Salon 3 Culture and Metrics

Culture and Metrics explored the puzzle of translating cultural values into a vocabulary of indexes and figures for communication among policymakers, economists, politicians, and‚ crucially, the public. Commercial businesses have a ready way of measuring their impact and success, and policymakers can count on clear metrics to quantify the impact of such sectors of the economy on the local or national baseline. However, when it comes to cultural institutions and initiatives, the traditional yardsticks don’t account for a whole host of intangible personal and social benefits. The contribution of culture and intellectual labor to society cannot be readily quantified, and the absence of direct metrics makes culture vulnerable to ad hoc cuts and obfuscates its urgency.

Watch the videos from the salon and explore some of these questions: How can museums appeal to individuals and organizations that—to paraphrase the scientist William Thomson, Baron Kelvin—believe that if a value can’t be measured, it can’t be a factor? Is there a way for cultural values to be translated into compelling data? Can collaboration between museums and relevant academic institutions studying this subject be formulated to move the needle in our favor—and to help the public better understand how cultural institutions are important to their lives?

The salon took place on 4 February 2012


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