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Mapping The Museum Universe

January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016 — Did you know that there are more museums in the United States than all Starbucks and McDonald’s combined? Thanks to MuseumStat, a powerful new data tool being developed by Arts Administration professor Neville Vakharia in collaboration with the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS), a comprehensive understanding of all US museums is available for the first time ever—and there are 33,072, to be exact. “Together, we sought to not only answer the question of how many museums there were in the US, but to develop online tools that would empower museum leaders, advocates, and researchers to better understand the role of museums in their communities,” professor Vakharia recently wrote.

In 2014, professor Vakaharia received a two-year, $93,500 research and development grant from IMLS, the federal agency that supports innovation in libraries and museums, to examine the true scope and impact of our nation’s museums, historic sites, and heritage areas. 

Following a rigorous national data compilation phase, professor Vakharia engaged a team of “eagle-eyed, well-caffeinated” Arts Administration and Museum Leadership graduate students in a data cleaning process, which resulted in the Museum Universe Data File—a living document of all U.S. museums. They put the data into action by creating an interactive, mapping-based online tool that combines the museum information with important community metrics.

MuseumStat, which is currently in beta testing and will be released in a few months, could help to empower the museum sector to better understand the needs of their communities and to make data-driven decisions, like creating more relevant programming and effective outreach activities.