Museum Statistics: Considering Reality

It seems that people today either like statistics, or they don’t. I do. They may seem harsh without a holistic context, but sometimes I think us humans need to consider reality. We need to get down to brass tax here.

Although I am only a novice in the museum world, one of the first things I quickly realized is that the average person has no idea what goes on behind the scenes of museums. It is complicated, messy, stressful, and at the same time wonderful.

I thought I would pull a few statistics about museums from the American Alliance of Museums and from the Museums Association in the UK. If you want to check out more information, please check out their home pages by clicking on their names and following the link.



  • The majority of museums in the United States (28%) operate with only 6-15 full time staff members.
  • Lee than 1% of self reported museums are children’s or youth museums (and we wonder why children do not like museums)
  • 32% of these museums also operate with a budget that is less than $1M.
  • There are 850 million visitors to US museum each year, more than attendance to major league sporting events and theme parks combined. (WOW- we have even less of an excuse!)
  • Museums receive over 55 million visits from schools per year. (Again, why are things not working for kids?)
  • Museums contribute $21B to the US economy every year.
  • Polls show that visitors consider museums more reliable sources of information than books, teachers, or personal accounts from relatives. (What a responsibility!)




  • The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world compared to the GDP.
  • The cultural and creative industries account for £16.6B in exports and 2M jobs.
  • In 2008/9, 97% of museum visitors to hub museums were satisfied or very satisfied with their visit.
  • In 2008, children under 16 made up 28% of visits to hub museums.
  • Museums that do not charge admission see a greater increase in visits than those who do charge.
  • There are 104 museums in England that have 132 designated collections, (meaning the collection is of national and international importance).
  • 90% of museum collections are in storage. (Need more space! People need to see this stuff!)


Next time you go to a museum, consider some of these statistics! Museums have a huge responsibility to the public, and in some ways the public to them as well. Museums can begin to work with outside groups to improves conditions by increasing staff, increasing funding, and facilitating the circulation of fresh ideas by promoting awareness of key factors.


Live long and prosper.


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