Monday, January 31, 2011

Feeling Bogged Down?

In a post last fall, I wrote about whether local history museums are in danger of becoming dinosaurs.  It became my most read post, by a huge margin, so obviously, there's a big concern about organizations that are bogged down, stuck in the mud.  But there are answers out there. Today,  I want to encourage small and mid-sized US museums--of all types-- to consider taking part in an easy, thoughtful way to get unstuck.  It's the American Association of Museum's Museum Assessment Program.

I've been a MAP reviewer to two separate organizations over the past year or so.  Very different places, very different organizations.  One was a very small history organization in a very small town in the mountainous west;  the other a historic house part of a larger organization in the Mid-West.  Both applied for the MAP program (which does not cost your organization anything) because they knew they could be better.  The MAP process is an easy application, followed by a self-study and a consultant visit.  In reviewing the self-study documents for my two museums, I found that it gave each organization a chance to really think about its work:  about what they do, who they involve, what they collect, and critically, from my perspective, how they connect with their communities.   And I hope my site visit gave them a chance to ask questions, to hear how other museums organize their work and connect with their communities, to brainstorm a bit and consider the "what ifs" that should be a part of all of our work.   The site visit isn't a judgment--it's a chance for you to work with an experienced museum professional and gain her perspective.  After the site visit,  the consultant completes a written report, which can provide important information and guidance as the museum moves forward.

(And by the way, as a reviewer, I've loved the chance to learn about a new museum, meet new colleagues, and see new parts of the country.)

You can apply for one of three MAP assessments:
  • Organizational
    Collections Stewardship
    Community Engagement 
Each one has a slightly different focus--and a different focus on the roots and how your organization grew--and can grow. Check out the website to find out what's right for you.  Still confused?  The MAP staff is ready and willing to speak with you--just contact them at or 202-289-9118.  But don't delay!  The postmark deadline for this year's applications is February 18.   
 Photos from Pie-Town, New Mexico,  FSA/OWI Collection, Library of Congress


KathieG said...

Linda, I've heard about MAP from several people now, and it would be great to be able to take advantage of the program. But alas, we are a small, all-volunteer local historical society, and don't meet the requirement of being open to the public at least 90 days in the prior year -- though we'd probably meet the requirement if we could add in all our "work" days. Any ideas for folks like us? I guess just try to solicit more volunteer hosts and triple our current days open? Or might it be worth 'paying' hosts, even a small amount, to boost our open days so we could apply next year. Need ideas!

Linda said...

Great comment Kathy--and I've forwarded it to the MAP staff for additional info...but the guidelines say,
"If a museum is not scheduled to be open for at least 90 days a year, it is still eligible to participate in MAP if it can demonstrate that it was open at least 90 days in the preceding year through a combination of scheduled days open and days open by appointment;" which might make you eligible.
In addition, some states (I live in NY and they do) have different ways of gaining advice--some museum service agencies or departments within state museums, or outside funders. You might also take a look at the StEPs program of AASLH ( which is a self-directed, self-paced program for improvement. Both MAP and StEPs are really useful.

I'll let you know what I hear back from MAP.


Cherie Cook said...

Kathie, I hope your museum and other small organizations will consider enrolling in the new StEPs program offered by AASLH. StEPs ( is a self-study program developed specifically for history organizations that do not feel ready for or that do not qualify for other assessment programs. StEPs has no eligibility requirements and no deadlines. It uses the same standards that AAM uses. Best of all, StEPs offers the missing link that museums have been asking for -- performance indicators (Basic, Good, and Better) to help answer the question, "How do we know when a museum is meeting national standards?" More than 130 people from across the country helped create the StEPs program. Over 200 small- to mid-sized museums have already enrolled. I hope you'll take a look at it!

Anonymous said...

Kathie, Thank you for your great question about eligibility. Linda highlighted the language that allows for flexibility with the 90 day requirement. MAP staff are happy to discuss this with you at 202-289-9118 or We look forward to talking with you.


kevin blumer said...

librarys in the uk are the same there going to become extinkct why becuase people want evertthing oline be it a museam food of books but people dont allways recognise the internet isnt allways the best source of information