Behind The Scenes: A Public Proposition

Rob Hassler

Rohit Bhargava’s book Likeanomics offers a refreshing insight as to how businesses in general can be successful. The notion of “likeability” is rooted in Bhargava’s understanding that the more likeable a business or organization is, the more likely they are to have more customers, bigger audiences, and a more well-received reputation. In our Museum Communication Issues in Museum class, we have begun to utilize Bhargava’s likeability strategies to see how museums can use these mechanics to assess themselves as likeable institutions. 
The museum I have chosen to conduct a “likeability assessment” on is the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), perhaps one of the most identifiable museums in the city, if not the nation. In Likeonomics, Bhargava introduces an acronym called TRUST, which stands for truth, relevance, unselfishness, simplicity, and timing. In regards to the PMA, my initial objective was to examine the museum based on each category of TRUST and rate each based on several key positives or negatives  I found through the lens of likeability.
The one area that I rated the museum to be extremely successful in was that of truth, and according to the American Alliance of Museums facts list, Americans view museums as one of the most important resources for educating our children and as one of the most trustworthy sources of objective information. If you lose trust as an institution, you can lose credibility. For years the PMA has produced extravagant and incredibly well received special exhibitions that are world renowned. With the size of the PMA and its accumulation of over 227,000 objects, it is not only a reliable artistic resource for the community, but also an exemplar museum for its colleagues around the world in research, exhibition, and conservation. This being said however, our objectives through our “likeability assessment” is to present the museum with a potential opportunity. 
In the case of the PMA, I believe that they can do a better job of being even more transparent than they already are. During my time spent working there, I was able to see every hidden nook and cranny of the museum that is not presented to the public, from the conservation labs, to the basement of the museum, and even taking a trip onto the roof. Many institutions offer the experiences of behind the scenes tours giving visitors access to things not normally exposed to the public, however most of these opportunities are members only. Within the PMA, there is currently no fully public behind the scene opportunity available, and the closest most come to seeing anything “behind the scenes” is peeking into the door hole of the Etant Donnes. In order to increase its transparency and build stronger truthful relationships with its visitors, the incorporation of a behind the scenes tour would increase the PMA’s image as a museum for the people of Philadelphia.