Audience Engagement

What it means

Museums exist to serve the public. Every role in the institution is called upon to do the work. Audience engagement is critical as both a position and an area (e.g., team, department, and division) within the museum and the specific work needed to foster the relationship between the museum and its audiences.

As defined by the International Audience Engagement Network, “audience engagement champions the emotional and social relationship between audiences and the museum to sustain their future.”

Engagement can be either transactional or experiential.

  • Transactional: People who buy a ticket to an exhibition or program, provide contact information, complete a survey, etc.
  • Experiential: People who follow you on Instagram, share your social media posts (rather than look at them passively), listen to a podcast, attend a free exhibition, etc.

How it’s used

Audience engagement is an independent discipline within museums that touches the work of education, curatorial, marketing, and other teams to serve the audience. Start with getting to know your audiences so that you can develop the amenities and resources that will allow you to deepen your relationship with them.

Why it matters

The defining element of audience engagement is the need to holistically consider the overall audience experience across all the points of contact or interaction a person may have with a museum (e.g., collections, exhibitions, education, programs, interpretation, customer or visitor services, research, membership, development, digital interaction, and communications). When we prioritize audience engagement across the entire organization, we position the museum as a “third place” to better serve our communities with quality amenities and resources, enabling constructive interactions and dialogue, enhancing well-being, and fostering a greater understanding of the world we live in.

It should be noted that it’s a two-way street: the museum is not just a service provider but also a member and resource in the community.


See also Brand Equity


I was very inspired in 2012 when AAM took up the theme of engagement at the national conference. Much has happened since then, but the core imperative remains.

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