In the Museum's eighth year of operation, national visitation was lower than that of the previous year, although there were fluctuations within categories.
Current tourism trends show that visitation is in decline for all domestic and national tourism. Visitation to the Museum was also influenced by seasonal fluctuations that brought peaks in school holiday months and downturns in between, especially during the winter months. The year's visitation was marked by:
- a decline in visitors to the permanent galleries, which reflects an overall decline in visitation in Canberra
- continued strong visitation to both temporary and travelling exhibitions, usually well above estimates
- continued steady visitation by schools, with numbers close to those of previous years
- a slightly lower level of attendance at public programs due to decreased levels of activity
- a steep decline in functions and venue hire by external users, probably linked to the economic downturn.
Web visitation has grown from 1,521,926 last year to 2,533,138. This growth is due to ongoing development of new content and to the release of a substantially upgraded version of the Museum's collection database.
National visitation numbers, 2001–09
Financial year total visitation
Breakdown of visitation numbers, 2005–09
|Public programs and events||69,061||53,097||33,297||29,649|
Museum visitation by visitor category
Monthly web visitation figures, 2008–09
Audience and visitor research
The Museum actively seeks comments from visitors by conducting exit interviews, commissioning audience research and inviting visitors to provide written feedback through Museum feedback forms. Informal comments are also noted by visitor services hosts and public programs staff. The Museum enters visitor feedback data into a database that enables the analysis of visitor demographics, attitudes and behaviour over time. The Museum has been conducting exit interviews with visitors since it opened in 2001. General exit interviews were conducted with 400 visitors this year, increasing the total number of interviews now held in the Museum's database to 18,600.
In 2008–09 the visitor age groups most strongly represented were 55–59 years, 60–64 years and 70 or over (12 per cent each). Thirty-seven per cent of visitors were from Canberra or its close neighbour, Queanbeyan; 57 per cent were from elsewhere in Australia, in particular Sydney and regional New South Wales; and 6 per cent were from overseas. The proportion of repeat visitors was 63 per cent overall. Forty-three per cent of visitors interviewed during the year had visited the Museum three or more times.
Museum visitors have continued to indicate high satisfaction levels. Of the 400 visitors interviewed during the year, 95 per cent said they were 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with their experience. When invited to comment on what they liked most about the Museum, visitors most commonly mentioned the architecture, the level of interest and information overall, and the variety of exhibitions. The only aspect of the Museum to elicit substantial negative comment was the 'confusing' layout (11 per cent). Seventy-five per cent of visitors agreed that they had learned something new and interesting about Australian history during their visit.
The Museum undertook several small-scale program evaluations during the year. These included studies of visitors attending the Australia Day Family Festival (50 interviews) in addition to the exhibitions Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Darwin (50 interviews each).
The Museum trialled a new visitor counting system using thermal counters, which use infra-red sensors to detect the thermal heat generated by a person passing through its field of view. This system is more accurate than the original beam counters installed when the Museum opened in 2001. The Museum spent 12 months assessing visitation figures from both systems, and plans to move to the more accurate thermal system at the commencement of the 2009–10 financial year.