Iowa Museum Association

In 2018, I worked on giving meaning to the numbers of the 2017 Iowa Museum Survey conducted by the Iowa Museum Association. Our goal was to develop a comparative analysis of Iowa’s museums by overviewing the field in the state and comparing that information to national museum data.


Specifically I aimed to:

    1. Assist in completing comparative analysis of IMA survey data with similar regional and national data from the field.

    2. Build written, verbal, and visual communication skills through the presentation of research in a range of formats (e.g. posters, reports, PPT).

    3. Gain first-hand experience and applicable knowledge in my future career field of interest.

    4. Learn about the research process while providing valuable insights and contributions to the project, including a meaningful interpretation of the data at hand.

    5. Make connections with people in the museum field and find opportunities for future research, internships, employment, projects, or personal learning.

I successfully accomplished each of these goals in one way or another. Please read about my reflection for more details about how these goals shaped my experience.


1. Preparation

2. Data Exploration

    • Reviewed Iowa Museum Association 2017 Iowa Museum Survey and American Alliance of Museums 2017 Salary Survey to gather data and points of comparison

    • Found trends within Iowa Museum Association data to overview Iowa's museums

    • Developed side-by-side comparisons for governance type, annual budget, attendance, and employment trends between Iowa museums and national museums

    • Constructed concept map to identify points of connection within various survey topics

3. Interpretation

    • Focused on research question: How do Iowa’s museums compare in breadth and scope with museums across the nation?

    • Asked why certain data trends persisted

    • Added purpose to the numbers with meaningful conclusions

4. Presentation

    • Created PowerPoint and VoiceThread presentation to explain the statistical findings from both surveys including many graphical representations

    • Wrote article for Iowa Museum Association newsletter to explain process and findings

    • Developed research poster to concisely share information with professionals and the public


The communication of our research is the most important part. This presentation is now being used by the Iowa Museum Association to influence strategic planning and inform the field.

This fall I presented my research to fellow emerging professionals at the Iowa Museum Association Annual Conference. As a presenter at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival, I also helped to show what research looks like at the University of Iowa.

Presenting my research was a great way for me to see all that I had done for the future of museums in Iowa. I loved getting to share my passion for museums with people by informing them as to why museums of all shapes and sizes are valuable to the public. Museums are such unique tools of engagement and education and I'm proud to be able to tell their story!

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I authored two pieces that explained and reflected upon my work. The first was for IMAges, the Iowa Museum Association's quarterly newsletter.

October 2018 newsletter copy.pdf

The second was for the University of Iowa Anthropology Department's annual newsletter, The AnthrObserver.

AnthrObserver 2018-2019 copy.pdf


This research project was truly a pivotal moment in my academic experience at the University of Iowa. I learned so much about my field, my ambitions, and myself. I am so grateful I had this opportunity to grow in unexpected ways.

By conducting research on Iowa's museums, I was able to learn in an active and hands-on way about my future career field. I discovered for myself what Iowa museums look like, how they operate, and why they are important.

The research process also helped me develop stronger problem-solving skills as I worked to overcome challenges. Seeing this project from start to finish--from spreadsheets to strategic planning implementations--taught me determination and critical thinking. When I first started sorting and comparing the data, I ran into numerical roadblocks that kept me from comparing the statistics directly. However, I found creative ways to reconfigure the categories so I could come to stronger conclusions. After I found certain trends, I realized we had duplicate data so I went back to ensure the findings were still accurate. Although this was tedious, it was a good checkpoint and a learning experience for sure.

My biggest challenge was drawing meaningful conclusions from the simple percentages. Numbers on their own cannot tell a story--that was our job. This part of the research process made me think most deeply about what our true goals were and how we could best convey our findings. I had to ask why and look at all the components of the research together, even beyond the data. Bringing everything together stretched me as a researcher but gave me great experience in answering life's tough questions.

Overall I am so amazed at how much I grew through this research experience. It wasn't until I presented at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival that I truly understood how important and awesome this project is. It provided foundational information for the Iowa Museum Association to be able to best support Iowa's amazing museums. I am so grateful to my mentor, Dr. Heidi Lung, for guiding me along the way while giving me such a primary role in this research. Museum On!