In Italy during the 2017 it has been observed a great increase in the performance of public museums.
In 2017, for the first time, the number of visitors of State-owned museums reach were more than 50 millions, +11,6% in comparison to 2016 and +53,2% in comparison to 2013.
Also the economic performance of state-owned museums increases: +20,2 millions of sales, +11,6% in comparison to 2016 and +53% in comparison to 2013.
The Ligura region had the greatest increase in the number of visitors (+25%). However a regional comparison is more complicated because it involves the number of museum, the size of museums and so on.
The performance of state-owned museums was good also during the 2016 but the results of 2017 are really unexpected, also because in the other rest of the world the tendency is static. What is the reason of this success?
- New directors in museums.
The Italian minister of the culture nominated in 2015 the new directors of the State-owned museums. These were chosen for the first time using an international perspective, choosing those that distinguish themselves managing museums all over the world. Unfortunately the reaction of the old directors and of the cultural world in Italy has not been favorable.
Many Italian Intellectuals claimed that this choice was only a fake reform, and that it is not possible to make museums more efficient only changing the directors. Furthermore this choice was negative for the good Italian wanna-be directors that sought their stranger colleagues taking over their desired place. Lastly it was said (not without some chauvinism) that we are giving the management of our museum to the stranger, while only Italians are able to really manage our heritage.
The supporters of the minister, instead, said that an international perspective was necessary to modernize the public system of museums. Not all the new directors were foreign and therefore there is not the aim to choose only strangers: there is a meritocratic choice among the best curators and museum managers in the world.
The work of the new directors was very obstructed by the workers and unions of museums, frequently with pretexts and with comical implications. For example in 2016 Unions of the “reggia di Caserta” complained that the director was working too much, making in danger the museum (see here).
The great changing of the state-owned museums is in great part the result of these foreign directors.
However, the situation is less good as it seems: at the beginning of the 2017 other ten directors were nominated for other (minor) museums. None of them is stranger, many of them were already working in the ministry and some of them have a low-level resumé but a good political pedigree. It seems that the innovative momentum is already finished and the political game has taken over.
2. Free-entry Summers
The second great reason for this success are summer free-entry summers. The ministry choose that the first move to make people go to museums is to decrease barriers to entry and to increase buzz and interest on museums. They create the project “Domenica la museo” (with its good hashtag #domenicaalmuseo): every first summer of the month everyone can see the state-owned museums without charge.
The project was so successful, both for the media coverage and for the low barriers, that many people started to go to museums more frequently, both during free-charge days, and in normal-charge days.
The impressive results of State-owned museums are not welcomed by everyone. 80 Italian intellectuals have underlined that the increase of public and the economic performance has been done without increasing the investments in the conservation of cultural heritage and a great hemphasis on events decrease the interest for small-size museums.
I think that these results teach that the old establishment of the Art Connoisseurs will always obstacle the initiatives of reform, and that some prejudice for management is at the basis of the reform.
These number are the result of a new way of doing management, that depends only from the initiatives of the directors and not from a change in the rules of the system. This is an answer to those critics that argue that only a change in the regulamentation and in funding will change the Italian museum system.
The results of new directors are not the application of management to museums. Many of the new directors come from the public sector, they are former curators or managers of museums. Therefore it is not simply the capitalistic and managerial thinking at the basis of museum success: it is the experience in the sector, the knowledge of international museums and the most modern practices that is the real force.
Lastly this experience teach us that public initiatives can really make the difference and that the ticket price is a often underestimated problem.
All data come from The Italian ministry of culture
Visitors and sales per year
|Friuli Venezia Giulia||1.199.379||1.384.097||+15,4|
Most visited museums
|Variation %||Variation in position|
|4.||Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze||1.461.185||1.623.690||+11,10%||=|
|6.||La Venaria Reale||994.899||1.039.657||+4,50%||=|
|7.||Giardino di Boboli||881.463||1.000.482||+13,50%||=|
|8.||Museo Egizio di Torino||852.095||845.237||-0,80%||=|
|9.||Reggia di Caserta||683.070||838.654||+22,80%||=|
|12.||Museo Archeologico di Napoli||452.431||525.687||+16,20%||-1|
|17.||Pinacoteca di Brera||343.173||364.541||+6,20%||+7|
|18.||Musei Reali di Torino||314.195||360.777||+14,80%||+4|
|19.||Museo Archeologico di Venezia||344.904||343.582||-0,40%||-1|
|21.||Museo Nazionale Romano||339.755||333.555||-1,80%||-2|
|22.||Palazzo Ducale di Mantova||363.173||322.729||-11,10%||-5|
|23.||Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia||311.645||316.995||+1,70%||=|
|25.||Castello di Miramare||257.237||293.911||+14,30%||+3|
|26.||Grotta Azzurra di Capri||238.589||263.741||+10,50%||+4|
|27.||Castel del Monte||262.693||249.527||-5%||=|
|28.||Villa Adriana||229.914||242.964||+5,70%||New entry|
|30.||Museo di Capodimonte||191.923||232.786||+21,2%||New entry|
Free entry Sundays 2017