Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the public use of museums, The Value of Museums: Enhancing Societal Well-Being provides a timely and compelling way for museum professionals to better understand and explain the benefits created by museum experiences. The key insight this book advances is that museum experiences successfully support a major driver of human behavior – the desire for enhanced well-being. Knowingly or not, the business of museums has always been to support and enhance the public’s personal, intellectual, social and physical well-being. Over the years, museums have excelled at this task, as evidenced by the almost indelible memories museum experiences engender. People report that museum experiences make them feel better about themselves, more informed, happier, healthier and more enriched; all outcomes directly related to enhanced well-being. Historically, benefits such as enhanced well-being were seen as vague and intangible, but Falk shows that enhanced well-being, when properly conceptualized, can not only be defined and measured, but also can be monetized.
However, as many in the museum world are painfully aware, what worked yesterday for museums may not work in the future as recessions and pandemics rapidly alter the landscape. Although insights about past experiences are interesting, what is needed now is a roadmap for the future. Fortunately for museums, the public’s need for enhanced well-being will not be disappearing any time soon; enhanced well-being is now, and will always be, a fundamental and on-going human need. What has and will change, though, is how people choose to satisfy their well-being-related needs. The Value of Museums provides tangible suggestions for how museum professionals can build on their legacy of success at supporting the public’s well-being, adapting to changing times, and remaining relevant and sustainable in the future.
John H. Falk is executive director of the Institute for Learning Innovation and Sea Grant Professor Emeritus of Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University. He is known internationally for his work in the area of free-choice learning; the learning that occurs while visiting museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, parks, watching educational television or surfing the internet for information. His recent research has focused on studying the long-term impacts of free-choice learning institutions; understanding why people utilize free-choice learning settings during their leisure time and helping cultural institutions of all kinds re-think their future positioning and business models in the 21st century. Dr. Falk has authored over two hundred scholarly articles and chapters and has published more than a dozen books in this and related areas.
Part I. Value Revealed
Chapter 1. We Have a Problem
Chapter 2. Why People Value Museum Experiences
Chapter 3. Well-Being
Part II. Value Achieved
Chapter 4. Personal Well-Being
Chapter 5. Intellectual Well-Being
Chapter 6. Social Well-Being
Chapter 7. Physical Well-Being
Part III. Value Applied
Chapter 8. Measuring Value
Chapter 9. Creating Future Value
Appendix Principles for Designing Better Museum Experiences
About the Author
The Value of Museums is a game changer for cultural institutions looking to measure the importance of their work. The ability to quantify the value of well-being generated by museums could be transformative for the entire sector. John Falk’s latest work is a gift to museums and underscores their importance to the communities they serve.
In The Value of Museums John Falk explores lucidly and profoundly our motivations to visit museums. His model of enhanced well-being is rooted in human evolution and backed up by evidence from contemporary visitor interviews. A delightful read, the book offers not only a holistic interpretation of museums’ ultimate impact, but also a much-needed practical tool to measure and demonstrate it. It is truly invaluable – or should I say: genuinely valuable – for the entire field and decision-makers.
The more I read the book, the more it makes sense to me, why museums are so inspiring and can capture the heart and soul of millions of people every year.
John Falk builds upon his decades-long exploration of visitor motivations, delving deeply into defining the multiple dimensions of ‘well being’ as the foundation for museums to create value and to make a compelling case for support. The Value of Museums provides actionable approaches for museums to foster well-being for their visitors at a time when people and communities need safety, inspiration, creativity, and connection more than ever -- and when museums must demonstrate their value in new ways in order to ensure sustainability.
1/10/22, American Alliance of Museums Blog: Falk wrote a blog post with ideas from the book.