Diversity in museums and heritage

Fiona Talbot, HLF's Head of Museums, Libraries and Archives
Fiona Talbott, HLF's Head of Museums, Libraries and Archives, explores the diversity in museum audiences and how to boost participation in heritage.

Recently, I was involved with conversations about how National Lottery players view heritage.

Audience demographics have been the subject of much research to determine why people do or do not visit museums, looking at barriers to participation, preconceptions about museums or issues around the museum offer.

With museums being part of our wider heritage, it was fascinating to hear that National Lottery players considered heritage important to reflect the story of a local area, its communities and sense of place. They also understood how heritage can be used to bring generations together or support positive mental health.

We often struggle with the concept of intrinsic or instrumental value: the value something has in itself, or the value something has because it helps up to get or achieve something else. Yet when I spoke to National lottery players they did not see this as a conflict. They recognised that heritage has both intrinsic and instrumental values which are important in changing the lives of those involved with it.

What we want to achieve through National Lottery funding is not just to get more people involved with heritage, but actively participating as well. Volunteering is one way to do that and it is also a way of bringing in people who may not have been involved in heritage previously. Museums - particularly smaller, independent ones - rely heavily on the contributions of volunteers, so it's a great opportunity to get hands on with heritage.

Many of the stories in our Changing Lives series have explored just this. It’s inspiring to see how HLF support has enabled people from all sorts of backgrounds to try new things, gain new skills and qualifications, develop new careers, and in some cases, tackle health-related issues.

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