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Social Impact

The true value of museums lies in their social impact: their effect on the well-being of the people around them. Museums can play an essential role in sustaining strong, inclusive, and resilient communities by enriching education systems, bolstering economies, strengthening the social fabric of communities, improving people’s well-being, and beyond.

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REOPENINGS: What Museums Learned Leading through Crisis


Museums have sought to be a reflection of their diverse communities. How has the pandemic shifted the field’s thinking about social impact and how museums engage with the people they serve?

Museum Social Impact in Practice (MSIIP)

The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex with an open jaw next to the words "Museum Social Impact"

Museum Social Impact in Practice (MSIIP) is a three-year initiative led by the American Alliance of Museums and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services launched in January 2024. The project provides technical assistance to museum professionals seeking to measure their museums’ social impact by implementing an IMLS-funded museum social impact toolkit. MSIIP builds on the Measurement of Museum Social Impact (MOMSI) project, which concluded in 2023. With leadership from the Utah Division of Arts & Museums (UA&M) and Thanksgiving Point, MOMSI addressed the critical need of establishing best practices for measuring social impact within the museum field, advancing museum practice by measuring the social impact museums have on visitors and developing a tool for museums to better understand their social impact on individuals and communities. The result was a museum social impact toolkit which enables museums of all sizes the opportunity to measure their own social impact.

The MSIIP team will leverage experience gathering and analyzing museum social impact measurements through MOMSI to build a community of practice centered around supporting institutions of all sizes and types from across the United States. This project will recruit thirty participant museums, provide training for using the MOMSI social impact toolkit, host focus groups and meetings, and develop formative and summative evaluations. As a result, participants will be better able to measure their own social impact, connect with their peers in the field conducting similar work, and advocate for their organizations based on their findings.

What is social impact? Social impact can be defined as the effect of an activity on the social fabric of the community and the well-being of the individuals and families who live there.

Health and Wellbeing

This outcome is measured through statements regarding physical health, such as diet and exercise habits, along with mental and emotional health. It recognizes that museums are restorative spaces and are places of community activities.

Valuing Diverse Communities

Visiting museums expands awareness of cultures and ways of life. This outcome is measured by understanding connection to community along with perspective of self and others.

Continued Education and Engagement

Learning occurs across various spaces and time, including in museums and through the programs they offer. This outcome is measured by understanding in what ways wonder, curiosity, and interest are stimulated in museum visitors. 

Strengthened Relationships

This outcome strives to understand the positive interactions people have with others. It is measured through statements about social and family relationships, the bond between people, and the ways in which relationships are nurtured.

Museum Social Impact Toolkit & Report

A title slide for the Measuring Social Impact session from the 2023 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo

Measuring museum social impact is a long journey, and requires time and commitment. Download and read the Museum Social Impact Report which shares results from a national study including implications for the museum field. The Measurement of Museum Social Impact initiative (MOMSI) research study is validated by a museum social impact survey, and published a social impact toolkit.

MOMSI also designed a toolkit to set museums up for success through summaries of tasks, checklists, best practices, language and materials to use, and tips for success for each step in the process.

MOMSI study session recording

The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex with an open jaw next to the words "Museum Social Impact"

Watch this recorded session from the 2023 AAM Annual Meeting to hear about the study’s goals and how they’ve been achieved. Then learn about results from the social impact survey and how two participating museums are using the findings.

This project is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, award number MG-252969-OMS-23.

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