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Regular version of the site

Seventy Percent of Russians Not Interested in Museums

Access to cultural heritage, including museums, is guaranteed under numerous international and domestic Russian documents, but certain disadvantaged groups are unable to exercise this right in practice, according to the report «Access to Russian Museums: Internal and External Factors» by Tatyana Abankina, Director of the HSE’s Centre for Applied Economic Research

The number of museums and their visitors has been growing in Russia over the past decade, but access to museums remains an issue. A team of HSE researchers* examined some of the factors that influence museum attendance.

They identified certain disadvantaged groups facing barriers to access, including persons with disabilities, elderly people, students, and tourists. Perhaps the most affected group is persons with disabilities, since only 10% of Russian museums are equipped with handicapped access.

«Many Russian museums are located in historic buildings without elevators or ramps, and Russian law prohibits any reconstruction of such buildings,» Abankina said.

Unlike European museums, their Russian counterparts do not offer programmes for seniors, for example, programmes that allow older people to become museum volunteers. Similarly, few programmes are available for schools and youth groups. Finally, museums in Russia lack strategies to respond to seasonality in tourist flows.

Do Not Touch!

A major weakness of Russian museums, according to the researchers, is poor knowledge of their audience and its needs. A greater focus on communication could help attract more visitors. In fact, a number of approaches, according to Abankina – such as the Night at the Museum and Museum Visits for the Whole Family – have proven effective in bringing more people to museums. The popularity of these events suggests that a big potential audience remains that museums have not yet learned how to serve on a day-to-day basis.

The study revealed that 16% of Russians visit museums, 70% do not know about museums and are not interested, and another 14% know about museums, but never visit them. The researchers suggest that factors contributing to the limited popularity of Russian museums include high ticket prices, lack of family programmes, and overly restrictive rules, among others. Abankina argues that both the museum layout and expected visitor behaviour are too archaic in Russian museums.

Table 1: Russian Museum Statistics: 2000-2011

Population, mln 146.6144.8144143.1144.2143.5142.8142.2142141.9142.9143
Total no. of museums204721132189222922692285236824682495253925782631
Increase over previous year   66764040168310027443953
Total no. of visits, thousand73,274,310.775,059.173,844.474,337.175,603.179,198.278,807.780,777.278,941.881,019.385,857.8
   individual  43,347.343,974.540,378.241,047.344,424.546,420.746,145.247,776.847,85549,027.352,706
   group tours  30,963.431,084.633,466.233,289.831,178.632,777.532,662.533,000.431,086.831,99233,151.8
No. of visits per 1,000 people499513521516516527555554569556567601
No. of lectures, thousand   122.7128.3121.8133.6131.1149150.4137.7139.5154.2138.7
No. of exhibitions, thousand 28.янв31.июл303335.638.640.241.644.847.650.5

It's All about Resources

The authors conducted a factor analysis to determine which factors are important for museum attendance. They used data on Russian museums alongside economic development indicators in corresponding regions (80 regions, 2010 to 2012). They selected 35 factors and synthesized them into five broad categories:

  • resources available to a particular museum (museum collections, human resources, informational resources, etc.)
  • structure of the regional population (mainly the proportion of the urban population and persons aged 18 and older)
  • the region's economic development (total investment and investment in fixed assets, accumulated financial resources, per capita GDP, etc.)
  • the region's human capital (in particular, the proportion of people with college and university education)
  • the museums' scale of operation (number of exhibitions, tours, lectures, etc.)

Not surprisingly, resources available to a particular museum – including human, cultural, informational, and financial resources – were found to be the most important factor, explaining 75-80% of the variance. According to Pavel Derkachev, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Economic Research, «Museums of greater cultural significance and visibility are in a better position to attract and accumulate resources, which, in turn, contributes to their popularity.»

The second most important component, responsible for 7-8% of the variance, is the structure of the region's population; regions with a higher proportion of adults living in cities enjoy higher museum attendance.

The third relatively important factor, accounting for just 0.8% of the variance, is the museum’s scale of operation. Since 2012, active and innovation-driven museums have been making some moderate but consistent progress in attracting visitors.

* Tatyana Abankina, Director, Centre for Applied Economic Research
Pavel Derkachev, Leading Research Fellow, Centre for Applied Economic Research
Lyudmila Filatova, Leading Research Fellow, Centre for Applied Economic Research

Author: Гринкевич Владислав Владимирович, August 14, 2014