Engaging Diverse Audiences


Margaret Kadoyama's thirty years in the museum profession embrace extensive experience in audience development, community involvement and education strategic planning.

by Margaret Kadoyama

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent WMA conference in San Diego.   The conference provided at least one significant outcome for me -- the discovery of a new report on engaging diverse audiences from the Japanese American National Museum, published in August 2009.

I attended a session on programming for Latino audiences.  The session, Museum Mission and Audience: Tips from Collaborations with Latino Communities, was moderated by Elizabeth Morin from Youth Arts and Education for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

The presenters were Lisa Sasaki from the Japanese American National Museum, Lorraine Yglesias from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and David J. de la Torre from La Plaza de Cultura y Artes.   The session provided many great tools and tips for engaging Latino audiences, from David de la Torre’s articulate and compelling list of strategic issues (focus on mission, diversification of board and staff, marginalization, and cultural insensitivity, among others) to Lorraine Yglesias’s focus on marketing.

Lorraine shared some great resources, including the tip to subscribe to email reports from www.mediapost.com, which provides current information on marketing for different audience segments, including Latino audiences.

Lisa Sasaki shared tips from the JANM’s Boyle Heights project, and included information on museum attendance before, during and after the project.  Lisa also shared information about a white paper that JANM recently published called The Cultural Museum 2.0: Engaging Diverse Audiences in America.  It is available to download at http://www.janm.org/projects/innovation/.

The white paper is the result of a three year project, funded by The James Irvine Foundation, in which JANM was able to holistically reassess itself and its relationship with its audiences.  I read through it and found it articulate and very timely, focusing on the issues that culturally specific museums are grappling with right now.

The section on essential questions was particularly significant.  During the course of the project, the Museum began looking closely at the interests, wants and needs of its potential audiences.  According to the report (pages 12-13), the Museum addressed questions such as:

  • To what extent is the visitor experience influenced by cultural or ethnic self-identification?
  • What is the relevance of the Museum to younger, multi-ethnic audiences?
  • How can the Museum develop programming to engage and sustain these audiences?
  • How can the Museum engage new audiences while sustaining and satisfying its current constituency?
  • What impact does engaging these audiences have on the ability for the Museum to sustain itself in the future?

These essential questions mirror concerns voiced by many museums, and the report goes on to include the results of the project’s research and recommendations to address these issues.  It is timely and relevant.  I teach the JFKU Museums and Communities course, and this will definitely be required reading for the spring M&C class!




great post, Margaret - especially because I missed the session when I was in San Diego and really wanted to go. Thanks so much for doing this!

The scope of the questions alone make me put this on my already too high reading list. It is extraordinarily valuable for the field to have reports like this. Given your praise I will be sure to read it.

"It is timely and relevant." Without a doubt! I'm so glad that you attended this session and shared what you took away from it with us!

Hi Margaret. Nice interesting report. It has been awhile since we worked at CA Academy.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Just want to see if you are a robot.