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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

Understanding Audiences

Museums need to understand who their audiences are and how they engage with them both physically and virtually. If they are to develop their audiences, museums also need to understand who their potential audiences are, why they aren't visiting, and what might motivate them to engage with the organisation.

Friday, September 5, 2014 - 10:00

Understanding Audiences aims to explore how organisations can gain insight into their audiences, actual and potential, physical and virtual, and how this understanding can be applied to engage new audiences and ensure the best possible experience.

The day will feature four short presentations which will stimulate group discussions with plenty of opportunities for sharing knowledge and networking. 

Jessica Suess, Oxford University Museums, will share her experiences of introducing a new audience evaluation programme across the museums in 2012, the costs, benefits and pitfalls. She will also reveal insights from research into public Wi-Fi usage within the museums and will facilitate a discussion on data collection processes.

Sam Skillings, Compton Verney, will discuss the audience evaluation processes in place at Compton Verney and how insights feed into marketing and communications activities to engage new audiences. Sam will then facilitate a discussion on applying audience research to communications.

Shelley Mannion, British Museum, will share principles for understanding audiences in a national museum, and will reflect on recent research analysing how visitors orient themselves when they arrive at the museum: do they speak with a member of staff, pick up a free guide or buy one, download an app, etc. 

Linda Spurdle, Birmingham Museums Trust, will discuss understanding digital audiences, from what information it is useful to collect, to how it can be interpreted. She will look at how data can be used to inform and plan your digital offer, and examine whether we should be considering digital KPIs.


Lucy Shaw (facilitator) has been working at Oxford ASPIRE since August 2012.  She has worked in the museums sector since the early 1990’s, firstly as a social history curator in the East Midlands but for the last 10 years she has worked as a consultant specialising in workforce and organisational development.   Lucy is a trained facilitator and coach.  

Jessica Suess is part of the joint museums team at the Oxford University Museums and leads on partnership projects relating to Audiences, Communications and Digital. Jess introduced a new audience development plan across the Oxford University Museums in late 2012 and manages an ongoing programme of cross museums audience evaluation. She is currently leading on the introduction of public Wi-Fi across the museums, including researching how visitors to the museums would like to use this new resource.

Sam Skillings (DipM MCIM) is a Chartered Marketer and his Head of Marketing at Compton Verney, a national museum and gallery (and registered charity) housed in a Grade 1-listed Georgian mansion surrounded 120 acres of historic parkland, landscaped by Capability Brown. Sam has 15 years experience of working in Arts Marketing, prior to joining Compton Verney, Sam worked for a regional theatre and an Arts Marketing agency in the East of England. She was a key part of the initial team that launched Compton Verney in 2004, and her work since then has enabled Compton Verney to develop audiences and coverage – resulting in a 70% increase in visitor numbers.

Shelley Mannion is Senior Content Producer at the British Museum. She manages digital interpretation projects across audiences and platforms including web and mobile. Previously, she managed the museum’s digital learning programme for young audiences, which pioneered the use of mobile learning and Augmented Reality. Shelley was among the first graduates of a unique programme in technology and communication for cultural institutions at the University of Lugano in Switzerland.

Linda Spurdle leads on digital strategy and public-facing digital developments at Birmingham Museums Trust, including web, social media and mobile. She has worked in digital roles for museums since 1997, leading on digitisation projects at East Riding for Yorkshire Museums and Tyne & Wear Museums. She is the co-founder of @museumcamp with Mar Dixon.

Ashmolean Museum
Lucy Shaw

ASPIRE Events Team: | 01865 613784

Booking Details: 

Participants are invited to arrive from 10.00 for coffee. The day will start promptly at 10.30 and will include a networking lunch.  We aim to finish the day by 15.30.

This session costs £25 to help us cover the cost of venue hire, refreshments and speakers’ travel. 

To book a place please visit: Oxford Univeristy Stores