Art museums serve as stewards of our visual culture, spaces for scholarship and exploration, and catalysts for contemplation and creativity. As public places with civic missions, they play an essential part in strengthening their local communities, providing experiences for collective learning, and sparking the imaginations of all who enter them.
Given their unique role in our society, art museums must reflect the demographics of our richly diverse country. Due to research undertaken by the Mellon Foundation and Ithaka S+R since 2014, we know these are institutions that have struggled to hire a workforce equitably represented in race and gender. We know people of color are less likely to feel welcome in museums than those who are White. We know historical collecting practices have favored the art and cultural works of men of European descent. A wider range of perspectives and knowledge in both museum leadership and broader staff help to ensure that the curation and cultural narratives present in museums are richer and more accurate, and that museums are ever more inviting spaces.
With the 2022 cycle of the art museum staff demographic survey, the Mellon Foundation and Ithaka S+R have found steady—yet still slow—progress since we began recording and interpreting this data eight years ago. The findings in this report do reveal changes in hiring patterns in the two years since the pandemic and racial justice protests of 2020, and those changes have increased the overall number of museum staff members who are people of color. While it is encouraging to see that several of these institutions have deployed effective strategies to diversify their staffs, more than 80% of certain key roles continue to be held by White people, and gains among staff members who are Black or Indigenous remain limited overall.
We share this report publicly as resource: one that might strengthen fair and equitable hiring practices, serve as an impetus for greater demographic change among museum leadership and staff, and fundamentally be of use. We look forward to seeing how this work continues to aid in the evolution of our country’s art museums.