Art museum directors play a critical role in the cultural ecosystem, often serving as a bridge between trustees, staff, and the public. Directors have a pronounced influence on collections and acquisitions strategies, how museums engage the public, the financial health of the institution, and the wellbeing of museum staff. Over the last two years, museum directors have faced major challenges as their institutions have navigated a global pandemic, a reckoning for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd, continuous threats from natural disasters, as well as an inflationary period that brought precarity to many low wage workers. How have directors adapted their approach to leadership and strategy as they have navigated these various social and environmental transformations?
This second cycle of the art museum director survey, fielded in spring 2022, provides a window into how museum strategies have changed in the past two years. Notably, directors’ attention to issues of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion has strengthened substantially since early 2020, but directors still see recruiting diverse applicants and reaching new audiences as challenging. Additionally, directors are facing new challenges in staff retention and recruitment, with pay equity increasing in importance. Limits to in person gathering have sparked a dramatic change in the importance of virtual engagement. These and other findings indicate directors’ views continue to evolve with public conversations and crises and will serve as an important reference point as future researchers study the impact of the past two years on the art museum field.
Through a new line of questions, this report provides data on how museums have experienced and are preparing for climate change related damage. The relationship between museums and the environment is multifaceted. On one hand, museums face threats to their ability to keep their doors open and maintain their facilities in the face of flooding, wildfires, and poor air quality; on the other hand, leaders in the field have a responsibility to measure their institutions’ impacts on the environment. Additionally, museums have the opportunity to serve as community institutions in the face of crises through public space, cultural conservation, and education. This report lays a foundation on which we can continue to study how museums continue to adapt and address climate change.
This report comes at a crucial moment for art museums. Documenting the strategies and activities of museums, measuring progress towards goals, and identifying needs are necessary to support a diverse and sustainable public cultural life. We look forward to the opportunities for growth and reflection this research provides.
We thank the Kress Foundation and the Mellon Foundation for their continued support of this research.