Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums

Publication Date: May 2010

Publisher: American Association of Museums; Center for the Future of Museums

Author(s): Betty Farrell; Maria Medvedeva

Research Area: Culture and religion; Population and demographics

Keywords: museums; demographics; cultural participation

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


The U.S. population is shifting rapidly, and within four decades the group that has historically constituted the core audience for museums—non-Hispanic whites—will be a minority of the national population. This paints a troubling picture of the “probable future”—a future in which, if trends continue in their current grooves, museum audiences are radically less diverse than the American public, and museums serve an ever shrinking fragment of society.
This report analyzes demographic trends and projections for the American population as a whole, reviews the research on cultural participation by different racial/ethnic groups, discusses barrier to participation, highlights six museums that are pioneering ways to reach diverse audiences, explores the potential impact of generational change on museum-going habits, and offers a call to action for museum researchers and practitioners.