Mellon Foundation to Fund a Series of Case Studies On Diversity To Guide Art Museum Leadership on Future Inclusivity Efforts

Mellon Foundation to Fund a Series of Case Studies On Diversity To Guide Art Museum Leadership on Future Inclusivity Efforts

In Partnership with AAMD and Ithaka S+R, Mellon Will Publish Eight Ethnographic Case Studies as Part of Work on Diversifying Cultural Institutions

Series Will Build From Findings of Mellon's 2015 Nationwide Survey of Art Museum Staff Diversity

New York, NY, February 22, 2017 -- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced it will support the creation of a series of case studies designed to guide museum leadership teams in creating successful, forward-thinking plans to improve diversity and inclusivity in their staffing practices. The case studies, to be created in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and research firm Ithaka S+R, will help a wide variety of art museums, across both urban and rural areas, address a pervasive lack of diversity in the museum community.

"We know historically underrepresented minorities still lack a clear pathway toward leadership within museums. The great majority of the 28 percent of museum employees from minority backgrounds do not have jobs that typically lead to leadership positions," said Mariët Westermann, executive vice president of the Mellon Foundation. "We hope that these case studies will provide a helpful reference to museums around the country as a set of successful practices and concrete suggestions for action."

The case studies are designed to build on the Mellon Foundation's "2015 Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey," which was the first comprehensive study of staff diversity ever conducted on museums. The study, undertaken by Ithaka S+R, found the vast majority of art museum positions – 72 percent – are held by white employees, with employees of color concentrated in facilities, security, and human resources jobs that lack a clear path to advancement to the most influential positions within the institutions. Among museum curators, conservators, educators, and leaders, only 4 percent of employees are African American, and 3 percent are Hispanic.

The Mellon Foundation envisions that this series of case studies could help museum leaders learn from each other's efforts as they collectively endeavor to make their institutions more reflective of their communities.

"These case studies of museums that have been successful in achieving a remarkable degree of diversity will instruct our community as a whole in how to better our practices and overcome a longstanding lack of inclusivity," said Christine Anagnos, Executive Director of the Association of Art Museum Directors. "By studying the challenges other institutions have faced, and overcome, we hope to learn how to make our entire sector more reflective of America's rapidly changing demographics, and how to create a more forward-looking internal culture in which every person has a well-supported and clear pathway to success."

The eight case studies will be selected from a broad array of cultural institutions, from the encyclopedic to the culturally specific, in an effort to make the series accessible and instructive for all art museums with an interest in improving their training, management, and recruitment strategies. The museums to be profiled in the studies have successfully designed inclusive strategies to diversify their staffs, and are leading the way in opening up fields historically dominated by white men to women and to employees of color. "The quantitative analysis from the survey of museum employee demographics facilitated a deeper understanding of the national composition of this sector," said Catharine Bond Hill, Managing Director of Ithaka S+R. "This series of case studies will offer a qualitative component to the research, allowing us to explore issues of inclusion and equity, in order to provide leaders in the sector with a more nuanced perspective and, ultimately, to help them effect change."

Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at

The Association of Art Museum Directors—representing 244 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico—promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice. Further information about AAMD's professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at

Ithaka S+R ( is a not-for-profit service that helps the academic and cultural communities navigate economic, demographic and technological change. Our aim is to broaden access to higher education by reducing costs while also improving student outcomes. We approach this goal with a legacy of working with universities and colleges as well as the institutions that support teaching and research—libraries, publishing organizations, cultural institutions, and scholarly societies. Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA (

For more information, contact

Laura Washington
Director of Communications
(212) 500-2554