South West Museum Development (SWMD) are a team of industry professionals hosted by Bristol City Council and funded by Arts Council England and over 20 Local Authorities across the South West of England.
Each year, they use their expertise in audience and museum operational data to run an Annual Museum Survey across England, involving over 1,000 museums from nine museum development regions.
The survey digs into core data on workforce, finance, audiences and insights related to the size, locality and governance of the museum regionally and nationally. It’s a massive undertaking that helps to understand the social and economic value of museums in England.
The results also help museums benchmark their work, advocate for their purpose and find areas for improvement. It’s important work that goes a long way towards keeping museums open for us all to enjoy.
Never one to rest on their laurels, the team at SWMD wanted to get even more from the annual survey and the insights it generates. We were more than happy to help.
● Quantitative research and analysis
● Qualitative research and analysis
● Survey design
South West Museum Development are brilliant at what they do. They have sector knowledge and a strong survey process. The Annual Museum Survey is well established, with good response rates and high engagement every year.
So why call upon a couple of northern researchers?
Because it helps to add specialist skills and a fresh perspective.
Based on previous work Adam had done during an Arts Council England review of the Annual Museum Survey, SWMD recognised that PS Research could bring analysis expertise and access to industry software to add value to value.
They also understood that as a company of two, we could become an extension of the team. And they made us feel exactly that, involving us in weekly meetings and staying in regular contact. To our end, we made sure we were always available whenever needed, over Zoom or Teams and at the other end of the phone.
When you’re embedded in the project, you become invested in the outcome. We’re proud to have played a part in making the last few Annual Museum Surveys the best they can be.
It’s all in the details
For a survey to produce reliable results and make a difference, you need a solid sample to work with.
We work closely with the team’s programme manager and research assistant on the methodology (the what, why and how) and sampling (the who) to make sure the small details are right to achieve this.
This helps give an accurate picture of the museum and heritage sector’s visitor numbers, workforce, volunteers and more, including area-based information such as levels of deprivation.
In the most recent completed survey in 2021, these details extended to deciding the best approach for understanding the impact of the pandemic — how it affected staff, finances, opening hours, visitor numbers, digital experience and more.