Museum Mission Statements

Rachel Hewitt

We previously discussed both the physical and non-physical requirements for a museum’s accreditation with the American Association of Museums. One of the primary non-physical requirements is a mission statement.

Roger Brown Study Collection

Roger Brown Study Collectio

Obviously, a mission statement is self-explanatory, and there are no guidelines or requirements about the specific content of a museum’s mission statement. However, a museum must have an educational bent and a commitment to public service, therefore its mission statement would presumably reflect that. We will dissect the mission statements of Chicago’s two major art museums, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and explore exactly what these museums’ missions are, and how they fulfill them in everyday practice.

This article will focus on the Art Institute of Chicago and we will discuss the MCA in an upcoming piece.

The Art Institute’s mission statement is easy to find on the AIC’s website, brief, and relatively direct.

AIC’s mission statement is as follows, “The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves, and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices.”

Let’s break down this statement a bit.

Art Institute of Chicago Conservation


Indeed, the AIC has a massive high profile collection and curates exhibitions of the works of the world’s most influential artists. The modern collection was launched with purchases from the infamous Armory Show1 in 1913. The collection is always growing whether through gifts or purchases, and the public can use the museum’s website to track recent acquisitions and their provenance. The collection is also as diverse as stated, and is comprised of works from all over the globe, from different, periods, and in many different styles. The AIC has several special collections, such as the Roger Brown Study Collection, a body of work by the Chicago artist, Roger Brown, as well as his personal collection of antiquities and outsider art, which is housed in his former home and study, and used as an educational tool for both the public and students from several different areas of study at the School of the Art Institute.

Fountain of the Great Lakes by Lorado Taft, The Art Institute of Chicago


One of the aspects of museum accreditation, according to the AAM, is maintaining the ability to preserve and conserve the museum’s collection. Founded in 1956, the Art Institute’s in house conservation department maintains a staff of 20 conservators and scientists and is equipped for textile and photographic preservation as well as with radiography equipment and infrared imaging.

Education and the Public

As the museum is tied with the School of the Art Institute, it can be inherently seen as an educational institution, and has had a long history of acquiring art objects into its collection for use as educational and interpretive tools. Outside of the museum’s affiliation with a top ranking art school, AIC has educational programming for various specific public demographics including teens and seniors, as well as offering programming for school groups, workplace functions, and teacher workshops. There is also free access to the museum’s outdoor gardens, terraces, and public outdoor sculptural works.

The museum also does significant outreach to the community including offering free access to the public on specific days, specific demographics including various city and state employees, children under 12, and active military service members, among others. AIC also participates in local philanthropy endeavors.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s mission statement places an emphasis on operating in accordance with the AAM’s standards and practices, and as such is making a public commitment to doing so. You’ll notice also, that the Art Institute’s mission places emphasis first and foremost on the collection of art works and how this collection is used to impact the public.