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Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions: 2015

September 28, 201628 September 2016

Museums and heritage organizations

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This Canadian survey, conducted in 2015 and capturing data from 2013, is intended “to provide aggregate data to governments and cultural associations in order to gain a better understanding of not-for-profit heritage institutions and to aid in the development of policies and the conduct of programs”. This summary refers to the current version of the survey by its data year, i.e., 2013.

A total of 1,622 not-for-profit heritage institutions responded to the 2013 survey, representing 63% of the estimated 2,600 not-for-profit organizations in the heritage sector. Included in the results are stand-alone art galleries, museums, historic sites, zoos, and botanical gardens, as well as organizations that are part of a larger institution, such as university-affiliated art galleries. The data were collected in two ways: via Canadian Revenue Agency information for 1,244 heritage institutions that are registered charities; and from 736 respondents to an online survey (which had a response rate of 34.5%). Some heritage institutions were included in both methods, so the respondent counts add up to more than 1,622.

The total revenues of heritage organizations were estimated at $2.12 billion in 2013, a 2.9% increase from 2011 (figures not adjusted for inflation). Total expenditures were $1.97 billion, resulting in an operating surplus equivalent to 3.7% of total revenues in 2013.

Government revenues accounted for essentially one-half of the operating revenues of heritage organizations in 2013 (49%). Earned revenues represented 36% of operating revenues, while private sector fundraising accounted for 14%. (Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.) Between 2011 and 2013, earned revenues increased by 8.9%, government revenues did not change (0.2% increase), and private sector revenues decreased by 1.8%.

One-half of the heritage organizations (exactly 50%) charge an admission fee. The average adult admission at these organizations was almost $10 in 2013, an increase from just under $8 in 2011.

Staff compensation was by far the largest expenditure of heritage organizations in 2013, representing 43% of total expenditures. The organizations employed 11,630 people on a full-time basis in 2013 and another 16,913 on a part-time basis. The report notes that volunteers (103,597) outnumbered staff members by about a three-to-one ratio. Nearly 5.7 million hours were volunteered in Canadian heritage organizations in 2013.

The heritage organizations received 61.9 million in-person visits and 146.2 million online visits in 2013. They presented over 16,000 permanent exhibitions and created 7,800 new exhibitions. The survey results indicate that heritage institutions have converted 16.4% of their artefacts to digital format, a proportion that is highest for museums (26.1%) and art galleries (21.8%) but much lower for historic sites (10.1%) and archives (7.6%).

Some key statistics for each type of not-for-profit heritage organization in 2013 follow.

Type of organization

Operating revenues

Operating expenses

Surplus as % of revenues

In-person visits

Key statistics by type of not-for-profit heritage organization

Art galleries

$439 million

$423 million


11.1 million

Museums (other than galleries)

$911 million

$859 million


25.0 million

Historic sites

$123 million

$118 million


11.8 million


$342 million

$338 million


2.7 million

Zoos and botanical gardens

$306 million

$303 million


11.2 million

On a provincial basis, Ontario-based not-for-profit heritage organizations accounted for $875 million in operating revenues in 2013 (41% of the Canadian total). The revenues of Quebec-based organizations totalled $559 million in 2013 (26% of the Canadian total). Heritage organizations in Alberta and British Columbia each had collective revenues of $213 million (each accounting for 10% of national revenues). The data tables also contain information about the revenues of organizations in other provinces, as well as provincial data on expenses, surplus, employment, and attendance.

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