Museum Facts

Museums Serve the Public

  • Museums provide many social services, including programs for children on the autism spectrum, English as a Second Language classes and programs for older adults with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairments. Some museums also facilitate job training programs, provide vegetable gardens for low-income communities and serve as locations for supervised visits through the family court system.
  • Many museums also offer programs tailored to veterans and military families. In the summer of 2013, more than 2,100 museums participated in the Blue Star Museums initiative, offering free admission to all active-duty and reserve personnel and their families. This particular effort served over 700,000 people, while many other museums offered military discounts or free admission throughout the year.

Museums Are Trustworthy

  • Americans view museums as one of the most important resources for educating our children and as one of the most trustworthy sources of objective information.
  • Museums are considered a more reliable source of historical information than books, teachers or even personal accounts by relatives, according to a study by Indiana University. 
  • Museums preserve and protect more than a billion objects.

Museums Are Popular

  • Americans from all ranges of income and education visit museums.
  • There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than the attendance for all major league sporting events and theme parks combined (483 million in 2011). By 2006, museums already received an additional 524 million online visits a year just from adults, a number that continues to grow.
  • Museum volunteers contribute a million hours of service every week. 

Museums Educate Communities 

  • Museums tell important stories by collecting, preserving, researching and interpreting objects, living specimens and historical records.
  • Museums help communities better understand and appreciate cultural diversity.

Museums Partner with Schools

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education activities; the typical museum devotes three-quarters of its education budget to K-12 students.
  • Museums receive approximately 55 million visits each year from students in school groups. 
  • Museums help teach the state, local, or core curriculum, tailoring their programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies.

Museums Are Economic Engines 

  • Museums employ more than 400,000 Americans.
  • Museums directly contribute $21 billion to the U.S. economy each year. They generate billions more through indirect spending by their visitors.
  • 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities. These travelers—including visitors to museums—spend 63% more on average than other leisure travelers.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has found that arts and cultural production constitute 3.2 percent of the nation’s entire economy, a $504 billion industry.
  • The nonprofit arts and culture industry annually generates over $135 billion in economic activity, supports more than 4.1 million full-time jobs and returns over $22 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. 
  • Governments that support the arts see an average return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.

Museums Serve Every Community…

  • About 17% of museums are located in rural areas with fewer than 20,000 residents; other museums reach these communities with traveling vans, portable exhibits and robust online resources. 
  • In 2012, 37% of museums were free at all times or had suggested admission fees only; nearly all the rest offered discounts or free admission days.
  • Teachers, students and researchers benefit from access to trustworthy information through online collections and exhibits, although many museums need more help enhancing online access and developing their digital collections to meet this need.
  • Museum websites serve a diverse online community, teachers, parents, students (including students who are home-schooled) and the general public among them.

…But Are Struggling to Meet Community Needs

  • Only a small (and shrinking) percentage of America’s 17,500+ museums receive federal funding of any kind.
  • Despite growth in the economy overall, more than two-thirds of museums reported economic stress at their institutions in 2012.