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Diversity in American Art Museums

Over the past  year, Liam Sweeney, Deanna Marcum, and I have been working on a project with Mariët Westermann of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to examine the diversity of the staff of America’s art museums. Today, Mellon has published an introduction and overview of the diversity findings of the members of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

In this project, we worked closely with the Association and its members to develop a questionnaire about staff diversity. Because the project is based on data that museums are likely already to have been gathering themselves, typically through their human resources office, the project affords strong opportunities for comparison and benchmarking.

It is our hope that the findings from this project will help art museums grapple with the complex ways that diversity manifests itself in their organizations. Aggregate diversity figures indicate challenges in themselves, but when patterns are analyzed by discrete job categories it is clear that there are substantial divides by race, ethnicity, and gender. In addition to the overall reporting being released today, we expect to deliver comparative reports to participating museums individually, which we hope will contribute to their understanding of their own patterns set in an appropriate context.

Ithaka S+R has been building a capacity for gathering institutional data from proprietary systems for comparison and analysis. Among other projects currently underway, we are expanding our examinations of staff diversity in a study of New York City cultural organizations. We are currently conducting this project in partnership with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and with support from The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with findings to be released later this year. My colleagues and I are proud to be contributing to the study of these vital issues for cultural and memory organizations at this particular moment in time.

The Introduction to the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey and the report are both available on The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website.

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