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PRESS RELEASE - MMF Releases Report on Workplace Equity and Organizational Culture in US Art Museums

Museums Moving Forward Releases Report on Workplace Equity
and Organizational Culture in US Art Museums

October 5, 2023

Museums Moving Forward (MMF), a staff-driven initiative to support greater equity and accountability in art museum workplaces through data and research, has released a deep and expansive report about workplace equity and organizational culture in US art museums. This multi-year project included the participation of 1,933 staff from more than 54 art museums nationwide and demonstrates how museum worker demographics (age, gender, disability, race, and ethnicity) and job characteristics (part-time/full-time, seniority, union status, department) correlate with promotion rates, lengths of tenure, turnover, and more. MMF has developed new metrics to measure change over time, as they plan to conduct this study every two years. Key findings from this initial report include:

·      While 82% of art museum workers believe they are doing meaningful work, they are more dissatisfied than US workers overall.  

·      60% of art museum workers are thinking about leaving their jobs, and 68% are considering leaving the field altogether. Major sources of dissatisfaction cited are low pay, burnout, and lack of opportunities for growth or career advancement. 

·      74% of workers cannot always pay their basic living expenses with their museum compensation alone, including 29% of executives. This means significant portions of the workforce cannot afford to work in art museums if they cannot subsidize their pay through other sources.

·      The path to promotion and seniority is long and uncertain, with an average tenure of 12 years in an institution before a promotion. 

·      Art museum workplaces are overwhelmingly white. However, entry-level workers are the most diverse by every measure, and there is growing racial diversity in executive leadership. 

·      More than a quarter of art museum workers have experienced discrimination at their current workplaces. A crisis in the systems of accountability is made evident by only half of workers reporting these experiences because they feel nothing will be done about them—a pattern consistent through every level of seniority.

“I have worked in museums for many decades, beginning as a junior employee and working my way up through various levels of management until recently being appointed as a director,” remarks Connie Butler (MMF Co-Founder and Board member, and Director of MoMA PS1). “As someone committed to this field and as a believer in the important work that museums do, I know that the work of this study is long overdue, and the future of this field significantly depends on our collective ability to know and address workplace inequities.”

Art museums have experienced unprecedented strain and scrutiny in recent years as they seek to evolve at the pace of conversations now unfolding among artists and workers. Workers have called for museums’ programmatic interest in artists who explore forms of social justice to be matched with commitments to changing internal practices and cultural legacies that too often prevent them from excelling in their lives and careers. Mia Locks (MMF Co-Founder, Director, and Board President) says, “It is not enough to diversify the artists whose artworks museums are collecting and exhibiting; it is time to take better care of museum workers.” Ongoing unionizations and social-media outcries have made clear that the needs of workers are not being met. The pandemic made this challenging situation even more dire, as inequality across the US has become ever more impossible to ignore.

“The information we have gathered is crucial to understanding the full picture of what it’s like to work inside art museums,” says Makeda Best (MMF Co-Founder and Board Treasurer, and Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at Oakland Museum of California Art). “MMF’s data shows that art museums are especially challenging places to work, especially for women and people of color.”

“Organizational culture is key to every museum’s success,” adds Matthew Villar Miranda (MMF Co-Founder and Board Secretary, and Curatorial Associate at Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive). “The workers powering these institutions are vital to carrying out their missions, and as such, assessing organizational culture to better understand and improve workplace conditions should be prioritized.” As the US museum sector grapples with the need for more diversity and equitable representation in its workforce and leadership, Locks says “the focus must be not only on hiring and improving the museum career pipeline but also on retention.”

MMF is hosting a series of webinars about the 2023 Report as well as deeper dives on specific topics: 

MMF 2023 Report Overview Presentation: October 5th at 2pm PST/5pm EST

MMF 2023 Report Deeper Dive: October 17th at 10am PST/1pm EST

MMF 2023 Report Deeper Dive: November 16th at 11am PST/1pm EST

MMF 2023 Report Deeper Dive: December 4th at 9am PST/12pm EST

About Museums Moving Forward

Museums Moving Forward (MMF) is an independent, limited-life organization devoted to envisioning and creating a more just museum sector by 2030. As the steward of a diverse network of museums, cultural workers, and philanthropists across the US, MMF drives urgent conversations about the most effective ways to make and measure real change inside museum workplaces. Through data, discourse, and empowerment, MMF is committed to the evolution of museums toward equity by improving the working conditions and lives of cultural workers.

With the early support of Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation, MMF emerged in 2020 through urgent and timely conversations with a loosely affiliated network of art museum staff members across the country, united by a commitment to fostering a more equitable, accountable, and transparent sector. A women and POC-led organization, MMF developed its mission through open discussions with museum curators, educators, and other program staff about the pressing need to create a more just field, so that current and future generations of cultural workers and artists can fully thrive. MMF’s work is generously supported by Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Museums Moving Forward Vision Council. MMF is a 501c3 nonprofit. To learn more, visit:

MMF plans to launch a second round of data collection in 2024.

Press contact: [email protected]