Survey of American Museums

Kids looking at an exhibit in a museum

IMLS has moved forward on its Museum Survey as an important register of the museum universe in all its glorious plenitude of cultural activity, its importance to the country’s economy, education, heritage, and well-being. 

- IMLS Director Crosby Kemper

Museums have had a longstanding reach and presence in the nation, serving as an educational resource and as pillars of community and culture. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums, partnered with AIR to successfully design and administer the first-ever annual federal survey to gather and share data about the essential work happening across the country in museums and cultural institutions.

IMLS and AIR collaborated to pilot a comprehensive survey of the museum field in the summer of 2023. The design was based on guidance and feedback from subject matter experts and museum administrators through three years of preparation. The survey pilot collected key data directly from museums across all sectors to inform policymakers, museums, and the public about the role that museums play in our society and how to best support them. The NMS pilot gathered feedback from botanical gardens, arboretums, nature centers, zoos, aquariums, science and technology centers/museums, planetariums, history museums, historic sites, art museums, children’s museums, natural history museums, anthropology museums, and general or specialized museums.

AIR also conducted an independent evaluation of the pilot survey and a study of nonresponding museums. The pilot survey and evaluation yielded important lessons and learning that will inform the future launch of the annual survey.

Principal Researcher