Sunday, May 14, 2006


AAMD's Statistical Shenanigans

Playing catch-up with all the news that occurred during my French sojourn, I've just read the latest edition of the Association of Art Museum Directors' annual survey, which is more remarkable for what it doesn't say than for what it does.

The most interesting statistic is that an impressive 70% of the 129 museums responding to AAMD's survey reported "a significant increase" in individual support over the previous year.

But the total dollar amount of this increase---a much more meaningful figure---is left out. We are only told the percentages of museums that experienced upward or downward changes in certain benchmarks of institutional health (various forms of support, overall revenue, annual attendance, exhibition and acquisition activity, etc.).

We are kept in the dark as to the the actual dollar amounts underlying these statistics. All we are told is, for example, what percentage of institutions experienced increases (47%), decreases (16%) or no change (37%) in overall revenues. How much the increases amounted to is anyone's guess.

Museums may indeed be enjoying "stability," as the report claims. But this frustratingly incomplete survey doesn't really prove it.

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