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Museum Goes for a Pint

29 May 14 -- jsuess
This post was contributed by Simone Dogherty, Family Education Officer at the Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum

Throughout 2013, the Museum of Natural History in Oxford was closed to the public, for essential repair work to done to its leaky roof. Far from a year of dormancy, the museum was involved in a variety of outreach projects to continue to reach audiences, old and new. 

One of the major projects was our Goes to Town project, where specimens from the museum’s collection broke out, and took up residency in various locations around the city centre for the year. So despite the closure, the public could still see a penguin in the fishmongers, a bank vole in a bank, and other similar surprises.

As an extra special ‘spin-off’ from this project, we received funding from ASPIRE’s Audience Engagement Fund to run a project called ‘Museum Goes for a Pint’, an 8-week project aimed at a young adult audience (ages 18-24) running between October-December 2013. The Education team visited 8 different pubs, hosted a natural history themed pub quiz and brought along real specimens from the collection.

Evaluation for the Oxford University Museums show a low visitor rate for ages 16-24 compared to other age groups. It also shows a desire for the public to see museums engaged in specific social events which ‘Museum Goes for a Pint’ would cater for.

Attendance was very good in all of the quizzes (numbers varied depending on the size of the pub). The average number of adults was 50, with over 400 adults involved over the course of the programme.

Each evening was evaluated using a purposely designed form to be filled in by quiz teams, so multiple people contributed to one form. It collected general feedback about the museum, the event, and audience data. The aim of the evaluation was to find out:

  • What age groups were involved? This was to research whether we were reaching our target audience
  • Why had this audience not visited? This was to discover what had stopped potential visitors from visiting beforehand
  • What does the museum mean to you? This was to find out what the museum means to the younger audience we would reach, to discover more about this audience’s motivation and better cater for them in the future.
  • Has this event changed your impression of the museum? This was to determine whether this kind of event worked with the audience we were trying to reach, and to support any future repetitions of this project. 

There were 52 responses, which are summarised below.


Although the project was aimed at ages 18-24, this was only the third highest age group who attended, the greatest being ages 25-29. However, 20% is a substantial percentage for this age group, which often appears consistently low in other audience evaluation data capture. For example, in data collection performed on our Educational initiatives, participation of Young People in onsite activities between October-December 2012 was just 6.47%. 

Non-visitor feedback

Non-visitor feedback was not overly revealing, with the majority (45%) saying they had simply never got round to visiting. 50% of those who responded ‘Other’ explained this response with the fact the Museum had been closed. Many of these people (50%) were in the 18-24 age group, and therefore perhaps new students to the city who had never experienced it open. 

What the Museum means to visitors

These responses are much as expected, with ‘Dinosaur’, ‘Dodo’ and ‘Pitt Rivers’ making up the largest proportion of responses. Positive words such as ‘Cool’ and ‘Awesome’ make a majority of appearances also, which shows a general enthusiasm for the Museum. It is interesting to note ‘Maths lectures’ and ‘Organic chemistry lectures’ making appearances, which demonstrates that we were hitting, to some extent, the student audiences we were hoping for. 

Change of values

Evaluation on any change of values was on the whole very positive. Responses had a strong emphasis on the enhanced relationship between the museum and community / public / young audiences as a result of this project, which was an intended outcome.

Legacy of the project

One of our longer term plans with the project was to host a student night at the Museum once reopened and aim it at those audiences who attended the Goes for a Pint quizzes. The late night event on the 16th May was a direct “spin off” from this project, and the night was themed around ‘pub quiz’ style activities. This rounded off the project nicely, by bringing the quiz and quiz-goers back into the museum after reopening.