What museum departments will benefit most from field-wide R+D?

While most departments can benefit from Museums R+D, there are five departments most likely to benefit.

  • Executive Administration: Our work is designed to provide a high-impact perspective to help museums assess their role in the future. At the same time, the work also shares detailed insights to help align the entire organization around intended impacts.
  • Exhibitions: For many, the museum experience is rooted in exhibitions. Museums R+D will devote a significant portion of the content and research to explore how and when exhibitions are able to create the most long-term meaning for visitors.
  • Marketing and Public Relations: Museums have a lot of competition for the attention of new and returning visitors. And those visitors have disparate needs the museum can serve. We’ll pay close attention to how Americans spend their leisure time and where they seek out information to help museums deploy the right messaging to engage audiences more broadly and more deeply.
  • Education: Programs including school programs, exhibition tours and add-ons, and other programming, are key for engaging local residents in particular. Museums R+D will examine closely what types of programs visitors find most meaningful and of lasting impact, gaining a deeper understanding of how programs can provide meaningful experiences as well as positive learning outcomes.
  •  Development: Philanthropy is changing quickly, with increasing numbers of donors seeking evidence that the organizations they support are driving deep impact. Our goals for Museums R+D include helping museums make stronger cases for themselves and to develop research instruments to understand what it is that museums do that truly matters to individuals, providing museums with evidence to engage major donors.

But… our writing will focus on serving C.E.Os, boards, funders, and those directly engaged with them.


Can we write a membership into grants?

Absolutely! Maybe our research agenda fits in perfectly with your research needs for a special project, and a Basic Access membership is all you need. Or perhaps you need a demographic report on your community and have a few more specific questions you would love to ask current or potential audiences. Then an Intermediate or Advanced Access membership may suit you best. If you are applying for a grant to pay for Museums R+D, whether from state or Federal agencies (including state arts councils and IMLS/NEH/NEA/NSF), private foundations, or an individual gift, we are happy to provide a letter or support or commitment. Simply get in touch.


How is a membership in Museums R+D different than a Reach Advisors’ custom engagement?

While there are a lot of commonalities among museums, our custom work allows us to work closely with an individual museum to understand why it, and its unique mission, matters. Not why it matters to current staff and trustees, but why it matters to visitors, communities, and society. What is the impact it has on people’s lives? What would we lose if that museum was no longer there? And how can the museum deepen that impact, provide evidence of impact, and articulate it to others? While Museums R+D provides some museum-specific results and a national baseline, custom engagements go far beyond what Museums R+D is designed to do and instead provides museums with the custom information they need to make difficult decisions and develop a provocative and sustainable strategy for the future. You can learn more about custom engagements by clicking here or by getting in touch with us.


How does the survey work for my museum?

It is pretty simple. Once you have joined, we’ll be in touch to coordinate launching your survey. If you are an Intermediate or Advanced Access member, we’ll discuss the custom questions for your respondents. When your survey is ready to launch, we will send you a custom link, which you will be responsible for disseminating to your email list, social media contacts, etc. Most museums will be sending out the yearly survey in fall. Museums that join mid-year will be able to decide if they want to send out the current year’s survey or wait until the following fall for the following year’s survey. We will provide results to member museums within about 10 weeks of their launch. Sometimes it will be faster, depending on how many other museums are launching at the same time.


Are my museum’s results confidential?

Yes. Your museum’s survey results are absolutely confidential, and will only be shared with you. But there are a few caveats.

  • Some of your survey respondents will be asked to join in the ongoing qualitative research in The Museum Panel™, however, and their responses in that panel will be seen by other individuals participating in the panel.
  • We may also quote survey respondents and panelists in our reports, and they may be referring to experiences at your museum. If we wish to use a quote that might not be as flattering as a museum would like, it has been our practice to either mask the museum’s identity or check in to discuss how we should handle it.
  • Sharing of results from our field-wide experiments and special projects may require sharing your museum’s results more broadly. You will know in advance what we expect to share, and we’ll work with you to make sure that what is shared is accurate and appropriate. Bottom line: we are not in the business of embarrassing members.


Why are you only providing hard copies of reports?

Various academic research, as well as the experience of some of the nation’s most prominent publishers, has found that people absorb and internalize what they read more efficiently and thoroughly on paper versus on a screen. We want all of our efforts on your behalf to be put to use in your museum, and hard copy is likely a better medium for that. But we do want you to be able to share when a report will be helpful to a colleague in the field. Being able to share research reports is a benefit of being a member. Simply let us know you wish to share a report, and we’ll send along the appropriate report to your designated beneficiary.


How do member museums provide input on the research agenda?

Upon joining Museums R+D, we’ll be in touch directly with questions and requests for research topics relevant to you. Upper-level member museums will also be invited to a yearly convening, held at the same time as the Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums, where the next year’s research agenda will be discussed. But if you suddenly have a burning question or idea, simply contact us directly. We’ll entertain your thoughts at any time.


How does a member museum submit a qualitative research question for the Museum Panel™? (Intermediate and Advanced Access only)

Simply contact us directly. We’ll work with you to understand what your question is, and how we will present it to the panel. Depending on the schedule, we may post your question quickly, or may queue it up for future posting. We’ll try to accommodate questions quickly, but will let you know if it may take some time. Once the question is posted, the member museum can expect a short slide deck or memo with the findings in about two months, though we always aim to complete these sooner.


I have an idea for a research experiment. Can you help with this?

We love this! And we are happy to discuss your idea, explore the questions and hypotheses you have, determine if your experiment is the best way to answer them, and, if it fits in the research agenda, help you with it. Ideas are welcomed from member museums as well as independent museum professionals and professional staff from non-member museums, in which case we’ll discuss a partnership that makes sense for both sides. Of course, we cannot run every experiment we would like. We’ll be upfront with you if your idea is not a good match for us, or if it needs some more work to come together.


We are a very small museum, and we cannot afford your fees. Are there any other options?

We love small museums, and want small museums who wish to put our findings into direct action to be able to do so. But research and development requires significant financial investment, and we also have to make this financial model work. Thus, we are open to ideas from small museums to work together to help you grow. Maybe a group of similar museums wishes to pool financial resources to join. Or maybe your small museum can conduct an experiment that will have value to the other member museums. The point is, we cannot give memberships away, but we will help a small museum with initiative as best we can. So be in touch and we’ll discuss.  And as the program grows, a small museum level is certainly on the table. No promises on when that might be, however!


We are an Advanced Access member, and we want to plan the best possible visit from Museums R+D staff. What are your tips?

What do you want to accomplish with the visit? Do you want to have tactical discussions with key staff about exhibitions and programs? Do you want to educate your board or other stakeholders about the broader museum field and audiences? Or do you want us to join your strategic planning retreat for a day, providing a sounding board and insights as your board, staff, and stakeholders plan your future? Once you have a sense of what you want the visit to accomplish, give us a call to discuss your needs. While we cannot create a custom presentation for the day, we are happy to share any relevant presentations we do have. (Note that we have tight travel schedules, so the sooner you are in touch to schedule your visit, the more likely we can accommodate your desired date.)


My museum wants to join, but is not located in the United States. Will it be relevant to us? Do the benefits change at all?

Yes, much of our work will still be relevant to museums regardless of location. There is no extra fee for international museums, but international museum members at the Intermediate or Advanced Access levels will not receive a custom demographic slide deck, nor a demographic report based on the census in their country. International museums outside of North America and Europe who are considering a site visit by a Senior Consultant should contact us in advance to determine if there will be any extra fees, in addition to the travel expenses, associated with the site visit by a Senior Consultant.


I am a foundation that would like to subscribe to your reports. How do I do that?

Foundations are welcome to join as members in order to receive copies of our reports. But you may prefer to instead sponsor a museum to join Museums R+D, and then ask that the museum to share a subscription with you as part of their benefits. This will maximize your investment in Museums R+D by providing you with the reports but also providing one (or more) museums with semi-custom research and reports as well.


I am a foundation that would like to enroll all of the museums we fund in Museums R+D. Can we bundle them together?

Yes. Depending on how many museums, and what you want to accomplish on behalf of those museums, we can discuss a plan to include them all in Museums R+D. The membership fee will depend on the number of museums and what level of access you wish to provide. Please get in touch and we can discuss what will work best for you and the museums you fund.