Pull or Push #2: The art gallery

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On Monday, we described a pull system in a factory and how it differed from a push system often used by software teams. Yesterday we posted the first off our 10-day series looking at push and pull systems in everyday life. We ask what you think, and offer our thoughts.

Today’s scenario is an art gallery.

First ever queue at the Tate Modern. Image courtesy of @se1

Queue on the first day of public access to Tate Modern in May 2000. Image courtesy of @se1


Our thoughts
Like the coffee shop from yesterday, it depends on how customers are handled. In this case, how people enter the gallery.
Since the 90s, major exhibitions (such as the Tate’s Alexander Calder exhibition) usually manage entrance through timed tickets: a limited amount of tickets are sold for entrance within time slots throughout the day. The duration a visitor can stay in the exhibition is not limited (apart from at closing time), but they assume that visitors will only be able to manage so long in an exhibition: they can calculate the average time taken by visitors based on analytics from previous exhibitions, factoring in the difference in size and complexity (or they just guess!). This is a PUSH system with a strict work-in-progress (WIP) limit.  The idea is, by limiting the amount of people present at any one time, the exhibition won’t get too crowded and visitors can enjoy the show. The gallery has to balance ticket sales and viewing pleasure: too many tickets per session and the viewing pleasure diminishes; too few ticket sales per session and the gallery doesn’t maximise profit.
Main collections in major galleries (that is, the free, walk-in-and-out-at-your-pleasure part of the gallery) and small galleries have a much simpler PUSH system: people can wander in and out freely. There is little, if any, control of the number of people in the gallery at any one time – but certainly no way of shepherding them once they are inside. If everyone went to one room it would be over-crowded. Such systems rely on even spread of people throughout the gallery.


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