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A Time Capsule from the Future: American Alliance of Museums Publishes Its 2040 Magazine Today

Category: Press Release
Cover image of the Museum 2040 magazine


November 2, 2017

ARLINGTON, VA – What happens when a magazine is published 23 years ahead of schedule? Members of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) will find out this month, as the Alliance has set its bimonthly Museum magazine in the year 2040.

Conceived to kick off the 10th anniversary of the Center for the Future of Museums (CFM), the Museum 2040 issue of the magazine is filled with articles—and ads—based on a future scenario in which:

  • The US population is older and more diverse than it was in 2017, with a ratio of retired people to working-age people having climbed from 25 percent to 38 percent.
  • Economic stratification has continued to the point where the top 10 percent of families now hold 85 percent of the wealth in the United States, while the bottom 60 percent of families hold 1 percent of the wealth.
  • The number of private schools has grown significantly, and charter schools now serve 15 percent of the public school population (compared to 5 percent in 2014).
  • Immersive, multisensory virtual reality rigs are as affordable and common in 2040 as large-screen televisions were in 2017.
  • Impact philanthropy has become the dominant guiding principle of individual and foundation funding. Nonprofits are expected to provide concrete, measurable data showing how they have improved the environment, or people’s lives, to secure support.

Yet, despite the many challenges in this scenario, museums have thrived as of 2040.  Attendance is robust, the organizations are financially stable, and museum visitors, staff, and board members reflect their communities.  How did they get there? The details are in the articles, written by up-and-coming thought leaders in the 2017 version of the museum field.

“It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Elizabeth Merritt, vice president of strategic foresight and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums. “We want museums to envision what today’s successful practices could bring about if amplified into the future. This can lead museums to create better strategies today, in order to ensure long-term success both financially and through their impact.”

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The museum world of 2040 includes many things you might expect, such as green living interior walls that save energy and promote health and well-being—while posing a humidity challenge for the objects in the collections—and lots of virtual reality devices. But it also includes some things you might not expect, such as museums meeting community needs by hiring social workers and counselors, therapists and psychologists, poets and musicians.

A free copy of Museum 2040 is available for download at

You’ll see relevant social media hashtags throughout the issue.  For general references to the issue, use #Museum2040.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Joseph Klem
Director, Public Relations
American Alliance of Museums

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