In early 2020, Ithaka S+R launched the inaugural art museum director survey. This survey gathered the attitudes of museum directors on topics including leadership and strategy, budget and staffing, visitors and the public, and collections. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the doors of museums across the country, the museum director survey had been in the field only a few weeks. We closed the survey with a fifty percent response rate. The evidence gathered served as a snapshot of the priorities in the field immediately before the pandemic shut down physical access to cultural spaces. 

Now, two years later, we are conducting the second cycle of the art museum director survey, funded by the Kress Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. While we have endeavored to keep the survey as similar as possible to the original in order to measure change over time, we have added and removed several questions in order to capture newly relevant evidence of directors’ priorities. Our revisions to the instrument have been greatly helped by our advisory committee: 

  • Terry Carbone, Program Director for American Art, Henry Luce Foundation
  • Jill Deupi, Director, Lowe Museum, University of Miami
  • Lial Jones, Director, Crocker Museum of Art
  • Franklin Sirmans, Director, Pérez Museum of Art
  • Alejandra Peña Gutiérrez, Director, Weisman Museum of Art, University of Minnesota

Additionally, our survey design benefited from testing by:

  • Gretchen Dietrich, Director, Utah Museum of Fine Art, University of Utah
  • Cameron Kitchin, Director, Cincinnati Art Museum
  • Kristen Shepherd, Director, Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg
  • Richard Rinehart, Director, Samek Art Museum, Bucknell University

The previous survey found that art museum directors viewed education and public programming as top priorities for fully realizing their organizational missions. We also found that the vast majority of museum expenses are allocated toward personnel and that endowment income and private philanthropy are the largest components of museum revenue. However, earned income also composes a significant portion of revenue. These are just a few of the topics where we expect to measure change over the last two years. 

We have added questions addressing topics such as climate change, the pandemic, and community service. While we will not be able to compare the results from these questions with the 2020 findings, we will be able to offer a snapshot of a variety of activities that museums are currently undertaking and also measure change moving forward. 

The survey will be sent to a combination of members of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), with a total survey population of 409 museum directors. This survey is designed with survey logic to gather the perspectives of both academic museum directors as well as municipal museum directors. 

This survey will allow us to share important insights into the challenges and opportunities that museum directors are currently facing based on internal and external factors. We will be able to report on their collective perspectives as well as compare perspectives based on various institutional and identity characteristics. With supplemental funding from the Mellon Foundation, we will also be able to integrate the art museum director survey with the 2022 art museum staff demographic survey, combining demographic analysis with directors’ perspectives. We hope these findings can be used to inform decision making among leaders in the field, and provide guidance to cultural institutions through uncertain times. 

For any questions or feedback, please feel free to email