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UAL Research Online

How Social Value Became an Audience Numbers Game

Bonham-Carter, Charlotte (2016) How Social Value Became an Audience Numbers Game. In: College Art Association (CAA), Annual Conference, 3-6 February 2016, Washington DC.

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Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Bonham-Carter, Charlotte

This paper explores the extent to which the political and administrative climate cultivated by the New Public Management (NPM) encouraged the use of audience numbers as a key success criterion for art museums. The paper considers the now standard museum practice of collecting data on ‘audience numbers’ within a political and administrative context. It traces changes to the British welfare state and the ‘instrumental turn’ in cultural policy, alongside the adoption of NPM techniques that occurred in Britain in the eighties and nineties. Under New Labour, the museum was articulated as an agent of social change and tasked with demonstrating social impact. However, the administration mostly failed to offer a clear explanation of the concept of social inclusion, and its relevance to art museums. The central argument of this paper is that the ambiguity of the New Labour social inclusion agenda, coupled with the administration’s demand for hard evidence, meant that audience numbers – one of the only data sets that could be gathered relatively quickly and cheaply – became a prominent proxy indicator of social inclusion. The paper concludes that the political and administrative climate fostered by NPM is a useful framework for understanding how the collection of audience numbers became a key data set for museums and galleries. However, further research is needed to determine the extent to which the collection of this data set was symbolic, and the extent to which it actually altered museum practices.

Official Website: http://conference.collegeart.org
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: New Public Management, Instrumental Cultural Policy, Museums and Galleries, Performance Management, Social Inclusion, Audience Numbers
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 3 February 2016
Event Location: Washington DC
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2016 21:32
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2016 21:32
Item ID: 9733
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/9733

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