Study Says: Museums Slowly Becoming More Diverse

A comprehensive survey of art museums in the United States has found that institutions are hiring more diverse employees—though progress   among some departments, is steady but slow.

To gauge whether progress is being made, researchers looked at 2018 data from 332 art museums and more than 30,000 employees. They found that people of color now make up 35 percent of museum hires, compared to 26 percent in 2015. Much of this change was in curatorial and education departments. In 2018, 16 percent of curators and 26 percent of education workers were people of color, compared to 12 and 20 percent in 2015.

But in other departments, changes in diversity have been negligible. Eleven percent of conservation roles were filled by people of color in 2018, a meager increase of one from 10 percent in 2015. Similarly, the proportion of museum leadership roles, which includes executive positions, rose from 11 percent in 2015 to 12 percent in 2018. 

This data suggests that progress is “uneven,” and that the most senior leadership positions are especially lacking in diversity, notes  a foreword to the new study. But efforts are underway to level the playing field.      

The Association of Art Museum Directors, for instance, recently announced a paid internship program for minority college students. And the Mellon Foundation has established a $4 million grant to support diversity among museum boards.

The survey was undertaken by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Alliance of Museums and the research firm Ithaka S+R.