‘Audience Development’ Peer Development Group

Museum Name

Dimbola Museum and Galleries, Brading Roman Villa, Warrior 1860, The Diving Museum, Jane Austen’s House Museum.

Museum Contact

Rachel Flynn, Dimbola Museum and Galleries

The Project

‘Audience Development’ Peer Development Group


May 2014 – January 2015.

What were the Project aims?

To create a structured, supportive community of people from Hampshire Solent museums with a common interest in Audience Development so that they can work together to learn more about it.

What was the impact of the Project?

The group learned about Audience Development through a series of study visits to members’ museums and a training session ‘How to create an effective Audience Development Plan’.

The group’s first visit was to HMS Warrior. Members explored the museum ship and used a learning circles technique to help the host to think through current Audience Development challenges and come up with an action plan.

The second visit was to The Diving Museum and focused on developing family audiences. The group was joined for the day by a representative from Kids in Museums and also by one of the host museum’s Trustees. Group members learned about support available from Kids in Museums to engage more effectively with families and about Museum Takeover Day. Group members also gave feedback on the museum and helped the host to identify improvements.

After the two study visits, group members decided to focus their efforts on getting targeted support to develop robust Audience Development Plans. The group commissioned expert consultant Nicky Boyd to deliver a training workshop ‘How to create an effective Audience Development Plan’ using funding from the South East Museum Development. The event was hosted by Jane Austen’s House Museum and designed around the needs of group members with additional spaces offered to other Hampshire Solent museums. The event was significantly oversubscribed and very well received, with group members feeling that the training gave them confidence and a much more positive approach to developing and implementing and effective Audience Development Plan.

Additionally, partnership activity has taken place between member museums because of the project. For example, The Diving Museum and HMS Warrior collaborated to make a video about pirates – filmed aboard HMS Warrior and featuring The Diving Museum’s volunteers in costume. The presence of the ‘pirates’ on board created additional interest for family visitors to the ship on the day.

What went well and what didn’t go well?

The visits and training session were very helpful to group members in developing their thinking and practice around Audience Development. Useful ideas and examples were exchanged that help avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ – for example Dimbola Museum and Galleries is now planning ‘Stargazing’ events based on a model tested at HMS Warrior.

Through their discussions, group members identified a common need in be much more effective in their family provision, this gave group members a useful focus enabling real improvements to be identified and implemented.

The number and frequency of meetings originally suggested by the Peer Development Groups project guidance was not realistic for the group. Due to work commitments and the very dispersed locations of member museums – from Chawton in the north east of Hampshire to Freshwater in the south west of the Isle of Wight – it was only possible to arrange a smaller number of meetings.

Some of the museums would have welcomed peer networking with museums more close in size, location and topic to their own. However due to the limitations of the sector in the sub-region, it was not possible to identify sufficient ‘like’ museums wanting to focus their PDG activity on this specific topic.

Top Tips

  • Be realistic about what you can achieve in terms of Audience Development and keep it simple
  • Identify key target audiences – don’t try to spread your net too wide
  • Quick wins can be highly motivating for staff and volunteers
  • Don’t get too hung up on ethnicity as the only Audience Development challenge – there are many aspects of audience diversity where improvements can be achieved
  • Identify who in your museum needs to be involved in Audience Development, it cuts across several areas of the museum and so can fall between the stools. Engage different people in your museum (e.g. marketing, curatorial, visitor services) to work on this together.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, there are loads of great resources and examples out there.

What are your plans for the future?

Each of the member museums is now working to agree and implement its Audience Development Plan.

The resources collated by the group will be shared with the wider museums community via southeastmuseums.org

Overall cost of the Project

£1,100. Funded by the Peer Development Groups investment budget and a Hampshire Solent Museum Development training bursary.


Resources collated by the group have been uploaded to the Resources area of this website, tagged ‘Audience Development.’

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