Ownership, organization structure and public service provision: the case of museums

  • Enrico E. Bertacchini
  • Chiara Dalle Nogare
  • Raffaele Scuderi
Original Article


This article provides an empirical investigation of the effects of the ownership and organizational structure on the performance of cultural institutions. More specifically, we consider how museums are effective in their function of disseminating culture to audiences and contributing to the local development. By exploiting a unique data set based on the 2011 census of Italian museums, we develop performance indices of accessibility, visitors’ experience, web visibility and promotion of the local cultural context. Using count data models, we regress such measures on the type of organization. We distinguish between governmental museums, public museums whose administration is either outsourced or has financial autonomy and private museums. We control for the most salient characteristics of a museum, competition pressure and some proxies of potential audience. Our evidence shows that private museums, public museums with financial autonomy and outsourced museums outperform public museums run as sub-units of culture departments. This paper contributes to the cultural economics and public policy and administration literature by adding insights into the effect of outsourcing and administrative decentralization in the public cultural sector.


Public sector performance Outsourcing Decentralization Museums 

JEL Classification

L33 Z18 H42 


  1. Anderson, G. (Ed.). (2004). Reinventing the museum: Historical and contemporary perspectives on the paradigm shift. Lanham: Rowman Altamira.Google Scholar
  2. Basso, A., & Funari, S. (2004). A quantitative approach to evaluate the relative efficiency of museums. Journal of Cultural Economics, 28(3), 195–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benedikter, R. (2004). Privatisation of Italian cultural heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 10(4), 369–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benhamou, F. (1998). The contradictions of deestatization: Museums in France. In P. Boorsma, A. Van Hemel, & N. van der Wielen (Eds.), Privatization and culture: Experiences in the arts, heritage and cultural industries in Europe. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  5. Besley, T., & Ghatak, M. (2003). Incentives, choice, and accountability in the provision of public services. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 19(2), 235–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bodo, C., & Bodo, S. (2016). Country profile-Italy. Compendium of cultural policies and trends in Europe. Council of Europe, available at
  7. Boyne, G. A. (2006). Public service performance: Perspectives on measurement and management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brida, J. G., Dalle Nogare, C., & Scuderi, R. (2017). Learning at the museum: Factors influencing visit length. Tourism Economics, 23(2), 281–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton, C., Louviere, J., & Young, L. (2009). Retaining the visitor, enhancing the experience: Identifying attributes of choice in repeat museum visitation. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 14(1), 21–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Camarero, C., & Garrido, M.-J. (2008). Improving museums’ performance through custodial, sales, and customer orientations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(5), 846–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Camarero, C., Garrido, M. J., & Vicente, E. (2011). How cultural organizations’ size and funding influence innovation and performance: The case of museums. Journal of Cultural Economics, 35(4), 247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (1998). Regression analysis of count data (Vol. 53). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cellini, R., & Cuccia, T. (2013). Museum and monument attendance and tourism flow: A time series analysis approach. Applied Economics, 45(24), 3473–3482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalle Nogare, C., & Bertacchini, E. (2015). Emerging modes of public cultural spending: Direct support through production delegation. Poetics, 49, 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Del Barrio, M. J., & Herrero, L. C. (2014). Evaluating the efficiency of museums using multiple outputs: Evidence from a regional system of museums in Spain. International journal of cultural Policy, 20(2), 221–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Del Barrio, M. J., Herrero, L. C., & Sanz, J. Á. (2009). Measuring the efficiency of heritage institutions: A case study of a regional system of museums in Spain. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 10(2), 258–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Di Lascio, F., Marta, L., Giannerini, S., Scorcu, A. E., & Candela, G. (2011). Cultural tourism and temporary art exhibitions in Italy: A panel data analysis. Statistical Methods and Applications, 20(4), 519–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dubois, H. F., & Fattore, G. (2009). Definitions and typologies in public administration research: The case of decentralization. Intl Journal of Public Administration, 32(8), 704–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fernández Blanco, V., Herrero Prieto, L. C., & Prieto García, J. (2012). Performance of cultural heritage institutions. In I. Rizzo, A. Mignosa, & R. Towse (Eds.), Handbook on economics of cultural heritage. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  20. Frey, B. S., & Meier, S. (2006). The economics of museums. In V. Ginsburgh & D. Throsby (Eds.), Handbook for economics of art and culture (pp. 1017–1047). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frey, B. S., & Pommerehne, W. W. (1989). Muses and markets: Explorations in the economics of the arts. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Greenacre, M., & Blasius, J. (2006). Multiple correspondence analysis and related methods. London: Chapman & Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hansmann, H. (1981). Nonprofit enterprise in the performing arts. The Bell Journal of Economics, 12(2), 341–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrison, J. (2000). Outsourcing in museums. International Journal of Arts Management, 2(2), 14–25.Google Scholar
  25. Hart, O., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (1997). The proper scope of government: theory and an application to prisons. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(4), 1127–1161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Herrero-Prieto, L. C. (2013). Is museum performance affected by location and institution type? Measuring cultural institution efficiency through non-parametric techniques. Institute for international integration studies working paper no. 425.Google Scholar
  27. Holmstrom, B., & Milgrom, P. (1991). Multitask principal-agent analyses: Incentive contracts, asset ownership, and job design. Journal of Law Economics and Organization, 7, 24–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Istat. (2016a). Censimento popolazione abitazioni. Available at
  29. Istat. (2016b). SITIS—Sistema di Indicatori Territoriali. Available at
  30. O’Hagan, J. W. (1998). The state and the arts: An analysis of key economic policy issues in Europe and the United States. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Pignataro, G. (2003). Performance indicators. In R. Towse (Ed.), A handbook of cultural economics (p. 366). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Ponzini, D. (2010). The process of privatisation of cultural heritage and the arts in Italy: Analysis and perspectives. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16(6), 508–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Prentice, R., Guerin, S., & McGugan, S. (1998). Visitor learning at a heritage attraction: a case study of discovery as a media product. Tourism Management, 19(1), 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schuster, J. M. (1997). Deconstructing a tower of babel: Privatisation, decentralisation and devolution as ideas in good currency in cultural policy. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 8(3), 261–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schuster, J. M. (1998). Neither public nor private: the hybridization of museums. Journal of Cultural Economics, 22(2–3), 127–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scott, C. A. (2016). Museums and public value: Creating sustainable futures. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Taheri, H., & Ansari, S. (2013). Measuring the relative efficiency of cultural-historical museums in Tehran: DEA approach. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 14(5), 431–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Throsby, D. (2010). The economics of cultural policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vuong, Q. H. (1989). Likelihood ratio tests for model selection and non-nested hypotheses. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 57(2), 307–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Weil, S. E. (1995). A cabinet of curiosities: inquiries into museums and their prospects. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  41. Weil, S. E. (1999). From being about something to being for somebody: The ongoing transformation of the American museum. Daedalus, 128(3), 229–258.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TurinTurinItaly
  2. 2.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of BresciaBresciaItaly
  3. 3.Kore University of EnnaEnnaItaly

Personalised recommendations