Before the COVID-19 and the racial justice crises hit in 2020, more than 90 percent of U.S. art museum directors viewed education and public programming as top priorities for fully realizing their organizational missions, a survey conducted by Ithaka S+R and funded by the Kress Foundation finds. Based on responses from nearly a hundred and fifty museum directors, the Ithaka S+R Art Museum Director Survey 2020 (37 pages, PDF) found that, as of March 2020, social justice programming was seen as a high priority by just over half of respondents, including 64 percent of academic museums and 47 percent of municipal museums. And at least 80 percent of respondents strongly agreed that internal changes such as diversifying the board, ensuring pay equity among staff, and improving accessibility were needed to make their institutions more equitable. In addition, diversifying collections based on artists' identity race/ethnicity, gender, and/or sexual orientation) was seen as a high priority in acquisition strategies, while 41 percent of academic museums directors and 30 percent of municipal museum directors said they wished it were easier to deaccession objects that are no longer aligned with their mission. The survey also found that lack of financial resources was the most commonly cited constraint on museum directors' ability to execute strategy, and that while endowment income and private philanthropy were the largest components of museum revenue, earned income also accounts for a significant portion of revenue — highlighting the financial vulnerability museums face during physical closures due to the pandemic.
(Photo credit: Baltimore Museum of Art)