Three Ways to Gamify Attendance to a Small Museum

Museums and centres which are located off the beaten track or in sparsely populated areas receive two kinds of visitors. One is locals and the other tourists from further afield. The locals are a target group that should not be neglected and gamification methods can be used to increase their participation and interest. Schools in surrounding areas are also a part of this target group. 

1. The Club

A certain kind of gamification entails creating a club of regulars with a fun title and simple rules. An annual fee entitles members to: 

  • Access to the museum during opening hours for the whole year. 
  • An annual pass or something else to identify them.
  • Regular news bulletins through email or social media.
  • Access to special museum material, such as eBooks or photo collections.
  • Discounted products and events.

It is quite common to offer different types of annual fees which can “promote” the visitor and offer them more access or some kind of “reward” like pens, notebooks or clothes with the museum logo. Invitations to restricted parties or premieres are also a common reward. The only dubious thing about this kind of “class-division” for a museum in a small community is that it can create discord among people if they are discriminated against. A better option may be to use gamification to encourage people to participate or to submit more in the form of work or funds. You can create a reward system where members can get to a higher level, for example by volunteering. The names of the levels should be fun, for example referencing the animal kingdom rather than the aristocracy. 

Technology can help bring this about, today there are many programs which can be used to register the members and various apps to spice up the gamification. 

2. Historical Events

All societies have historical events which can be fun when recreated. It can be to commemorate an event which happened 50 or 100 years ago. This needs a good deal of advance planning, first you should make a list of events from the past that are connected to the museum and something that is preserved there or local history and need a sizeable group for staging. Then you review the list and realise the scale, the cost and possible ways of staging. Based on this, you then pick one or more events to work with. One way of doing this can be to activate local schools and get a group together which will bring more people; parents and grandparents. The list can look something like this: 

  • Create a script for the event where it is stated who does what. Don’t write a full play, just a framework for improvisation around the historical knowledge you have. 
  • If the event revolves around the discourse of a certain person or people, you must decide who plays these roles. 
  • Decide when and where the staging shall take place. 
  • Prepare for the event with media coverage, on social media and even with flyers in the area, where the main rules of participation are listed. 
  • Encourage those who want to participate to wear era-appropriate clothing. Be careful to note that this is not compulsory. 
  • Ensure a large enough turnout for the event to be a success. 
  • Be well organised, with responsible leaders who advise visitors about the rules, about their location and how they shall behave. 
  • Keep the chain of events relatively relaxed although this is a historical staging. This is supposed to be fun, even if the event in question is a serious matter. 
  • Remember to document the event with photos and videos without the camera men getting in the way of the participants. 
  • Give those who participated some sort of reward at the end, for example free food and photos of themselves.

The purpose of this kind of staging is to make the local population more aware of their history and at the same time connect with their neighbours. This is important for all small museums and centres. 

  • Pick a simple event to start with and not too serious. 
  • Don’t give up if few turn up, that will change if this is a success. 
  • Repeat annually, with the same event or a new one every year. 
  • Activate volunteers from your group of regulars to help with preparations. 

3. Game Nights

Recent years have seen a redefinition of the role of museums and they now play a bigger role in societies than before. They are no meant for socialising as well as hosting exhibitions. One of the reasons for this transformation is a decrease in the number of visitors. To counter that, museums around the world have started inviting people in for more than just viewing their collections and even outside traditional opening hours. Why not invite neighbours to a game night? Even museums like the American Museum of Natural History have started doing that. 

The objective is to get people to visit the museum for a different purpose than normally, and have a cosy evening. Before this can happen, it is important to address the security of the museum collection. This sort of gathering should not be held in exhibition halls but rather in the cafeteria or meeting rooms. 

  • Visitors can bring their own games or the museum decides what to play. 
  • You can use games which are seldom seen today, whether they are board games or games played with normal playing cards. 
  • It is possible to have groups or individuals compete and offer a simple prize. 

To increase attendance, it is always a good idea to offer refreshments.

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