Attendance Has Always Been a Narrow Way to Define Success. That’s Why This Museum Is Using Data Science to Measure Its Social Impact

For most museums, success is scored in numbers—revenue, attendance, Instagram “likes.” But the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), which caters to a broad swath of communities in the Bay Area, sought to define something more elusive, yet equally important: its own social impact. 

Working with a group of social scientists, the museum devised an innovative plan to take stock of both its ability to connect with visitors and to foster connections between visitors themselves. The idea came after previous data collection efforts revealed a more thorough snapshot of the institution’s audience, which is one of the most diverse in the country. More than half of the museum’s visitors are people of color and nearly two-thirds are under 45 years old. Twenty-five percent come from a household that makes under $50,000 a year, while 41 percent come from one that tops $100,000.

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