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January 31, 2019

Museum Leadership Remains Predominantly White in 2018, Study Finds

NEW YORK—A new study conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation found that people of color made up 35 percent of art institution employees in 2018, based on data on over thirty thousand museum employees from 332 museums. This is an increase from their findings in 2015, when 28 percent of museum staffers were from minority backgrounds. The 2015 survey marked the Mellon Foundation’s first nationwide survey tracking the demographics of race, ethnicity, and gender among art museum staffers, and was prompted by concerns regarding the lack of diversity in the arts sector.

The 2018 survey confirms that little change has been made at the executive leadership level of art institutions: 11 percent of museum directors in major leadership roles were held by people of color in 2015, while that number barely budged in 2018, when it was 12 percent. Most of the increases in racial diversity came in educational and curatorial departments. In 2015, 12 percent of curators were nonwhite; in 2018, it rose slightly to 16 percent.

A 2017 study commissioned by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) found that 46 percent of all boards in American museums are 100 percent white, though 77 percent of museum leadership members espoused the belief that expanding the racial and ethnic diversity of their boards is essential for their institutions.

Earlier this month, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), an organization with more than four thousand members, launched a new $4 million initiative to focus on “diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion work.” It also has the aim of diversifying boards at museums across the US. Backed by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alice L. Walton Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, the “Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion” initiative will provide training and resources to institutions over the course of the next three years to help them better reflect the communities they serve.

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