DancerThe Latino population in the United States is growing at a rapid pace, but according to an AAM survey, only 9% of museum-goers fits this demographic. It may be easier for larger institutions to encourage these visitors; they have more resources to produce bilingual labels, visitor maps and tour guides.

But what about small museums like ours? My museum serves a community that is at least 50% Mexican, most of whom are immigrants.  How can we become more welcoming? How can we overcome a shortage of resources?

One news article ( mentions several practical ways for museums to welcome the Latino community, such as:

  • offering free or reduced admissions at more convenient hours;
  • providing Spanish-language tours; and
  • posting the hours of these tours on your website.

Every museum, both large and small, can also connect with this prospective audience by increasing representation everywhere, from the governing board to the front-door greeter.

Consider asking bilingual students from the local schools either to help translate labels and brochures or to become docents.

The Steinbeck Center ( has identified and recruited movers and shakers from throughout the Latino community. They’ve formed partnerships and alliances with local media outlets. There’s a newspaper column in the local Spanish-language newspaper, as well as regularly scheduled radio and TV spots and announcements to promote their events.

Latinos will soon make up the largest percentage of the US population. Corporations, such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, know that accommodating this market is an economic necessity. And we can even see this desire for inclusion among foundations and their grant applications.

All of this, though, is not just a matter of convenience for some or inconvenience for others. The ultimate reality is political, because your museum’s survival may hinge on how well you adapt to this changing landscape. Much is made of the Latino community’s growing political power. That power translates into votes, and those votes may determine the future of your small museum, especially if your support structure depends on public monies from state and local sources.

What have you done, what are you doing, or what are you planning to do to grow your appeal? How were you successful? How were you not?

We’d like to hear from you!

Kristie Sheppard is a lover of museums of all types.  Currently the Executive Director at Napa Valley Museum, Kristie is an advocate of small museums.