State Library of South Australia

Dollars and sense: Revealing the value of culture

Date: 29 May 2015

Have you been to an event at the State Library of South Australia lately? Noticed some new inquisitive faces lurking at the back of the room?

Professor Julian Meyrick with PhD candidate Heather Robinson
Professor Julian Meyrick with PhD candidate Heather Robinson

Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture project

Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture is a three-year Linkage Project run by Flinders University and funded by the Australian Research Council. The aim of our research is to explore how the value of cultural events and organisations can be identified and expressed in terms other than simple dollars and cents. We also hope to understand how this value is represented through various funding and reporting processes, and how this may impact on an organisation's operations and sense of significance within the broader cultural landscape.

The team driving Laboratory Adelaide is Professor Julian Meyrick, A/Professor Robert Phiddian, Dr Tully Barnett and PhD Candidate Heather Robinson, all of Flinders University, with A/Professor Stephen Boyle from the University of South Australia. The State Library of South Australia is one of Laboratory Adelaide's three industry partners vital in their support of this research, joining the State Theatre Company and the Adelaide Festival Corporation.

In many instances, the value of our cultural organisations is represented in economic terms, condensing the significance of an often complex artistic, creative or intellectual experience or an institution into numbers and dollars. For example: Institution X generated Y number of visitors last year; or ABC Festival provided DEF tourism dollars to the local economy. These elements are undeniably important, but are they the best indicator of the event's quality, relevance or success? These economic terms make for easy comparative analysis, but are they the primary reason for staging cultural events?

How can you help?

As a research project, we need data to explore these questions and inform our thinking about new or alternative methods of evaluating the quality of our events and the impact made by our cultural institutions. And this is how you may be able to help.

Over the coming months, we will be attending several events at the State Library to hand out surveys asking simple questions about you, your thoughts of the event and your relationship with the library. We are happy to answer any questions you have about our project. You can also contribute to this research via the online survey.

All surveys are completely anonymous and are approved by the Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (project Number 6432). It only takes about five minutes to complete.

We are truly grateful to the State Library for supporting this research and allowing us to work with you directly. We hope in the months to come that we can share some of the outcomes of this project and keep you informed of our progress. In many ways you have the best seats in the house from which to judge the real value of culture in Adelaide. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Story by: Heather Robinson

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