Paintings by numbers


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Addresses the arguments and experiences of quantitative versus qualitative measures for managing museum collections

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Paintings by numbers

  1. 1. Paintings by numbers Does sustainable collection management require statistics?
  2. 2. Does sustainable collection management require statistics? <ul><li>Trouble with numbers </li></ul><ul><li>Words and quality </li></ul><ul><li>Good numbers – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Risks </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Public value </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1974-
  4. 4. 1974-1982- Rayo Raynor Scrutiny - museums
  5. 5. 1974-1982-1988-
  6. 6. 1974-1982-1988-1989- The Cost of Collecting Lord, Lord & NIcks
  7. 7. 1974-1982-1988-1989- The Cost of Collecting Lord, Lord & NIcks
  8. 8. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-
  9. 9. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-
  10. 10. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-1999-
  11. 11. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-1999-2000-
  12. 12. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-1999-2000-2002-
  13. 13. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-1999-2000-2002-2004-
  14. 14. 1974-1982-1988-1989-1990’s-1998-1999-2000-2002-2004-2005-
  15. 16. Performance indicator: thickness? 2000 - 10cm 2004 - 15cm 2012? 2012 - 25cm?
  16. 17. And from the Netherlands …
  17. 18. Problems with numbers <ul><li>Inconsistent interpretation of statistics </li></ul><ul><li>Changes over time </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguous definitions </li></ul><ul><li>Statistically illiterate - “to achieve a robust monthly sample would require an annual sample size of almost 5,000 visitors” </li></ul><ul><li>Very expensive to collect and interpret </li></ul>
  18. 19. What is measured tends to be what can be measured … <ul><li>Easy to measure activity, but is this meaningful? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Number of objects conserved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Surely better if objects don’t need conservation? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Number of new acquisitions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What does this indicate??? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 20. So are all numbers bad, or are there good numbers?
  20. 21. <ul><li>Numbers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1974, 1989: UKIC - collections care </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1982: Raynor scrutinies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1988: NAO - documentation + accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1989: Cost of Collecting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1996: Surveys - collections condition etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1990s -’00s :Government funding agreements / Performance Indicators </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1998-9: DOMUS museum census </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2000-02 (then died): QUEST unit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2004: (and others) Government Efficiency Review </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2003: Government stores survey </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Etc, etc, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Words </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1988: Museum registration scheme </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1992 - : Standards for curating … </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2004: Accreditation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2008: McMaster: Supporting excellence in the arts </li></ul></ul>
  21. 23. Registration, accreditation <ul><li>Defined standards for - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Governance and museum management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collections management </li></ul></ul>
  22. 24. Accreditation - collections management <ul><li>Acquisition / disposal policy </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation procedures </li></ul><ul><li>Documentation of objects </li></ul><ul><li>Plan for documentation backlog </li></ul><ul><li>Minimise risk and damage to collection </li></ul><ul><li>Security for collection </li></ul>
  23. 25. How to make sense of the number soup and create useful numbers? a) Think systems b) Think risks c) Think public value
  24. 26. a) For good numbers, think system
  25. 27. 3 e’s for managing a system <ul><li>Is it efficient ? - e.g., cost / benefit: how much do objects cost to store per object? (less the better) </li></ul><ul><li>Is it effective ? - e.g. is the storage preserving the collection and making objects accessible? (sufficient per object) </li></ul><ul><li>Is it efficaceous ? - e.g. is the collection meeting the requirements of the system ‘ owner’? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Museum: are the objects okay to use?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Government: is the collection delivering public value?) </li></ul></ul>
  26. 28. <ul><li>Government: Are the collections delivering public value? </li></ul><ul><li>Museum: Are the collections fit for purpose? Cost effectively managed? Risks understood? </li></ul><ul><li>Operational unit: Are we preserving the objects? </li></ul>Systems within systems … one system’s objectives = another system’s measures Objectives Objectives Measures Measures
  27. 29. b) For good numbers, think risks - Rob Waller, Canada
  28. 30. Calculate priority for action by - <ul><li>The largest number of objects </li></ul><ul><li>The most vulnerable collections </li></ul><ul><li>The most valuable objects </li></ul><ul><li>The most severe / urgent risks </li></ul>
  29. 31. c) Think public value Preserved for everyone Visited by many Inspiration to some Piv otal experienc e to a significant f ew
  30. 32. Kinds of public value Instrumental Institutional Intrinsic “ capacity + potential of culture to affect us” public services, trust and mutual respect eg, employment education creative economy ‘ inclusion’
  31. 33. Public values <ul><li>the value collections create for individuals </li></ul><ul><li>the value collections create for society </li></ul><ul><li>the value collections create for the nation </li></ul>
  32. 34. Public value from collections is created by people using them for - <ul><li>Learning and education </li></ul><ul><li>Research </li></ul><ul><li>History and memory </li></ul><ul><li>Beauty and aesthetics </li></ul><ul><li>Enjoyment </li></ul>
  33. 35. Non-user values <ul><li>Yet even people who don’t use [cultural resources] value them - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Option - might want them one day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Existence - like to know they are there </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bequest - want them to be there for their children </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prestige - enhance the importance of their city / country </li></ul></ul>
  34. 36. Not publicly valued - not sustainable <ul><li>Collections have INTRINSIC value - existence, option, inheritance, prestige </li></ul><ul><li>Collections have INSTRUMENTAL value - from services delivered, experiences, etc </li></ul>The more people experience this ... The more they will value this
  35. 37. Does sustainable collection management require statistics? <ul><li>Can’t live with them </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t </li></ul><ul><li>live without </li></ul><ul><li>them </li></ul>
  36. 38. An unsustainable collection … <ul><li>Added to without thinking about the costs and consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Objects not documented </li></ul><ul><li>Objects neglected so that they deteriorate </li></ul><ul><li>Objects can’t be found, so can’t be accounted for </li></ul><ul><li>Storage arrangements are far too elaborate and energy intensive </li></ul><ul><li>The public can’t find out what is in the collections </li></ul><ul><li>The public are prevented from accessing or using the collections </li></ul>
  37. 39. Useful numbers 200 m. objects 80% of collections are used by less than 10 people a week 97% of museums report a steady or increasing demand for access to collections 5 - 10% of objects are on display 2,000 museums Benchmarking via basic census, rarely taken Statistics for specific museum
  38. 40. Compared to nationally, is our collection … <ul><li>Of sufficient public value for it to be preserved? </li></ul><ul><li>If not, then - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decrease the collection or increase the value? (by increasing the use) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If yes, then - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are we preserving it well enough? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is environmentally sustainable and proportionate? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we measure if we are getting it right? </li></ul></ul>