The last comprehensive survey of museums in Hungary was published in 2009 in the project called ‘Magyar Múzeumi Kutatás 2007-2008’ (Hungarian Museum Research 2007-2008). At the time, 123 museums belonging to the county museum directorates were surveyed through the eyes of nearly 13,000 visitors.
Since then, many studies have been published, but they typically focus only on a specific topic (service museums, museum education in museums, quality management in museums, reception of visitors in museums, etc.)
The main aim of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research programme launched in 2020 is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the Hungarian museum sector and to collect the opinions and thoughts of professionals and maintaining authorities regarding the current situation. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of statistics and professional assessments, and the comparison of those to opinions. The aims of the research are to support professional and cultural policy-making with data and arguments, to identify future directions for professional development, and to make recommendations.
Another overt aim is to make the heads of institutions, middle managers and opinion leaders think about the issues raised, and possibly bring new perspectives into their thinking, thus supporting the shaping of attitudes in the museum sector.
As a result of the consolidation of the county governments in 2011-2013, the museum system has changed significantly as of 1 January, 2013. County museums are now maintained by the county towns, and the member institutions of county museums are maintained by the local governments. Since then, it has become necessary to analyse the (positive or negative) impact of this change on museums and their maintaining authorities.
The research provides an opportunity to add further data to the results of studies carried out in recent years on specific areas of the museum sector. After analysing the results, we present proposals for solutions to current and acute problems in the museum and public collections sector (revision of wages, keeping people in the profession, management challenges, cooperation).
The research team started working on the basis of their own perceptions, insights, experiences, hypotheses and intuitions about ongoing processes in the profession —these are essential for the implementation of research, as they allow to discover, define, and verify the regularities and relationships.
One of these assumptions was, for example, that the change of maintenance that came into force on 1 January, 2013 had a positive impact on country museums, and another was that local governments are not sufficiently aware of the potential of museums and do not make sufficient use of their potential in the host towns’ social, cultural, and tourism landscape.
However, it has become clear that the profession may only apply for an increase in funding or an amendment to the law if it has access to well-supported, analysed data.
Focus areas of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research
The analysis of the changes in the maintenance of institutions that came into force on 1 January, 2013 was the focal point of the research, as until now there has been no study on the new circumstances of the institutions and the transformation of their role resulting from the above change. Since 2013, museums have been through a period spanning several local government terms, so they have the experience to make the research more effective. Based on the practice of the past years, the institutions were able to provide a realistic analysis of themselves, their role in the host town and their relationship with the local government.
Closely related to the previous topic is the group of questions about the current social role and opportunities of museums and the service-oriented approach. We have learned a lot from answers to the strategic question regarding the most important roles of institutions now and their predicted changes in 10 years’ time.
The various directions of the service-oriented museum approach were examined by exploring topics such as additional activities (e.g. education, health, tourism) beyond the traditional museum tasks, as well as by identifying the museums’ links with tourist attractions.
One of our aims was to identify attitudes towards digitalisation, socialisation, service development, staff development, and collaboration.
Another set of questions explored the tasks associated with maintaining and modernising museums, the possibilities for sustainable funding for museums, and the areas that can support the development of the museum sector.
Within this theme, the research assessed the capacities of institutions with respect to financial management, the distribution of financial resources and costs, as well as other possibilities to generate revenue.
Another set of questions explored the current state of human resource management in museums, the problems of keeping museum staff in the profession, the retention of young people and the motivation of experienced colleagues. These areas are closely linked to the questions of human resource efficiency in the museum field, the assessment of shortage of professionals, the changing needs of employers and employees, the collection of newly created positions and the issue of training young professionals. We assessed the demand for HR in museums and sought answers to questions about the need to increase the flexibility of the organisational structure.
Last but not least, we studied the role of national museums as models to be followed, with the involvement of key managers and opinion leaders in the field. The research explored the cooperations of museum institutions within the integrated institutional structures and the network operation. The research provided an opportunity to explore points of reference within the sector, to collect lessons learned from the changes taking place in national museums, and to look into the benefits supporting model organisations.
Methodology of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research
We collected both quantitative data (statistical data, responses from questionnaires) and qualitative data (in-depth interviews, focus group interviews) in the different phases of the national survey, and the results of previous analyses were also used.
The research involved members of the Hungarian museum network, the directors/directors general, middle managers, and the staff of museums of different categories (national museums, county-level city museums, national specialised museums, thematic and regional museums, museum collections and exhibition sites of public interest), as well as managers of service provider companies contracted by museums.
Questionnaires of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research
The questionnaires were used to collect differentiated data. A total of seven questionnaires were prepared for 1) directors general of national museums, 2) directors of county-level city museums 3) directors of national specialised museums, 4) directors of regional museums, thematic museums, or collections and exhibition sites of public interest 5) middle managers of museums, 6) their staff, and 7) managers of service provider companies contracted by museums. The online questionnaires were completed in the spring of 2020.
A total of 1636 people completed the questionnaires, of which 1616 were museum employees (directors, middle managers, staff) and 20 were managers of service provider companies.
The 1,616 museum employees amount to 22.65% of the total of 7,135 full or part-time employees working in museums in 2019 according to cultural statistics, which shows a high level of interest and willingness to participate.
The distribution of completion rates by directors/directors general is also shown based on the category of museums. All of the county-level city museum directors completed the questionnaire, while 10 out of a total of 11 questionnaires were received from directors general of national museums, and more than half of the directors of the national specialised museums completed the questionnaire. A total of 316 directors of regional and thematic museums, collections and exhibition sites of public interest received the questionnaire, and more than a quarter of them completed it. The high rate of willingness to complete the survey among the directors/directors general provides justification for the research and shows the need for a deeper and more accurate understanding of the museum sector.
Data on respondents’ gender, age, and education show that female staff were more active in completing the survey, as was the age group 36-45. 82% of those providing data completed tertiary education. Almost a third of respondents have been working in the museum sector for less than five years, a significant proportion (44%) for 5-20 years and more than a fifth for more than 20 years. 44% have been in their current job for five years or less, while 17% have been in the same job for more than 20 years. In terms of current positions, typically respondents held such positions for 5 years, and the year before the survey (2019) is particularly noteworthy in this context, when 18% of staff were placed in new roles, although 8% of the total joined the museum profession in that same year. 9% of workers have been in their current job for more than 20 years.
In-depth interviews of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research
In the second phase of the research, after analysing the questionnaire data, in-depth interviews were conducted with senior managers (27) and middle managers (17) to further elaborate on specific topics. They were selected in a way that ensured that all types of museums were represented. The questions covered three topics: 1) core tasks and strategy, 2) service-oriented approach, 3) human resources management.
Focus group survey of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research
The third element of the survey, namely the focus group discussions, took place on four occasions with the participation of 1) the directors general of national museums (6 participants), 2) and 3) the directors of county-level city museums (14 participants) and 4) respected professionals of the museum sector (9 participants).
During the discussion, participants were asked about the current process of change of legal status, the transformation of the organisational structure of museums, the role of national museums as models to be followed, the scientific tasks of museums, the relationship between museums, tourism, communities and identity, and staff development and retention.
Qualitative interviews have been successful in providing further information in addition to the statistical analysis of the questionnaires and the cultural data, which allows us to understand certain decisions better as well as to identify and understand cause and effect relationships.
Hajnal, Kassai: Kutatás a magyar múzeumok jelenlegi állapotáról és fejlődési lehetőségeiről. (Research on the current state and development potential of Hungarian museums.) Előszó - a kutatás célja, létrejötte, szereplők, percepciók (Foreword - the purpose of the research, its origins, actors, perceptions)
[date accessed: 15/10/2022]
Makranczi, Zsolt: Bevezetés – a MúzeumokMa 2020 kutatás módszertana, a részt vevők köre (Introduction - the methodology of the MúzeumokMa 2020 research, the participants)
[date accessed: 15/10/2022]
The number labelled “Staff - Number of questionnaires sent out” is an estimate: the number of questionnaires sent out to directors (361) and middle managers (317) has been subtracted from the number “Employees - All’ (7135), a figure that appears in the 2019 Cultural Statistics data, as it was assumed that directors and middle managers completed their own respective questionnaires.