Now in its pilot phase, the National Museum Survey (NMS) will aim to capture the scope and scale of museums’ presence and reach within the United States of America over time. Once mature, the survey will collect foundational, high-level data directly from museums to inform policymakers, the museum field, and the public about the social, cultural, educational, and economic roles that the nation’s diverse museums play in American society.

Who is included: The NMS will seek to reach a broad range of museum disciplines, including zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and arboretums; nature and science centers; history museums and historic sites; art museums; children’s museums; natural history museums; and specialized museums.

Get involved: IMLS is currently working on respondent recruitment! Contact to make sure IMLS has your museum’s contact information, to learn more about the survey, and to get involved with the NMS!

Purpose: The pilot survey will ensure that the mature survey is statistically sound, with an optimized user experience and content that meets the field’s needs. The mature survey will provide statistics of the scope and scale of museums’ presence and reach within the United States.

Use: NMS data will be useful to researchers, journalists, the public, local practitioners, and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels, and will be used for planning, evaluation, and policymaking.

Content: Data will include institutional characteristics and facilities; financial information; human resources information; admissions, visitors, and outreach; digital presence; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Click here to access a PDF of the survey questions (PDF, 1.2MB).

Methods: The NMS will be administered online through emails sent directly to selected museums. The pilot survey’s design incorporated the input of hundreds of institutions (PDF, 156KB) with the goal of being relatively easy to complete. Responding institutions will have access to the survey’s questions in a PDF, allowing them to collect the information separately before inputting their data. The length of the survey will depend on the availability of the data requested at each individual institution.

Coverage: Around 7,050 museums of varying discipline, size, and geography will be contacted to complete the NMS pilot in 2023. Starting in 2025, the mature survey will expand this number to help ensure that the data collected is statistically sound.

Frequency: The 2023 NMS pilot is just part of the project’s nearly four-year planning phase, during which researchers are incorporating the input of thousands of museums to set the NMS up for long-term success. IMLS plans to collect data annually starting in 2025.

National Museum Survey Pilot Acknowledgements (PDF, 156KB)