2023 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers

In this rapidly evolving climate, museum leaders need to make decisions based on data, not assumptions. The Annual Survey of Museum-Goers provides data-driven insights, helping you make more confident, informed decisions.

Who is my museum's audience?

How does my museum compare to others?

Who isn't visiting my museum and why?

Is my museum for everyone?

How can I expand my museum's audiences?

We all have questions.

Answer yours with the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers.

The Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, conducted in partnership between Wilkening Consulting and the American Alliance of Museums, provides your museum with a cost-effective way to gain insight into your visitors and compare your institution to others in your locale, of similar type, and the museum field writ large. By participating in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers, you will be:

  • gaining insight into your visitors, including who they are, their behaviors, and their values,
  • benchmarking your data against that of peers, especially around the 2023 themes below,
  • tracking changes in your stakeholders over time (with multi-year participation), and much more.
Once you know exactly what makes your museum meaningful to your community, you’ll be better equipped to attract more visitors, make the case for increased funding, and keep up with our rapidly evolving environment.

2023 Themes

In addition to gaining deeper insights into your museum’s audience, the 2023 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers will focus on three themes to help the museum field grapple with today’s challenges and opportunities. This year’s themes are:

Connection to Humanity

Feeling connected to humanity and humankind is likely a key driver for inclusive attitudes, taking action on climate change, and other challenges we face as a society. However, segments of the population don’t feel connected to humanity at all.

We need to feel connected to others to act responsibly towards our fellow humans. What role can museums play in cultivating a more emotionally connected humankind? What are the most effective ways for us to engender that empathy towards others?

icon of people holding hands around a globe

Civic Participation

Our society is fraught with partisan turmoil, with civil discourse fraying, increasingly entrenched polarization, and democracy at risk. This leads to many people feeling disempowered, losing trust in others, and experiencing a rising sense of helplessness.

How can museums bring disparate viewpoints together in ways that promote a civic mindset, developing individual agency and collective wellbeing? Do our visitors think this is something museums should or can do, or do they feel it’s too late?

icon of people engaged in cleaning a town

Rebuilding Museum Visitation

The COVID-19 pandemic upended leisure time and disrupted museum visitation. While museums have largely returned to “normal” operations, for many, visitation has yet to rebound.

Some museum-goers have returned to museums enthusiastically, but others continue to be “COVID cautious” or have developed new leisure-time patterns. On top of that, inflation, travel costs, and extreme weather are also affecting leisure time (and museum visits).

How have these visitation pressures affected museum-going among the public? What opportunities can museums take advantage of to expand audiences? What aspects of in-person visitation can make museum-going rise to the top of the list when competing for leisure time activities?

icon of people putting a puzzle together

Participate in the 2023 Survey in 4 easy steps

Participating in the 2023 Annual Survey of Museum-Goers is quick and easy. Sign up by February 28 and launch your survey by March 8 to save nearly 70%!


Sign up for the 2023 Survey

Enroll your museum in the 2023 survey in less than 5 minutes by February 28, 2023.

Customize 1-2 questions using Wilkening Consulting’s custom question book.


Send your survey

Wilkening Consulting will send you a custom link to your museum’s survey and sample text for you to send to your email list and post on social media by March 8, 2023.

Sit back and see your results in real-time through your virtual dashboard.


Receive your report

Start discovering more about your audience! Between May and June 2023, you will receive your data spreadsheet and a shareable, easy-to-understand slide deck visualizing your results.


Discuss your results with a pro

All museums will receive access to a short video series to contextualize results. Choose to drop-in for office hours with Wilkening Consulting to discuss your results or, if your museum is a Tier 3 AAM member, you also receive a private one-hour call with Wilkening Consulting to discuss your results.

The changes we have made based on the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers research are helping us cultivate an audience for the future.”

“We’ve grown audience engagement in our key 35-55 demographic by 155 percent since 2018, and our overall attendance continues to trend upward.”

Trevor Jones, Director and CEO, History Nebraska


Read more from previous participants in the

Annual Survey of Museum-Goers

“The Annual Survey of Museum-Goers is invaluable in giving us insight into how we are doing as an institution and how we compare with others in the field. We learn not only about who is coming to our museum, but also the impacts on our visitors and the reasons they value us. The survey helped us see that the intentional work we are doing in this area is working.”

Karleen Gardner

Director of Learning Innovation, Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)

“Omaha Children’s Museum has participated for the past 2 years in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers.  What has always impressed us has been the way in which the data is woven into a story.  This makes accessing the data much more effective for the variety of audiences in which we share the results: internal staff, board of directors, stakeholders, and the general public.

The data we receive from the survey provides a context to our work, which can feel isolated and flat without the national context of comparison.

No museum should plan its operations and strategically look to its future in the vacuum of its own data, having access and an interpretation of the data helps our team stretch themselves to be better at delivering to the needs of our audience.

I would strongly advocate for more museums to participate in this annual survey. At a reasonable cost to participate, the benefits received far outweigh the costs. Having participated in back-to-back years, the value of the investment has more than doubled for our team.

Lindy J. Hoyer

Executive Director, Omaha Children’s Museum

“The Annual Survey of Museum-Goers allows Michigan Science Center to gain insight into the opinions of museum-goers nationally and the experiences of our guests locally. We love being able to benchmark our results against other museums. The results from the Annual Survey allow our marketing and education teams to better understand our audience and empower us to promote MiSci as a customized set of experiences that our guests want! We highly recommend participation in the survey – Susie and her team distill complex datasets into meaningful takeaways for us. Plus, the more science centers and museums that participate, the greater the national understanding of how museum-goers value our role in society.

Cassie Byrd

Chief Learning Officer, Michigan Science Center

We received our results about a month ago and have already started to use them in the following ways: Sharing highlights with our board; with funders- in grant applications and reports; in conversation with potential donors and funders; in marketing and sponsorship materials; with our city chamber; to strategically inform our diversity, equity, and inclusion work; to inform conversation about strength and growth areas for programming; in preparation to enter strategic planning next year. As a small museum, I would say it is definitely worth it. 

Jessimi Jones

Executive Director, Springfield Museum of Art

“The Illinois State Museum uses data from the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers in many ways: helping us understand who our audiences are, informing our processes as we design programs and exhibitions, and most importantly, identifying for us who we are not seeing at the museum. This helps us interrogate who is missing, who is underrepresented at the ISM, and leads us to ask why and make a plan for organizational change.  Presented in graphically exciting ways, the Museum-Goers survey is also widely instructive for boards and staff as they are learning from and working with the data.

It is our intention to engage with the survey each year so that we can measure our change. When we make the purposeful plans and course corrections to deepen and broaden our audiences, the survey can serve as our informant as we move along. And, because AAM and Wilkening Consulting are thinking about timely events and impacts in the museum field, each year’s themes allows participants to gain highly relevant data that helps the museum stay abreast of issues and be part of trends, enabling museums to be responsive to audience and community needs and interests.”

Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko

Musem Director, Illinois State Museum

“My museum used the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers data to learn from our visitors and community members regarding their needs, values, and relationship with the art museum. We love that this is data we receive every year so that we can review change over time and understand what visitors are seeking during these challenging times for our communities. These metrics help us look both, backwards and forwards, as we plan for the future.”

Caitlin Tracey-Miller

Assistant Director of Visitor Research and Evaluation, Cincinnati Art Museum

Participant stories

Browse the stories of those who have participated in the Annual Survey of Museum-Goers and learn how they applied the data in practice.

Data cuts and current participants

When five or more museums of the same type or location sign up for the survey, you receive even more benchmarking data. See current data cuts.

Ready to sign up?

Complete the form to sign up or get in touch with Wilkening Consulting for more information.