Family Learning Forum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

Benefits of Serving a Family Audience

by USS Constitution Museum Team

  • Expand your audience: reach out to children in family groups
  • Serve your community and build repeat visitation
  • Build the next generation of museum visitors
  • Increase visitor satisfaction through enhanced engagement
  • Gain museum support from satisfied visitors

Expand your audience: reach out to school children in family groups

Market research shows that when a family’s oldest child enters elementary school and begins learning about history, history museums can reach out to this new audience. History-focused holidays such as President’s Day, Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day create opportunities for making connections between school, home and the museum with changing museum programs that encourage cross-generational family participation—an expansion beyond history museums’ typically older audience base.

Families are looking for fun things to do on the weekends. Through hands-on exhibits or innovative programs, museums can engage families in activities that encourage conversation, allowing them to laugh and learn together. Activities can vary with the calendar, highlighting holidays or seasonal variations. Mother’s and Father’s Days are opportunities to create intergenerational activities, and include the grandparents too. History museums inspire visitors to share memories, while creating new ones, allowing all generations to participate.

Build the next generation of museum visitors

Adults who are most likely to bring their families to a museum are those who visited museums with their parents as a child (download a PDF of Lynn Dierking’s presentation “Families and Free-choice Learning” for more). While museums dedicate many resources to serving school groups, the child who visits with his/her own family is more likely to bring a family to a museum as a grown adult. Engaging a family audience today will increase present visitation and build a pattern of family museum visitation into the future.

family visitors

Increase visitor satisfaction through enhanced engagement

Exhibits that engage visitors of different ages and learning styles create greater opportunities for learning within a museum. Engaged visitors spend longer discussing the activity or exhibit, and the odds of their learning together increases along with their satisfaction.

How to enhance engagement?

  • For a pre-literate audience: Simple hands-on elements or historic chores (stirring the soup, fetching water in a bucket, sweeping the floor or churning the butter), engage younger visitors in free play while older visitors learn about past times in greater depth.
  • For inter-generational engagement: By presenting information for the young and old parents can participate in and enrich the child’s free play by sharing information that he or she is learning. As children grow older, historic games or board games can challenge young and old visitors to work together. Shared activities become collective memories and opportunities for further discussion or reflection.
  • For generating engagement among visitors: When visitors are talking with each other, asking and answering questions, or working together to solve a problem, the level of engagement increases.

Satisfied visitors support museums

When visitors are engaged in a compelling experience, they are more likely to stay longer, make a donation, become a member or plan a return visit.