Quality assurance in museums – let’s go!

On 16 October 2018 I participated in a seminar on the measurement of quality in museums, organised by the Observatori dels Públics del Patrimoni Cultural de Catalunya, OPPCC.

It made me remind the importance of quality assurance in any institution and company and the little we actually talk about it with respect to museums.

Quality assurance in museums has, roughly, three different aspects:

– quality of user experience

– quality of museum management

– total quality management

With many museums very much focused on the sheer number of visitors, the introduction of a system to measure the quality of their visit is indeed an important first step.

To do so, the Arts Council England has developed a Quality Metrics pilot. The quality of an exhibition is measured by the ones who create (museum staff) and the ones who consume it (visitors). Adding to this, they have set up peer reviews. Great! But far from being new. Years ago, when I worked as a Programme Manager at European University Association (EUA), we dealt a lot with concepts such as peer reviews, quality assurance, institutional evaluation etc. and they seemed much assumed by the university world. EUA’s Institutional Evaluation Programme, based on self-evaluations and peer reviews, is still successfully running.

Carl Stevens from the ACE with the quality metrics 

Museums, for whatever reason, seem to be much more reluctant to self-questioning and being evaluated by different stakeholders and colleagues.

Measuring the quality of user experience should not go without the evaluation of the museum management and this leads us eventually to the concept of total quality management. It should be the aim of any museum to evaluate not only the quality of its exhibitions and its management, but any aspect related to the museum. This comes down to checking the quality of the work done by our providers, because they too contribute to the quality of our institution.

Museums that have not done any type of quality measurement could indeed start with asking the public about their degree of satisfaction. What’s most important, though, is creating a quality culture within the museum, with good and open communication among staff and commitment towards improving they way things work in the institution.

In this sense, it is to be hoped that quality assurance, peer reviews, self-evaluations and the like will fully form part of the museum culture and, more important, of museum staff. Let’s go!