I was a bit cranky in my last post about museums and change, without offering many useful suggestions. So here's a quick list of ten easy cheap (or free!) things any small history museum could do to create change in their organization.
- Start a blog. Blogs are free, incredibly easy to set up, and provide a way for your museum to communicate with your audience on a timely basis. Don't know what to write about? Joanna Church of the Montgomery County (MD) Historical Society has a great object a week blog; and the Alice Miner Museum in tiny Chazy, NY highlights both programs and collections.
- Change something in your permanent exhibit--anything! At the National Museum of American Art's Luce Center, you get to vote on what piece to place in a case. Let your visitors decide.
- At a board meeting, take time to really walk through your museum, inside and out, and see what you could do to make it more visitor friendly.
- Change that faded paper sign or label.
- Make your admission free!
- Change your open hours to suit your visitors, not your staff.
- Think about what parts of community history aren't represented in your museum--and then go out and learn about it. Call a community elder and sit down for a conversation.
- Turn down that unprovenanced object that duplicates something in your collections. You can say no.
- In developing your budget for next year, squeeze one new program in, even if it means giving up one that you've always done.
- If you don't have a strategic plan already, start one! And for all organizations, make sure that your vision and mission are not just boilerplate stored in a drawer, but inspirations that guide and shape your work.
Top: Women assembled at Wheeley's Church, near Gordonton, North Carolina, to clean, 1939. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, FSA/OWI Collection, Library of Congress