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Culturally-Specific Museums: Who Are They For? Translating Missions to Messages

Thesis by Momo Sakai (2018)

Culturally-specific museums focus on a specific culture and ethnicity. Although they are meant to be relevant to everyone and raise awareness of multicultural topics by appealing to a wide range of visitors, these types of museums tend to be considered as institutions for people who are part of that cultural or ethnic group. The purpose of this research study was to understand how culturally-specific museums translate their missions into messages and how those messages are incorporated into communication and marketing strategies to appeal to a diverse audience. A qualitative, descriptive study was undertaken using semi-structured interviews of four museum professionals involved in communication or marketing at culturally-specific museums in the Seattle area. In addition, elements in each museum’s website homepage were analyzed to provide evidence of the intended messages and audiences that were revealed in the interviews. The interviews demonstrated that the target audiences of the four museums could be described as concentric circles having more engaged audience as their center and broadening outward as the museums attempt to pursue their missions to be for everyone. Each museum’s message clearly mentioned what it offered its audience to encourage engagement with multicultural perspectives. The process of creating their messages involved many sections of the museums, and opinions from visitors were also taken into consideration. Results also showed that the museums adopted the communication strategy to effectively transmit their messages depending on the intended audience. It is crucial that the stories and values that the culturally-specific museum convey be delivered to, discussed by, and shared with a greater diversity of people to accomplish their mission and for their sustainability. This study clarified future studies that are needed on culturally-specific museums to explore what potential?communication and marketing approaches are available and should be taken to attain that goal.

Keywords: Class of 2018, Cultural Resources Management, Museum Studies, Communication and the Arts, Cultural Diversity, Multiculturalism, Museum Marketing


Sakai, M., Luke, Jessica J., Blake, Michael, & Ong, Angelina. (2018). Culturally-Specific Museums: Who Are They For? Translating Missions to Messages. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.