What kind of people visit our museums these days?

The middle-aged female university graduate is the «typical» visitor to three of the most important museums in Athens: the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum and the Museum of Greek Folk Art (MGFA), according to a survey conducted over the past two years by the Institute for Urban and Agricultural Sociology and Panteion University’s department of social anthropology. The results were presented Wednesday by institute researcher Roxanne Kaftantzoglou and Panteion lecturer Irene Tountasaki, who both led the survey. Do people go to a museum because they really want to or because they think they should? Do they really enjoy it, or do they get bored, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. How satisfied are we with our museums? The survey results confirmed the stereotypes: women comprise the largest group, representing 62.7 percent of visitors to the Byzantine Museum and 70 percent to the Archaeological Museum and MGFA. There were no surprises regarding the visitors’ educational levels. Although university graduates comprise only 10.8 percent of the population, they represent 43 percent of museum visitors. People working in the sciences comprise 19.2 percent; teachers 18.5 percent and students 17.2 percent, the largest single groups. However, the age distribution was wider, with adults aged 36-45 being the largest group of nearly 25 percent. Younger people prefer the Archaeological Museum and MGFA was more popular among those aged over 61. Most respondents to the survey said they went to museums to learn more about their own history and traditions. However, if there was a choice of ways to learn about history, museums would not be first on the list. Most people would prefer a television program or book. Although the respondents were museum visitors themselves, the concept of a museum did not always have pleasant associations. Nearly a third of MGFA visitors and a quarter of visitors to the Archaeological Museum said museums were like mausoleums. Nearly one third of those asked did not think they were particularly pleasant places, although the vast majority (80 percent) thought one «learnt a lot there,» despite occasional boredom (30 percent of visitors to the Archaeological Museum). As far as infrastructure, reception areas and services are concerned, most found them wanting, apart from the refurbished Byzantine Museum, although the survey was held before the Archaeological Museum recently reopened its doors after renovation.