In 2014, Ithaka S+R partnered with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) to study the representational diversity within art museums through quantitative means. Today, four years after the first study, we are undertaking a second cycle of the demographic survey, to measure what we hope will be positive change in the field.

The initial demographic survey arose from a growing concern that cultural organizations are struggling to reflect the American population, especially in a time of rapid demographic change. Given persistent structural inequities affecting people of color, if museums fail to reflect the breadth of American culture and experience, they will contribute to harmful narratives of exclusion and perhaps render themselves irrelevant to the public. After publishing the overall survey results, we provided individual participating museums with their own findings. These outputs had a real impact on individual museum participants, the broader field, and its funders.

Subsequently, many museum directors expressed an interest in better understanding what could be done at the institutional level to improve issues of diversity in their own museums. Answering this question required qualitative research, geared toward studying the climate, policies, and practices of diverse museums, in order to share lessons of successes and challenges with the broader field. Qualitative research also allowed for deeper investigations into practices of equity and inclusion, which are difficult to quantify. Ithaka S+R visited eight museums to learn how they engage with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion as they pertain to the museum’s staff, board, audience and program. These case studies are publicly available online through Ithaka S+R, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and AAMD.

For this new project, we are collecting demographic data from art museums in order to gauge the diversity of the field in 2018 in order to compare the demographic composition to our previous findings. This effort has been structured similarly to our 2014/15 study, with a modestly expanded survey instrument. With cross-sectional data from 2014 and 2018, as well as findings from a year of qualitative research with relatively diverse museums, we are looking forward to bringing new insights on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the field. We expect to publish findings in the winter of 2019.

Many thanks to our advisory committee members for their guidance and support in this process:

  • Alison Gilchrest – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Program Officer – Arts and Cultural Heritage
  • Belinda Tate – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Director
  • Brent Benjamin – St. Louis Art Museum, Director
  • Christine Anagnos – Association of Art Museum Directors, Executive Director
  • George Bassi – Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Director
  • Glenn Lowry – Museum of Modern Art, Director
  • Joe Schenk – Art Museum of South Texas, Director
  • Johnnetta Cole – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Senior Consulting Fellow
  • Laura Lott – American Alliance of Museums, President and CEO
  • Lori Fogarty – Oakland Museum of California, Director and CEO
  • Madeleine Grynsztejn – Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Director
  • Mariët Westermann – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Executive Vice President for Programs and Research
  • Nicole Ivy – George Washington University, Assistant Professor, American Studies. Previously Director of Inclusion at the American Alliance of Museums
  • Rod Bigelow – Crystal Bridges, Executive Director and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
  • Susan Taylor – New Orleans Museum of Art, Director