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  Mathematical Models for Fine Arts 

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In the highly competitive world of retailing, advances in operations research can help optimize store sales, with recommendations for inventory replenishment, display and more. And note that the same lines of research can help museum management boost their ticket sales, says professor Víctor Martínez de Albéniz.

In their new quantitative study, Martínez de Albéniz and co-author Ana Valdivia crunch data from two art museums in Barcelona to better understand the impact of exhibition content, location, and timing on ticket sales. Building a mathematical model specifically for the museums' setting, here's what they found:
  • Temporary exhibitions have a strong influence on the number of visitors: their impact is quite varied and highly dependent on content type (i.e., category of art exhibit) and place of display. For example, painting provided a double-digit boost to traffic compared to architecture at the two museums.
  • There are significant increases in attendance at the beginning and the end of exhibitions.
  • When only one exhibition runs at a time, it's best to extend exhibitions with higher natural attractiveness (i.e., those of popular types, such as painting, located in the main exhibition space), while shortening the rest.
  • With equal attractiveness, exhibitions in high season should be extended while those in the low season should be shortened.
  • When there are multiple exhibitions running simultaneously, it is best to make them all start and end at the same time if the museum is not concerned about overcrowding on the very busy days. When congestion is an issue, it's best to spread opening dates over time.
  • Finally, when the authors jointly optimized exhibition duration and synchronization in one museum, they found that duration was the most important factor driving attendance, while synchronization was less relevant.

So, for museums, optimizing exhibit lifecycles can maximize exposure and improve planning. And this research has many other potential applications -- e.g., for Broadway shows, Las Vegas concerts, TV news programming or blogs. The question is: how often should content be renewed to maximize impact, taking other factors into account?

Finally, as an aside, for the general public, this study can help predict the least crowded days at a museum, even for very popular exhibits during high tourist season. The advice is: Go mid-exhibit. The data shows that rain or unusual weather has a relatively small impact on museum traffic. And even seasonal factors are less important than the opening and closing dates. Here, content and timing are both king.

Methodology, Very Briefly
The study was conducted with extensive data from two large Barcelona museums, the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and CaixaForum, from 2007 to 2015.

This article is based on:  Measuring and Exploiting the Impact of Exhibition Scheduling on Museum Attendance
Publisher:  Informs
Year:  2017
Language:  English