Authenticity and the audience - a case study
By combining bespoke in situ and conceptual research with Culture Segments insight, Historic Royal Palaces have opened the door to an informative understanding of how their priority and potential audiences engage with the complex notion of authenticity.
Discovering visitors’ emotional and intellectual perceptions of authenticity has deepened the relationship between Historic Royal Palaces and their audiences, revealed the strategic importance of authenticity, and has made a significant impact upon thinking about interpretation, presentation and audiences right across the organisation.
"... the insight from the authenticity research, hasn’t just informed findings for subsequent research projects, it also informs research design. It helps us understand and craft our research questions for new projects".
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is an independent charity driven by a cause: to help everyone explore how monarchs and people shaped society in some of the greatest palaces ever built. A fundamental part of HRP’s offer is their physical presence; their spectacular palaces offer visitors the chance to ‘travel back in time’ by immersing themselves in the stories of those who lived there.
In 2014, HRP asked Morris Hargreaves McIntyre (MHM) to help them understand visitor attitudes to a very challenging and much more conceptual notion at the heart their organisation: the role of authenticity. This meant delving into historical context, semiotics and societal interpretation, as well as audience perception.
HRP wanted to know what visitors understand by the term “authenticity”, how it influenced the visitor experience, audience engagement and the audience’s affinity with their organisation.
Strategic insight into authenticity, and more importantly, into authenticity and audience engagement, would allow HRP to better serve their current visitors, reach out to potential audiences, and shape their projects and interpretive practices in the future. It was an ambitious idea, with the potential to extend beyond one case study and stimulate action across the institution, as well as to inform and be of use to the wider heritage sector.