other public art galleries and exclude commercial art galleries which are mainly engaged in retailing art.
While the ABS uses the above definition for museums, other definitions of museums also exist. According to the International Council of Museums, a museum is 'a non-profit making permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment'. In addition to this definition, Museums Australia defines a museum as an institution that '... helps people understand the world by using objects and ideas to interpret the past and present and explore the future. A museum preserves and researches collections, and make objects and information accessible in actual and virtual environments. Museums are established in the public interest as permanent, not-for-profit organisations that contribute long-term value to communities.'
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HOW MANY MUSEUMS ARE THERE?
According to Museums, Australia, 2007-08 (cat. no. 8560.0) there were 1,019 museums operating from 1,276 locations in Australia at the end of June 2008. These locations included 768 social history museums, 425 historic properties and sites, and 83 other museums.
The 2007-08 Museums Survey focused on employing and non-employing businesses and organisations classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 Edition (ANZSIC06) Class 8910 - Museum Operations. These organisations were mainly engaged in the operation of museums and art galleries. The survey also included other museums/galleries registered as having a collection with Collections Australia Network. Collections Australia Network was used to identify any museums or art galleries that may not have been recorded on the ABS Business Register or were operated by organisations not classified to ANZSIC06 Class 8910 - Museum Operations. Collections Australia Network is considered to be a comprehensive national directory of collecting institutions. However, registration to Collections Australia Network is voluntary.
The types of museums included in this survey were: historic trusts and sites; historic societies with a collection; house museums; social and natural history museums; archives (excluding the national and state archives); art galleries (excluding commercial art galleries); keeping places and cultural centres; outdoor museums; science museums; maritime museums; military museums and transport museums. Museums and galleries were only included if they were open to the general public during the 2007-08 reference year.
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HOW MANY PEOPLE GO TO MUSEUMS?
As reported in Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4114.0), an estimated 3.6 million Australian adults (or 23% of the population aged 15 years and over) visited a museum at least once in the 12 months prior to interview. Half (50%) of the people who had visited museums in the past 12 months had gone once, with another quarter (25%) of museum visitors having visited twice. The remaining quarter of museum visitors had been to a museum three times or more during the previous 12 months.
According to Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, April 2009 (cat. no. 4901.0), just over 1.1 million (41%) children aged 5 to 14 years had visited a museum or art gallery outside of school hours in the 12 months prior to interview. The rate of attendance at museums or art galleries was similar for boys and girls (41% and 42% respectively). The attendance rate declined with age and children aged 5 to 8 years had a participation rate of 47%, compared with children aged 9 to 11 years (43%) and children aged 12 to 14 years (33%). Children living in the ACT were more likely to visit a museum or art gallery (60%), while children living in NSW were the least likely to attend (36%). Children in couple families with both parents born in other main English speaking countries (52%) were more likely to attend museums or art galleries than children with both parents born in Australia (42%) and children with both parents born in other countries (28%).
The publication Museums, Australia, 2007-08 (cat. no. 8560.0) reported that there were an estimated 17.8 million admissions to museums, with 7.6 million (or 43%) of these being paid admissions and 10.1 million being free admissions (57%). In addition, there were also 51.5 million unique online visits to museums with a total of 127.3 million Web pages viewed in 2007-08.
The Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) 2005-06 survey found that total attendances to CAMD's 21 museum sites across Australia and New Zealand numbered 11.8 million. As well as on-site visits to the museum sites, CAMD museum websites recorded 37.8 million user sessions. For the first time, in 2005-06 more than half of CAMD's members attracted more virtual than on-site visitors.
It is important to note the difference between the numbers of visitors as reported by the Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4114.0) and the number of visits as reported by the Museums, Australia, 2007-08 (cat. no. 8560.0) and the CAMD survey.
- The survey of Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events collects data in relation to visitors. Data are collected about whether a person has visited a selected cultural venue or event (e.g. museum) in the past 12 months and how often. Regardless of how many times a person has visited a selected cultural venue or event in the last year, they are counted as only one visitor.
- The CAMD and Museums collections collects data on visits. A visit counts the same visitor returning numerous times.
So, one person visiting museums 10 times in 12 months would be counted as one visitor on the Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events Survey, but as 10 visits on the CAMD and Museums collections.
Many museum objects can be viewed online. For example, the Collections Australia Network is part of the Federated Open Search Project which aims to enable web users to search the collections of Australian archives, galleries, libraries and museums through a single search. It is possible to search the online collections of the Powerhouse Museum, Museum Victoria, National Museum of Australia, Picture Australia, NSW State Records and Libraries Australia via the CAN website at www.collectionsaustralia.net
Tourism Research Australia's 2009 survey of Cultural and Heritage Tourism in Australia, found that international cultural and heritage visitors made up more than half (51%) of all international visitors to Australia in 2009. Of those international cultural and heritage visitors, 44% participated in only one cultural and heritage activity, around one quarter (27%) participated in two activities and 29% participated in three or more activities. The most popular cultural and heritage tourism activities for international visitors were visiting historical or heritage buildings, sites or monuments (62%), followed by visiting museums or art galleries (57%).
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HOW MANY OBJECTS ARE KEPT BY MUSEUMS?
According to Museums, Australia, 2007-08
(cat. no. 8560.0) there were 49.6 million museum objects at the end of June 2008. Museum objects include historic or ethnographic objects (textiles, ceramics, furniture, transportation vehicles), natural science specimens (zoological specimens, botanical specimens, paleontological specimens) and also include cultural photographs, films, tape recordings and digital images. In 2007-08, there were 308,781 acquisitions of museum objects with a value of $29.3 million and a total of 1,897 special exhibitions/displays held.
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HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK IN MUSEUMS?
The Census of Population and Housing collects data about occupation and industry for the persons main job for the week prior to Census Night. This data is presented in summary form in the ABS publication Employment in Culture, Australia, 2006
(cat.no. 6273.0) and shows that there were 6,412 people working in the museum operations industry as their main job.
The ANZSIC06 class museum operations includes people working for museums and art museums. As reported in Employment in Culture, Australia, 2006
(cat.no. 6273.0), of those employed in museum operations, 41% (2,619) were employed in cultural occupations such as gallery or museum guides and curators, arts administrators/managers and conservators. The 2006 Census identified 1,139 people working as gallery or museum guides, 971 as gallery or museum curators and 248 as gallery or museum technicians as their main job.
As reported in Museums, Australia, 2007-08
(cat. no. 8560.0), 5,347 people were employed in museums at the end of June 2008. Labour costs of $254.3m made up 46% of total museum expenses ($552.4m). As well as those employed in the museums, a further 19,685 people volunteered in museums during the month of June 2008.
The Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) Annual Survey Highlights 2005-06
reported that around 4,000 volunteers contributed 433,317 volunteer hours to the 21 CAMD museums.
Each of these data sources indicate that volunteers make up a significant proportion of museums workforce.
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HOW ARE MUSEUMS FUNDED?
The publication Museums, Australia, 2007-08
(cat. no. 8560.0) reported on sources of income for museums and art museums, including funding by the different levels of government. Overall, 67% of museums' (excluding art museums) income was funding provided by all levels of government ($400.2m). The remainder consisted of income from admissions ($56.0m), fundraising ($40.7m) and other sources of income ($105.5m).
Of the $657.8m in government funding for all museums (including art museums, social history museums and historic properties/sites), approximately $43.3m (6.6%) was from local governments.
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HOW CAN I FIND A MUSEUM?
The Collections Australia Network website at www.collectionsaustralia.net
allows users to search for cultural heritage institutions, including museums, based on location or sector (archives, botanic, cultural, gallery, heritage, library, museum, professional/service organisation, zoo/aquaria).
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Australian Bureau of Statistics, Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues and Events, Australia, 2005-06
(cat. no. 4114.0), ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006
(cat. no. 1292.0), ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications, 2008
(cat. no. 4902.0), ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Employment in Culture, Australia, 2006
(cat. no. 6273.0), ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Museums, Australia, 2007-08
(cat. no. 8560.0), ABS, Canberra.
Council of Australasia Museum Directors, 2007, Council of Australasia Museum Directors (CAMD) survey 2005-06 highlights
- viewed 26 June 2007, http://www.apo.org.au/creative-economy
Cultural Ministers' Council, Cultural Funding in Australia, Three Tiers of Government 2007-08
International Council of Museums, 2006, ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, 2006 - viewed 4 Jun
e 2010, http://icom.museum/ethics.html
Museums Australia, 2002, Museums Australia Incorporated Constitution & Rules
- viewed 4 June 2010, http://www.museumsaustralia.org.au
Tourism Research Australia, 2010, Cultural and Heritage Tourism in Australia, 2009 Snapshot
- viewed 4 June 2010, http://www.ret.gov.au/tourism/tra/Pages/default.aspx
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