Within communities, museums provide social value by fulfilling public needs. These needs are as individual as the people who make up any given community. And, they can range from after-school activities for neighborhood teens to the preservation and celebration of a cultures’ oral history. However, in order to fulfill these needs a museum must first identify their presence within its community.
Museums utilize multiple tools to identify community needs. These tools provide either, or a combination of both, qualitative and quantitative data. Data can tell a museum who is or isn’t coming to the museum, what visitors’ demographics are and what public opinion says about the museums’ likeability. When this data is analyzed a museum can discover where and who is in need of community outreach.
Geographic Information System (GIS) Mapping and Cultural Mapping are innovative tools museums will be utilizing to further develop community outreach endeavors. It allows museums to generate precise data reports that target specific populations. PolicyMap is a provider of these tools. They currently house data for the United States. Which is derived from public information sources like Census, the FBI and the IRS. PolicyMap assists their users in generating reports from over 15,000 data points. These points consist of, but are not limited to, home sales, crime rates, mortgage originations, demographics, employment and household income.
In this day and age funding is an ever-present hurdle for museums. Resources are precious. GIS Mapping and Cultural Mapping allow museums to make smart decisions when allocating resources for community outreach. Furthermore, these tools facilitate museums in targeting audiences who need the resources most.