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At its core, this is a study of workplace equity and organizational culture in art museums. Fifty-four art museums signed up to participate in this pilot study, and we heard directly from 1,933 workers (a 27% response rate of those invited to participate). We also collected data from directors and human-resource (HR) officers within the participating museums on topics where they have unique institution-level insights. We designed the study to include categories that would be comparable to industry standards (e.g., Association of Art Museum Directors [AAMD] geographic groups for museum location) and to findings about the art museum field (e.g., aligning departments with those used in the Mellon demographic study1), and would provide workplace-satisfaction comparisons to US workers overall.2

MMF partnered with cryptographers at Boston University to process and store the data using secure multi-party computation to ensure the protection and confidentiality of all individual responses and museum-level data. Everyone who participated in the survey was provided with access to their museum’s aggregate data (provided their museum opted to receive such data) along with comparisons to institutions of similar sizes, regions, and types. In addition, museums received insights into the level of equity on key indicators by race, ethnicity, and gender for their institutions through parity scores developed by the research team. Survey respondents whose museums opted out of museum-level data still received aggregate data for all the participating museums.

While much of the story we share below will be about all workers who completed the survey, we also broke this group down in a wide range of ways to understand response patterns in greater depth. The different lenses used at various points in the report below include three main categories: individual demographics3 (race/ethnicity, gender, disability status, sexual orientation, and generation); individual job characteristics (seniority, department, union status, full-time or part-time, and discrimination experienced); and organizational characteristics (budget size, type, region, and cost of living).

Whenever we compare groups within the text, we ensure that we’re more than 95% confident statistically that the differences are not due to chance (a calculation that considers sample sizes and magnitude of differences being compared). Any exceptions are noted.

Museums Moving Forward’s work would not be possible without the generous support of lead funders the Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation, as well as the Terra Foundation for American Art and Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. We are grateful to Emily Wei Rales and Kathy Halbreich for being critical thought partners. This study, like all of MMF’s projects, has been a profoundly collaborative endeavor. We are especially grateful to Dr. Gabe Kaptchuk and Dr. Mayank Varia, both professors of computer science and applied cryptography at Boston University. We also wish to express our appreciation to former colleagues at Slover Linett Audience Research and LaPlaca Cohen, who offered critical support during the development of this study, especially Melody Buyukozer Dawkins, Bayaz Zeynalova, and Danielle Iwata.

MMF is an ever-evolving group of dedicated museum workers who join projects and take turns leading them, often in addition to their other jobs, and we owe them all a tremendous thanks. In the months leading up to this report, MMF’s team included Makeda Best, Connie Butler, Marissa Del Toro, Jason Dubs, Alex Klein, Matthew Villar Miranda, Liz Munsell, Margot Norton, and Cathy Richmond Robinson. MMF also has a group of trusted advisors who have been vital in shaping this work, including Christine Y. Kim, Jenni Kim, Brooke A. Minto, Jessica Morgan, Kelli Morgan, and Olga Viso. We owe gratitude to our legal advisors, Melissa Passman and Christine Steiner, and our design and web team, Harsh Patel and Michael Guidetti, with the help of Genevieve Hoffman. We also wish to thank copy editor Jane Hyun and Katherine Brinson, who read an early draft of the report. We also acknowledge the following organizations for being in dialogue with us along the way: American Association of Museum Curators (AAMC), American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD), Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, The Burns Halperin Report, the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL), the Equity Coalition, Incluseum, Ithaka S+R, and MASS Action. And finally, we extend our deep thanks to the staff, HR officers, and museum directors who took the survey and contributed to this fieldwide initiative.

Partner Museums

  • Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts
  • The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
  • ASU Art Museum
  • Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Buffalo AKG Art Museum
  • Chazen Museum of Art
  • Columbus Museum of Art
  • Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
  • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
  • The Contemporary Austin
  • Crocker Art Museum
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Dia Art Foundation
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Frye Art Museum
  • Harn Museum of Art
  • Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
  • LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
  • Menil Collection
  • Mint Museum
  • Mississippi Museum of Art
  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
  • The Morgan Library & Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
  • Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
  • Nasher Museum of Art
  • Nasher Sculpture Center
  • National Gallery of Art
  • New Museum
  • The Newark Museum of Art
  • Oakland Museum of California
  • Parrish Art Museum
  • Pérez Art Museum Miami
  • Portland Art Museum
  • Portland Museum of Art
  • Queens Museum
  • Reynolda House Museum of American Art
  • Saint Louis Art Museum
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Speed Art Museum
  • Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
  • Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Toledo Museum of Art
  • University of Michigan Museum of Art
  • Walker Art Center
  • Weatherspoon Art Museum
  • Weisman Art Museum
  • Williams College Museum of Art
  • Worcester Art Museum

  1. ^ The Mellon Foundation and Ithaka S&R Research regularly conduct research to understand and track the diversity by race, ethnicity, and gender of art museum staff. The most recent study in 2022 provides invaluable insights that we build upon in this research.
  2. ^ See Profile of Participating Art Museums in Appendix A
  3. ^ We want to acknowledge that these demographic groups include a great deal of diversity of experiences. While these categories can be helpful for making comparisons, they don’t reflect the intersectionality and complexity of people’s identities.