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First look at the Annual Return survey for 2014-15


  • The Museum Development Annual Data Survey was launched in the South West in 2010.
  • It was established in order to build an evidence base for advocating the social and economic value of the museum sector and to provide a baseline of evidence to engage stakeholders including Local Authorities and funders.
  • The data is also published to enable museums themselves to inform their activity and benchmark their performance against comparators (anonymously).

How was it developed?

  • Survey developed from historical data collection exercises e.g. Fast Forward West Midlands
  • Developed in line with international museum statistics standards from the European Group on Museum Statistics.
  • Questions designed to align with Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations/ Major Partner Museums annual return and DCMS core statistics.
  • Refined through feedback from museums and discussions with National Trust, the Arts Council and Local Authorities.

Where we are now?

  • In 2012/13, the South East trialled and Annual Data Survey on its own (see image above for results), before joining forces with the South West.
  • In 2014/15 the Annual Data Survey was linked to the South West, East Midlands and Wales.
  • In 2015/16 the survey will be launched in the North East and East of England with museums in the Accreditation scheme.
  • Over 850 Accredited museums will be asked to participate in the survey.
  • The survey asks questions on core statistical data about visitors, educational engagement, volunteers, staff and financial operations for the most recent financial year.
  • The next survey in the South East it will cover the period 1 April 2015 – 31 March 2016.

What’s in it for museums?

  • Advocacy – evidence to make the case for your social and economic value in order to sustain investment
  • Performance benchmarking – consistent data to compare your museum’s operational context
  • Informing strategy – knowing your operational context will support your business planning
  • Fundraising – the data can be used as evidence to support funding applications or to express your value with the public

How do I complete the survey?

  • The survey will be launched in April 2016 and will run until the end of August 2016
  • Museums will be able to complete it online or using a paper version of the survey
  • If you have any questions about completing the survey there will be an email and telephone contact to provide advice 

South East Region summary 2013/14:

  • 44% return rate
  • Estimated to be 13.8 million visits
  • 67% use social media to engage with audiences
  • There were 14,856 formal and informal education sessions held at museums which engaged 543,856 participants
  • There were 3,922 learning and outreach activities held outside of museums which engaged 252,162 participants
  • Museums had 5,298 active volunteers who contributed 577,011 hours
  • Museums employed 1,223 paid staff
  • Museums had a combined spending power of more than £40 million

South East Performance Benchmarking:

  • The average public subsidy was £3.70 per visit
  • The average donation per visit was around 45p
  • On average museums had 73 active volunteers
  • On average volunteers contributed 106 hours per year

The full report and benchmarks will be published at the end of March 2016. Benchmarks will be available but size of museum, type, geography and charging model.

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