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Museum Universe Data File

The Museum Universe Data File is an evolving list of museums and related organizations in the United States.  It includes basic information on aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children’s museums, general museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums, and zoos. 

What Is in the Data File?

The Museum Universe Data File includes data from several sources.  The initial data was compiled in 2014 using data from IMLS administrative records for discretionary grant recipients, IRS records for tax-exempt organizations, and the recipients of grants from private foundations.

The data file includes basic information about each organization (name, address, phone, website, and revenue) plus several geographic markers. It also includes information about each organization's discipline. The discipline type is based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, which the National Center for Charitable Statistics and IRS use to classify nonprofit organizations.

How Can I Use the Museum Data?

The Museum Universe Data File is open and available for you to use without cost or restriction. You can use it to explore the potential reach of museums in communities across the United States.

Below are a few examples of how others have used the Museum Universe Data File:

What Should I Know Before I Use the Data?

There are inherent limitations in the use of data compilations like the Museum Universe Data File. We encourage you to consider how the file was created, its coverage, and how it is maintained before using it.  We also recommend you develop strategies to address its limitations. Some known limitations follow.

  • Non-museum organizations may be included. For example, a non-museum organization may be included in the data file because it has a museum-like name on its IRS record for tax-exempt organizations. Museum foundations may also be included.
  • Museums may be missing. For example, local municipal museums may be undercounted because original data sources used to create the compilation did not include them.
  • Museums may be listed multiple times. For example, one museum may be listed as both itself and its parent organization because it was listed differently in each original data sources. Duplicate records are especially common for museums located within universities.
  • Information about museums may be outdated.  The original scan and compilation of data sources occurred in 2014.  Scans are no longer being done to update the data sources or add new data sources to the compilation.  Information about museums may have changed since it was originally included in the file.

How Is the Data File Maintained?

The current Museum Universe Data File is a living file. We encourage you to review the file and email us if you know of any organizations that should be updated, added, or deleted. The list will be updated as we learn about these changes.

We previously published two point-in-time data files, Museum Universe Data File: FY 2015 Q1 and Museum Universe Data File: FY 2014 Q3.