8560.0 - Museums, Australia, 2007-08 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2009   
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The statistics presented in this publication were compiled from data collected from a sample of Australian organisations mainly engaged in museum and art gallery operations, in respect of the 2007-08 financial year. The survey was conducted as part of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) business survey program for the 2007–08 reference year. The data were collected under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The main purpose of this survey was to measure the size, structure and activity of museum and art gallery organisations in Australia during the 2007–08 financial year. Statistics of particular interest include: total number and acquisitions of museum objects and artworks; unique online visits and web pages viewed; special exhibitions held; sources of income; items of expenditure; employed persons and volunteers and state/territory data. Government policy in this area has two aims: economic, and social/cultural. The economic data in this survey enable governments and policy analysts to evaluate the impact of government policy as museums and art galleries are heavily subsidised by Commonwealth and State governments via direct grants.


Survey questionnaires were mailed to a sample of museum and art gallery organisations in mid August 2008. The ABS aims to publish estimates from its business survey program within 12 months of the end of the reference period.


The ABS aims to produce high quality data from its economic surveys while minimising the reporting burden on businesses and organisations. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into collection and questionnaire design, collection procedures and processing.

Every effort was made to minimise reporting error by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training of collection analysts and efficient data processing procedures. Additionally, to ensure the accuracy of the estimates produced, the data have been checked against previous survey results and other sources, including contact with providers.

Estimates were produced using number raised estimation methodology with a sample of 472 museum and art gallery organisations.

Two types of error can occur in estimates that are based on a sample survey: non-sampling error and sampling error.

Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Non-sampling error also occurs when information cannot be obtained from all businesses selected in the survey. For the 2007-08 Museums Survey, there was an 93% response rate from all businesses that were surveyed and found to be operating during the reference period. Data were imputed for the remaining 7% of operating businesses. Imputed responses contributed 1% to the estimate of total income.

Sampling error occurs when a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed. It reflects the difference between estimates based on a sample and those that would have been obtained had a census been conducted. One measure of this difference is the standard error. There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one standard error from the figure that would have been obtained if all businesses had been included in the survey, and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two standard errors.

Another measure of sampling error is the relative standard error, which is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. The relative standard error is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the sampling error in percentage terms, and this avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. Relative standard errors of key estimates are available in the
Explanatory Notes of Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0).

The collection of the number of museum objects is subject to non-sampling error, arising from the way in which a given museum defines an object in their collection management system. Changes to a museum's collection management system can result in significant changes to the reported number of objects held, despite there being no actual physical change to the collection. For this reason, users are advised to exercise caution when using this estimate.

The collection of the number of free admissions is subject to non-sampling error, arising from the methods used by individual museums or galleries in measuring this concept. Many organisations do not keep accurate records of the number of free admissions to their museum or gallery, instead estimating this figure when reporting to the ABS. For this reason, users are advised to exercise caution when using this estimate.


The ABS has been conducting surveys of museum and art gallery organisations since 1996–97. While the ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the surveys, sound survey practice requires ongoing development to maintain the integrity of the data, their relevance to the changing needs of users and the efficiency of the survey. Additionally, given the irregular frequency of these surveys, they are not designed to monitor change over time.

Changes made to these surveys over time include changes in scope, concepts, data item definitions and classifications. For a full list of changes made between the 2003-04 and to 2007-08 collections, refer to the
Explanatory Notes, and the Technical Note on historical comparisons of Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0).


The estimates from the Museums Survey are only available as original series and are not seasonally or trend adjusted. Although financial estimates in this publication relate to the full twelve months, employment estimates relate to the last pay period ending in June 2008. As such, estimates of values per person employed can be affected by any fluctuations in employment during the reference period, although museums and art gallery organisations generally have stable employment levels and rely heavily on volunteers.

Further information on terminology and other technical aspects associated with statistics from the Museums Survey can be found in the publication Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0), which contains detailed
Explanatory Notes and Glossary.


Data from the Museums Survey are available in a variety of formats. The formats available free of charge on the ABS website are:

  • main features which include key findings commentary
  • seven spreadsheets which contain all available data.

    Inquiries about this data can be made by contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Sarah Halbisch on (03) 9615 7533.