Friday, October 9, 2009

Ten Ways to be Better

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Change that faded paper sign or label.
  5. Make your admission free!
  6. Change your open hours to suit your visitors, not your staff.
  7. 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.
  8. Turn down that unprovenanced object that duplicates something in your collections. You can say no.
  9. In developing your budget for next year, squeeze one new program in, even if it means giving up one that you've always done.
  10. 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.
And a bonus suggestion: ban the words, "but we've always done it that way" from your organization.

Top: Women assembled at Wheeley's Church, near Gordonton, North Carolina, to clean, 1939. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, FSA/OWI Collection, Library of Congress


Anne W. Ackerson said...

Great post, Linda. Here's another "tip": fine folks small amounts of $$ for publicly saying stuff like "we've always done it that way". Collect fines at board, staff and volunteer meetings. It will help to break the habit! And after awhile, you can throw a pizza party for everyone and congratulate yourselves on moving the mindset a bit!

Linda said...

Thanks Anne--great idea--and I think that boards, committees and staffs who make a bit of time to socialize together--to know each other in different ways--have more opportunities to figure out how to work together well--so here's for pizza!

Linda Solan said...

Very good Linda. I will start a blog immediately. I am always eager to try new creative things that will bring visitors to the museum. I will print your suggestions and look at them every day. Even though I have not met with you that often, and, to be honest, in the beginning I even took offence to some of your comments, however, I re-grouped mentally and took your advice. I have already cleared the second floor, which was the least professional. A new exhibit will go up by Spring. We do not have a lot of $$, but we try our best. We are going to reprint and "freshen" the text on our exhibits also. There will be much more to come.
I have learned that just because it has been tried before, we can try it again and it may work. New visitors, new economy, and new year. And for "we have always done it that way"... we, at the Seneca Museum try not to get in that rut.
Thanks for all of your help...
Linda Solan, Director
Seneca Museum of Waterways & Industry.