Monday, February 7, 2011

Goods give way to experiences

Museums around the world seem to becoming more fashionable and popular. Large new museums are opening in major cities that haven't had a strong museum culture previously and big-brand museums are sprouting offshoots here and there.

I have a theory that developed countries are becoming satiated with stuff. There is an emerging trend towards reducing stuff by buying less, re-using, recycling and making do with what you've got. A recent New York Times article,  In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less, describes this trend. They report recent time-use surveys that show that between 2005 and 2008 Americans spent less time buying goods and services and more time cooking or taking part in “organizational, civic and religious activities.”

They also note the  increase in museum audiences since 2008 as part of this trend. It seems that many people are turning away from buying material goods and seeking experiences instead. In 2009, US movie audiences were up by 5% and Disney theme parks enjoyed a 3% increase in visitors the the last quarter.

This is good news for museums. Especially museums that continue to offer strong experiences of authenticity to visitors.

ANMM - below deck on a hot summers day

There are a multitude of initiatives like The Story of Stuff that support moves away from lifestyles centred on consuming goods.  Perhaps a tide has turned in developed countries as 'having' gives way to  'being' and 'doing'. This may be one of the factors behind the new popularity of museums across the developed world.

As custodians of 'the real thing', museums can lend their weight to this trend and further encourage people to engage in activities more meaningful than shopping.

Posted by Gillian Savage

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