National Landscape Study: DEAI Practices in Museums

In late 2019, a ground-breaking study was launched to better understand the current state of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) practices in the museum field in the United States. This is the first field-wide study focusing on DEAI approaches in museums of all disciplines. Conducted by the Garibay Group on behalf of CCLI (Cultural Competence Learning Institute), the study was designed to illustrate the current landscape of DEAI practices across the museum field and, in turn, establish a set of metrics that museums can use to measure the progress of their equity and inclusion work.

We’re excited to announce that the findings of this study are now available. The landmark report, CCLI National Landscape Study: The State of DEAI Practices in Museums highlights where organizational change is progressing and where gaps exist. Using data collected from 580 museums across the United States, the findings provide critical benchmarking that will help museums track and measure the progress of the DEAI work they are already doing and offer an evidence base for developing new strategies and activities. The key findings include:

  • Museums report that DEAI is an organizational priority but have not taken strategic, consistent action at an organizational level foundational enough to support and achieve enduring equity and inclusion. While a large majority of respondents (90%) report that DEAI is an essential or relatively high priority and most (73%) report that boards understand the importance of DEAI, less than half (48%) have DEAI action plans and 89% have not established metrics to measure DEAI progress. Only 38% of boards have asked for/approved changes to policies or processes necessary to support DEAI efforts.

  • Museums use a range of DEAI-related strategies to develop and support more inclusive experiences in their exhibits, programs, and events and can build on them. These practices, however, are not integrated into the core work of the organization. Strategies that consider DEAI in the design of specific visitor experiences most often take place on a case-by-case basis. Half of respondents report always offering full physical access to exhibits, programs and special events. Of other possible strategies—sensory-friendly access, multilingual offerings, addressing topics and narratives that have typically been suppressed, and including community stakeholders from underrepresented populations in shaping content—less than a third of respondents report that these are “always” practiced.

  • Museums focus less on the internal organizational dimensions of DEAI compared with public-facing aspects. There is more focus on DEAI practices in recruitment and hiring staff phases (e.g., seeking out minority candidates, reviewing job requirements for adverse bias) than at later stages, with fewer organizations reporting reviewing compensation and performance processes for adverse impact/bias. Half (50%) of responding museums reported “always” reviewing staff compensation and pay equity to check for adverse impact/bias. Only 35% reported “always” reviewing their performance and leadership pipeline process for bias.

  • Lack of focus on collecting and using data to inform DEAI practice is hindering museums’ ability to measure progress and increase accountability. Although just over half (53%) of respondents collect visitor data regularly, only about a quarter collect visitor demographic data. Only 35% report gathering any data from local groups that do not currently visit the museum. Fewer than half (43%) collect internal feedback from staff, volunteers, and/or board members regarding DEAI efforts. More than half reported that collecting data for DEAI initiatives is a challenge.

  • Even in the face of organizational challenges, museums across types and budget sizes report using some DEAI-related practices. Many respondents, including museums with fewer staff and smaller annual operating budgets, shared examples of strategies they have used in efforts to advance equity and inclusion. Collectively, these examples illustrate the wide range of activities museums have taken, many on which they can build.

Now, more than ever, our community is called to act and re-center equity in our work. This report offers a critical resource for our community as it works to gain a broader awareness about DEAI, and how to strengthen efforts in our own institutions. You can use these findings to kickstart conversations about what practices drive DEAI efforts, where more can be done, and what support or resources may be needed to advance work in your organization.

In the coming months, CCLI will share additional resources and special events drawing on findings from the report.

For media inquiries, please contact Jocelyn Fong (CCLI Program Manager).