In the state of Iowa, June 6-12th has been declared Iowa Museum Week. Museums are an important part of the local, national and international economy. They employ hundreds of thousands of workers from a wide variety of industries, as well as promote tourism and economic development. Museums also invest in tomorrow’s economy by building communities, educating visitors of all ages and promoting new ideas to help society grow.

Whether or not you live in Iowa, this is a week to to learn about museums and learn how to advocate in their favor! If you’re curious, please read on:

Economic Impact

What is the economic impact of museums?

Museums directly contribute $21 billion to the US economy each year. They generate billions more through indirect spending by visitors.

How are museums funded?

On average, most museums in the United States receive a mixture of government, private, earned and investment income. Most museums receive the largest portion of their funding from private charitable giving.

Annually, Iowa museums:

  • Attract 5 million visitors to the state
  • Offer 60,000 public programs
  • Preserve and interpret more than 680,000 artifacts
  • Enrich the lives of over 30,000 volunteers

Nationally, museums:

  • Are among the top three family vacation destinations
  • Make up 78% of all US leisure traveler’s cultural activities
  • Contribute to business development and relocation because of access to cultural resources


Museums across the country partner with public schools and private educators at all levels: pre-K through adult, offering public programs that enhance lives and knowledge. Museums work with curriculum guidelines to make sure their programming is in line with state and/or national standards. In Cedar Rapids, the NCSML brings over 2,500 students on campus as part of their classroom curriculum on immigration and life-long-ago. The museum raises funds to provide the study trip experience free to students.


—Nationally, museums spend more than $2 billion a year on educational activities.

—Museums help teach the state, local or core curriculum, tailoring their programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies.


But Museums are Non-Profits?

—Non-profit organizations have the unjustified reputation of not being an important economic player. Their non-profit status portrays them as institutions that have no interest in money, either theirs or anyone else’s.

—But this reputation is very untrue! Museums and other non-profits are businesses, some large, some small, that need income to succeed.

—In addition to their immediate economic impact, there are other ways museums blaze trails toward economic development. They educate, unite and inspire millions of visitors each year to go into the world and make a difference.

—Museums Build Social Capital by communicating ideas, information and values, improving participant’s skills in planning and organizing, and improving the understanding of different cultures and lifestyles.

—Museums Build and Develop Communities by developing a sense of community identity, social cohesion, development of local enterprise, facility improvement.IMG_5035


—Museums Contribute to Social Change and Public Awareness by stimulating and developing public awareness and changing people’s attitudes on political, ethical, religious or moral issues

—Museums Build Human Capital by improving human and communication skills, analytical and problem-solving skills, creative talents, and social awareness.

How anyone can help & be an advocate:


Iowa Museum Association:

Museums and Impact by Carol Scott, quoting Kelly and Kelly 2000.

For more information about museums and their impact on the economy, please visit:

—The American Alliance of Museums

—The National Endowment fo the Humanities

—Your regional museum association:

—And your state museum association:


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