Compensation in Iowa's Museums

Throughout the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, I again partnered with Dr. Lung to dig deeper into the people behind Iowa's museums and how they are being compensated. Our goal was to understand current practices in order to help the field best utilize and appreciate museum professionals and volunteers.


The wide aim of this research was to develop a foundational state-wide understanding of the financial resources and staffing needs of museums in Iowa. The purpose of this baseline understanding was to inform all stakeholders, including museums, lawmakers, museum professionals, and the Iowa Museum Association. My personal development goals for this project were 1) to learn about my future career field through first-hand data collection and professional experiences, 2) to impact the museum field by assessing current challenges and taking steps toward solutions, and 3) to build on my previous research experience by participating in the complete research process from creation of data-collecting tools through presentation of findings and application of results. I believe we succeeded in addressing and fulfilling all of these goals. Additionally we considered the application of this research to the global pandemic situation with which we were faced.


This research began with the development of a survey with questions about institutional basics (location, governance, type), budget, admission and attendance, personnel details, and internships. The survey was distributed via email to members of the Iowa Museum Association in the winter of 2019. After a few weeks of data collection, the survey was closed with 81 museums responding. Data interpretation required significant time for scrubbing the responses, organizing the answers to create main statistics, and simplifying the bulkier questions into easily digestible graphics. These graphics paved the way for drawing meaningful conclusions about how the numbers described what was currently going on in the field.


Due to COVID-19, scheduled research fairs and other in-person presentation opportunities were canceled. However, I created this brief VoiceThread to explain my findings as I would have at a poster session. My mentor and I also developed an executive summary of our findings to share with the board of the Iowa Museum Association to help with future strategic planning for the museum field in the state. This presentation and the summary were also shared at the Iowa Museum Association Annual Conference (October 2020).