May 25, 2022

New IMLS Estimate: There Are 35,144 Active Museums in the U.S., Doubling Official Estimate From 1990s

From the Institute of Museum and Library Services:

The U.S. agency that is the primary source of federal funding for the nation’s museums and libraries today released a new estimate of the number of active museums in the United States. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced that there are 35,144 museums in the U.S., more than double the agency’s working estimate of 17,500 from the 1990s. IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth announced the estimate and the availability of an online data file in Seattle, Washington, at the annual conference of the American Alliance of Museums, the nation’s largest annual gathering of museum professionals.


Source: IMLS

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Hildreth said, “Americans love their museums. Museums of all types — 35,000 strong — are a vital part of the American cultural and educational landscape. They are places where Americans go to pursue the discovery of art, history, science, technology, and the natural world. With 16,880 historical societies and historic preservation organizations alone, we can see that the preservation of history and culture is a passion that starts at the grassroots level. At IMLS we are proud to trumpet the impact of America’s museums at the federal level.


Source: IMLS


Source: IMLS

Types of Museums

The total includes museums of all disciplines: arboretums, botanical gardens, nature centers; historical societies, historic preservation organizations, and history museums; science and technology centers; planetariums; children’s museums; art museums; general museums; natural history and natural science museums; and zoos, aquariums, and wildlife conservation centers. The largest categories are historical societies and unclassified and general museums with 48 percent and 33 percent respectively.


Graphic: Museums by Discipline FY 2014 (PDF)

Graphic: Distribution of Museums by FY 2014 State (PDF)

Map: Museums of All Disciplines (Per 100,000 Population) by State FY 2014 (PDF)

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.