This winter, we will field our first national survey of art museum directors in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and with support from the Kress Foundation. This study builds on our previous work with art museums, including the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey, case studies with eight AAMD museums, and research into the organizational structure of art museums, as well as our work with leaders of other collecting and educational organizations. The survey will capture the experiences and perspectives of art museum leaders in the United States on the opportunities and challenges facing their organizations and will serve as a strong complement to our work with a variety of other stakeholders in the museum sector. We are grateful to our partners from AAMD on this project, Chris Anagnos, Alison Wade, and Stephanie Yao, as well as Max Marmor and Lisa Schermerhorn from the Kress Foundation for their guidance and support.

We have also had the opportunity to speak with an exceptional group of advisors who are helping to inform the themes we will focus on in the upcoming study. The members of our advisory committee include:

  • Brent Benjamin, Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Rod Bigelow, Executive Director & Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • Terry Carbone, Program Director for American Art, The Henry Luce Foundation
  • Jill Deupi, Beaux Arts Director & Chief Curator of The Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami
  • Lori Fogarty, Director & CEO, Oakland Museum of California
  • Lial Jones, Mort and Marcy Friedman Director & CEO, Crocker Art Museum
  • Heather MacDonald, Senior Program Officer, The Getty Foundation
  • Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President for Strategic Foresight, American Alliance of Museums & Founding Director of the Center for the Future of Museums 

Our target population for this survey will include directors at all AAMD museums as well as directors at larger academic museums from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). By surveying the chief executive of each art museum, this project will provide insight on high-level issues from an organizational leadership perspective. We will assess strategic priorities, resource allocations, leadership practices, and current and expected future staffing. 

Beyond these broad issues, four thematic areas have emerged from our conversations with advisors and partners as the most critical and timely to capture in the upcoming survey. Across these themes, we will also explore the overarching topics of commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, sustainability, and assessment and evaluation.

Public Trust and Engagement: What strategies are museums employing to engage with their existing and new audiences? In what formats are they engaging with community members who may have been historically excluded?

Collections Care and Stewardship: What are the opportunities and barriers to maximizing the value of collections in terms of conservation, digital access, and lending practices? What strategies are directors utilizing to increase the diversity of their collections and address deaccessioning and repatriation?

Fiscal Health: How are museums addressing their financial viability in response to funding trends in philanthropy, government, membership, and attendance? How are directors navigating concerns about sources of philanthropic funding and other changes in public perception? 

Organizational and Talent Management: What strategies are museum directors employing to attract and retain staff? To what extent are they engaged in practices to diversify staff and foster an equitable and inclusive environment? How do museum directors maximize operations with limited staff resources?

These themes and research questions will guide us in creating the questionnaire for museum directors, which we will develop, test, and finalize over the coming months. We look forward to sharing our progress on this project and learning more about this important community.