July 24, 2023

Maria Enie, menie@vancomm.com

Full survey will help shape the work of policymakers and museum professionals in continuing to best serve their communities, while preserving our nation’s historical, natural, and cultural infrastructure

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is launching a pilot National Museum Survey (NMS) as part of its ongoing mission to invest in the future of museums. The pilot survey will be fielded from July 24 through September 15, 2023, and will inform the feasibility of an annual nationwide survey that would gather and share foundational data about the essential work happening in the nation’s museums.

Anticipating the successful completion of the pilot, the full annual NMS will be rolled out in 2025 and would, for the first time, capture the scope, reach, and importance of the incredible work of museums and related institutions across the U.S., collecting information that will help shape the work of policymakers and museum professionals through published data tools and topical reports.

“Currently, there is no annual federal data collection about museums in the United States, and policymakers have acknowledged that there is a real need for reliable national statistics,” said IMLS Deputy Director Laura Huerta Migus. “IMLS is here to answer that call. By showcasing the scope and reach of museums in communities across the country, the NMS will inspire new ways to efficiently invest in our nation’s historical, natural, and cultural infrastructure.”

Approximately 7,050 museums of varying disciplines, sizes, and geographies will be invited to complete the NMS pilot in 2023. The survey will include 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. The survey will capture a variety of information about the institution’s characteristics and facilities; financial data; human resources information; admissions, visitors, and outreach; digital presence; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal of the pilot is to explore the best ways to engage museums for successful survey participation.

“IMLS has surveyed the nation’s libraries for many years, but this is the first time the organization will be reaching out to capture the work of museums and related institutions. This represents a significant investment in the field, and it will, we believe, create an understanding of the important role that museums play in our nation,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper III. “Museum practitioners, researchers, journalists, the public, local practitioners, and policymakers can use the data for planning, evaluation, and policymaking. It will help them better engage with the public, develop connections with policymakers, and connect with others in the field.”

IMLS has been engaging in the groundwork for this pilot for more than two years and will use the data from the pilot to understand how best to execute the full survey. The pilot phase of the survey will be administered via emails sent directly to selected museums.

In 2025, after the full launch is executed and completed, IMLS plans to use their findings to build dynamic dashboards and other data products that will allow users to interact with the data and enables institutions to compare themselves to others in their museum discipline.

The NMS will be a consequential tool for IMLS to determine best practices in supporting the needs of cultural institutions across the nation.

Learn more about this effort by visiting the IMLS website and searching “National Museum Survey,” visiting https://www.imls.gov/research-evaluation/data-collection/national-museum-survey, and/or subscribing to the IMLS newsletter for updates.

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. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.