Trust in Museums: Institut für Museumsforschung Publishes Germany-Wide Study

Institut für Museumsforschung

The Institut für Museumsforschung (Institute for Museum Research) has published the first population-representative study to research the level of trust in museums among respondents in Germany. According to the study, museums, in particular, have the potential to strengthen the societal sense of belonging and to promote trust in cultural institutions in general.

The study, conducted by the Institut für Museumsforschung in December 2023 and modelled on a US study, sought to draw attention to this hidden social capital within the current debate and to empirically substantiate the socio-political dimension of museum work.

The Most Important Findings

One of the most important findings is that musems enjoy the highest level of trust in the personal and institutional environment, second only to family and friends, and exceeding scientists and the media. They achieve the highest trust ratings of all public institutions, thus clearly setting them apart from political organisations, whose trust ratings were also studied.

Trust in museums stems from a perception of neutrality. People who perceive museums as neutral and impartial trust them much more than those who do not acknowledge this neutrality.

Even among people who have never visited a museum, the institution enjoys an abstract trust in the form of an assumed trustworthiness. By the same token, trust increases with the number of visits. The more frequent the visits, the higher the level of trust indicated. No social equivalent seems capable of establishing this clear correlation. Apparently there is manoeuvring room here that permits museums to create social capital through good performance.

Data on the Frequency of Visits

The study, Das verborgene Kapital: Vertrauen in Museen in Deutschland (Hidden Capital: Trust in Museums in Germany), also delivered data about the frequency of museum visits in Germany for the first time since 2013. It revealed that 5.3 % of respondents do not visit museums at all. The contingent of those who have visited museums at least quarter-yearly in the past year is only slightly higher at 6 %. A good third (35.1 %) had visited a museum at least once in the last twelve months, and for just under half (47.7 %) the previous visit took place more than a year ago.