Anyone who works for, or with, a visitor driven cultural organization has experienced this trend either anecdotally, or seen it through ongoing data collection. What can we do? Traditional audiences are quite literally dying out, and new audiences to cultural sites and museums have a very different perception of what these institutions are doing, and should be doing. Crucial data now shows the threat on sustainability of any visitor-driven cultural organization. So often we speak with professionals who feel multimedia, technology, and digital initiatives are only crucial "when funding is available." Traditional audiences are not being replaced by millennial audiences, or audiences of color, at a sustainable rate; how can we change that? Though technology is just one aspect of helping an institution shift it's reputation to being a modern, open, relevant, and welcoming place for these visitors, it is an important one. Technology can help to tell a story that these new audiences can identify with in a way that is familiar, comfortable, engaging, and sympathetic. Engaging storytelling through technology can be leveraged to make these new audiences feel welcome, and like they belong. The days of "shushing" in an art museum, or being stalked by a docent in a historic home are over. If we do not accommodate and engage nontraditional audiences in nontraditional ways, they will not come, and institutions across the globe will fall into obsolescence.
Within our industry, some tend to think of targeting “historic” audiences as the safe bet and cultivating new audiences as a secondary goal to be pursued “when funding becomes available.” This is short-sighted step on a long, slow march into obsolescence. The market is crawling with potential visitors – and they are ripe for cultivation if and when we decide to think outside of our outdated box.