Museums of the 21st century. Chinese case.

Museums do have lots of challenges in their everyday life. Now it is not only the temple of art, but an institute, which has to fight for its customers with cinemas, park  and even warm beds.

This story is about the a small Chinese museum with quite a poor collection, which makes its strategy to make people like it.


So who are the people, who go to museums today and what do they want?

Interesting enough people, who go to museums in majority of cases are not those who visit to push and boost themselves for the education, but rather:

1) To make a visit for the friends or kids

2) To spend time with a friend

3) To spend time in a silent atmosphere of the museum

4) To get away from an ordinal life

5) To spend time in the building they like museum space

6) To visit exhibition, they are interested in

7) Because they are tourists (source: towards a sociology of cultural communications. UK, 1997)

Even though the date of publishing is 1997, I have a feeling that current tendencies are not that far away from the today’s situation.

So basically museums today is a time spent place with kids and friends. (Personally my heart is crying now, but it is the reality, so what to do…)

There are 2 main stages in the marketing of museums (well, honestly, enough in any marketing)

l To get customer in

l To make customer to come back

The first problem is less actual for the temples of art, such as Louvre and Hermitage, for example. (Sometimes the competition may arrive between gurus for the attracting people as well museums may face general diminishing for the interest from the public, but those problems have a different nature and not going to be examined further).

So one of the small museums in China, in the outskirts of Beijing has employed its strategy to make pleasant time spent (my heart is crying again) for the parents, children and teenagers.

Beijing Seven Color Butterfly Garden is the perfect example of the strategy.

The museum has focused on:

l Outdoor branding – parents need to take pictures of their kids somewhere

l Little information, mainly visual examples – practical examples give the examples of the real process.

l High kids involvement into the performance – kids need to do something, to enjoy their time.

So all process includes:

The way to the museum is a road with 2 symbols of the park: metal girl and metal boy. Parents are getting pictures with kids posing.


Small exposition about butterflies in China: types, history, how they look, what they do


Inside, before the exhibition there are some works, which are made with butterflies wings. A person can buy anything, Every piece has its price.



The first impression is a wide room with white ceiling and butterflies smashing their wings into those walls


There exposition in the room looks a bit confusing: Hundreds of plants with with the artificial ones.

Butterflies has its own place for eating from special plates with some “food for butterflies”


The guide is telling the stories about butterflies


You can go around the hall and see some butterflies just laying by the ground and pretty much anyone can pass by and touch them (honestly i don’t know if they are dead or just randomly sleeping)


Meanwhile all parents taking pictures with kids and insect’s.


….and some more in a different area


Next stage is engaging kids with the butterflies. People get small boxes with butterflies, so children can get them out and to see them flying around.


Fairly enough they have butterflies to make such actions over and over again. The butterflies output of this place is 5 million species!

Next hall is kindergarten of those insects,  Palms have a lot of caterpillars on its branches.


After being all impressed with the beauty of the butterflies, lids and adult are expecting to spend some money and to buy butterflies related.

Museum is very customer oriented and one can but for example Homer Simpson made out of butterflies wings.


After such an trip, kids are expecting to make the butterflies by themselves. Small envelops with 4 wings inside is distributed among people, so kids with some help of glue can put butterflies together.


There are lots of leftovers, which got destroyed during the process and now are not needed by anyone.


…. and what it is suppose to look like


At the same lunch is expected. The museum provides only ice-cream and light snacks. Food has to be brought to the museum, so the parents can make pic nick for their children. The minus of the museum is there is no place for the pic nick, which is designed specifically for this purpose. People are making their own places. (also I assume it is quite common in China to eat by the ground. I would assume that management of the museum don’t see it as a problem.)


Next stop is the plantation, where kids and there children can dig in the ground and plant new trees.


(I assume, they don’t do it to minimize the budget).


After planing trees kinds can experience preparing cotton candies by themselves. Again exploring the power of engagement in the museum promotion.


Next stop option, which is provided by museum is domino effect buildings. (which apart of domino being in the form of the butterflies, has little to deal with the museum). This option has to be deeper integrated, so the association with the butterfly part is not lost on the last stage.


The main lesson of the commercial industry, made by the idol of the pop culture, Homer Simpson,  “Every ride has to end in a souvenir store” (c) has excellently understood by Chinese business, for sure. Just make it strait to the point, add do-it-yourself attitude and the customer is all yours!