Museums Spend Over A Billion, Commit Over 18 Million Hours To K-12 Education Programs Study Finds

January 29, 2003

The study also calculates that America’s museums commit more than 18 million instructional hours every year on programs for K-12 schoolchildren. IMLS, an independent federal agency, is a primary source of federal grants for the nation’s museums and libraries.

No matter a museum’s size or discipline, whether rural, urban, or suburban, chances are, it offers educational activities specifically geared for school-age children. According to the study released today, museums of every discipline, from art galleries to zoos, present educational programs for the K-12 audience in core school subjects including math, science, language arts, and social studies. The survey, a follow-on to a 1995 IMLS survey that examined the relationship between museums and schools, found that museums are strengthening their commitment to K-12 schools by serving an increasing number of students and teachers.

IMLS Director Dr. Robert Martin said, “This second IMLS study of museum-school relationships confirms that museums and schools are effective partners for educating children. Museums are no longer depositories of the past, but are centers of learning. The resources that they bring to school partnerships provide unique object-based and visual learning opportunities that help schools meet their learning objectives. IMLS wants every child to have access to museums, and libraries, to encourage a love of discovery and learning that they can return to again and again in their lives.”

Based on a representative sample of more than 15,000 museums of all sizes, types, and locations, IMLS found the following:

In 2000-01, nearly 70 percent of responding museums said the number of schools, students, and teachers they serve had grown in the past five years. IMLS estimates that nearly 11,000 museums were offering such programs in 2000-01.

Museums offer a wide range of activities that include staff-guided field trips for school groups (77 percent), museum staff visits to schools (54 percent), teacher training (32 percent), and resource kits at school sites (34 percent), and traveling exhibits (17 percent).

Seventy-one percent of museums work with curriculum specialists to tailor educational programming to support school curriculum standards.

Increasingly, museums use new technologies to bring their resources into the lives of American school children. Seventy-two percent of museums use Web sites for educational programming; fifty-eight percent communicate with teachers via e-mail, and 24 percent e-mail students.

The survey highlight publication, True Needs, True Partners 2002, includes examples of successful partnerships and can be used as a tool for other museums considering education programs for K-12 schools. The publication is available on the IMLS Web site at or by calling 202-606-8339.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Institute is an independent federal grant-making agency that promotes leadership, innovation, and a lifetime of learning by supporting the nation’s 15,000 museums and 122,000 libraries. The Institute encourages partnerships to expand the educational benefit of libraries and museums. For more information about the Institute, please log onto


Eileen Maxwell


Mamie Bittner