MMFA: Diversifying its publics

Here we are with the third and final article on the success and best practices from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. We focus this time on publics development  driven by the museum for several years, with Jean-Luc Murray at the head of the department of cultural action and education.

Because of a diverse public, the MMFA has quite a broad spectrum of actions to use.  These range from guided tours to special projects (with communities and external agencies – such as MuseomixMTL – or with educational exhibits), films, lectures and seminars. A visitor in 5 (approximately 200,000 persons if we look at the latest figures of the museum’s attendance) uses the resources and opportunities offered by the museum.

Two large publics are subject to development actions from the museum:

  • schools
  • families (which grew by almost 300% recently, eventually after the creation the creation and education studios Michel de la Chenelière)

What actions for what success?

However, according to Jean-Luc Murray, the museum had to talk to every public in order to reach this one million visitors attendance. “We had to find a new way to gather the various clients. The museum became a meeting place for people who do not usually meet,” says Murray.

Thus, was born Musée en partage 15 years ago. This idea was visionary at the time. The museum wanted to speak to non-visitors and thus included those excluded, in poverty or with physical or mental problems (Alzheimer, anorexia, etc.).
The museum turned to his community, which helped its growth.

“This adventure will improve with” Art therapy ” in the new building,” added Jean-Luc Murray, through seminars, family and dance activities in 1500m² rooms and spaces.

This vision steers along a straight line with Musée en partage program in which the museum was not in a top-down posture but worked directly with organizations and partner communities (about 400 now in Montréal). “It was important to meet and get to know them first to define the project with them and avoid a possible exploitation” emphasizes Mr Murray. For example, regarding the activities for the public suffering from Alzheimer’s, the museum had co-developed activities so the audience could feel comfortable. Thus, a series of familiar themes (street, memory, love) was created  to bring together artworks and discussions with the help of educators.

What relationships has the museum with its audience?

A quarter of the MMFA visitors consists of tourists (especially in summer). The MMFA has therefore every interest to turn to the local audience, which represents 75% of its attendance. Among the public, are included 80,000 VIP members.

This local involvement is linked to the museum history. The MMFA was created by Montrealers. The various pavilions (the museum is made up of separate buildings acquired or constructed as its expands) have names of Montrealers. 90% of the public educational activities comes from Montreal and Quebec.

The Department of Cultural Action and Education also serves as a resources service to other departments of the museum, especially to that of members but also to the Foundation. The latter two indeed do offer no content and therefore regularly contact Mr .Murra’s department. Thus VIP members enjoy reserved museum activities, such as guided tours which actually work very well. The Department of Education and Cultural Action organizes previews, tours, VIP days (giving specific access to museum enthusiasts).

In order to better organize the best services and activities to this type of public (members, partners and sponsors), Jean-Luc Murray has launched surveys to understand what was most valued by members: better access to educational and cultural content.

In addition to guided tours and previews, the museum also launched intensive courses capsules with McGill, Concordia and UQAM.

All these actions are responsible for dusting the museum and participating in its innovative approaches. I bet that is it!

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