April 28, 2022

IMLS Announces New Pilot Survey of American Museums

Newark Museum Explorer Scene tour.
A Newark Museum Explorer discusses The Voice of the City of New York Interpreted, 1920-1922 by Joseph Stella with visitors. (Photo courtesy of the Newark Museum)

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services, in consultation with scientific experts at the American Institutes for Research, announced today the beginning of research work on the rare opportunity to establish a National Museum Survey (NMS) as part of the Federal Statistical System. The new survey will inform IMLS initiatives and provide relevant information that policymakers and practitioners can use to make informed decisions about the support and strategic management of museums.

The National Museum Survey captures the scope and scale of museums’ presence and reach within the United States of America. This establishment survey collects foundational, high-level data directly from museums to inform policymakers, the museum field, and the public about the social, cultural, and economic roles that the nation’s diverse museums play in American society.

“IMLS has moved forward on its Museum Survey as an important register of the museum universe in all its glorious plenitude of cultural activity, its importance to the country’s economy, education, heritage, and well-being,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “The project is a direct result of the agency’s commitment to and relationship with the museum world.”

The research team has assembled a Steering Committee of 10 subject matter experts, including museum association representatives, museum practitioners, and researchers. This group is actively engaged in providing grounded guidance and feedback regarding field needs, existing research efforts, and technical feedback on the survey design and implementation. These members also present a bridge between IMLS and the entire museum sector and advise on messaging and outreach.

“This project represents IMLS’ commitment to serving as a robust resource on the presence and reach of the nation’s museums for scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. This approach builds on lessons learned from previous efforts and current practice in the field,” noted Deputy Director for the Office of Museum Services Laura Huerta Migus.

The project will move forward updating the estimated population of museums across all sectors, doing preliminary research for samples of museums to assess the appeal of various features of the survey’s design, and then proceeding to develop the survey instrument and launching a pilot in summer 2023.

During this initial two-year planning phase, the project’s primary focus is taking the time to intentionally develop the groundwork documents necessary to set the NMS up for long-term success.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.