Online Visitors

Besides visitors coming physically to the museums, increasingly museums have visitors to their web presence. Online visitors are an integral part of a museum's audience, too. While there are standardised ways of counting physical visits and visitors, a common understanding of measuring visits and visitors of a museum's web-activities is yet to be developed.

People visiting the website of a museum are, no doubt, visitors. But what if someone "visits" an object-portal like Europeana and finds a whole page with objects of a certain museum? What if someone "follows" a museum's Twitter-feed? What if a museum has a website together with other museums of the same city? Web-visits and web-visitors are quite difficult to count and numbers are quite hard to compare as long as there is no common methodology yet.

This page collects information on ongoing research and available data.

The place of cultural portals in the context of converging digital culture (PDF) published in 2009 by Culturemondo (see related projects) analyses the results of a survey conducted among internet culture portals world-wide. It asks which methodology such online services use to gather information about their users.

A Handbook on cultural web user interaction was published in 2008 by MINERVA EC (see related projects) in the framework of the work package “Quality, Accessibility and Usability”. It identifies users and usage of cultural web services as well as internet audience measurement.

National practice:

United Kingdom

Claire Ross & Melissa Terras: Scholarly Information-Seeking Behaviour in the British Museum Online Collection is a study carried out during 2011 by the Centre for Digital Humanities (UCL) in cooperation with the British Museum set to analyse the behaviour of users of the museum’s collection database online. This investigation sheds light on what information sources have to be combined to gain knowledge about online visitors.

The Government department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK defines 'virtual visits' as unique visits to a museum’s website. Under this common definition, online visitor numbers are collected for the museum and galleries visitor statistics. The guidelines can be downloaded here (PDF). Data are available here.

During 2010/13 Culture24 coordinated a collaboration project which investigated online audiences of museums. The first phase (2010-11) resulted in the report "Let's Get Real. How to evaluate online success"; the findings of the second phase (2012-13) were published in the report "Let's get Real 2. A journey towards understanding and measuring digital engagement" (Both reports can be downloaded under:

  • A Check-list (PDF) to optimise Google Analytics was developed and adopted by the participants' institutional websites.
  • A Tool Kit (PDF) for monitoring Social Media audiences was also adopted by the 17 institutions.


The Institut für Museumsforschung (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz) posed German museums a specific question about information on their web presence:
2008 annual visitor attendance Report (PDF)
A year later it was measured how many museums were active promoting exhibitions and events online:
2009 annual visitor attendance Report (PDF)