Starting a museum
There are a number of issues that should be considered carefully before embarking on a plan to establish a museum. The following information is also a useful checklist for existing museums.
Planning is essential for good museum management. Decisions need to be made on where a museum is going, and how it will get there.
Structures for Museum Management
Management structures provide the coordination required to successfully run a museum, and are ultimately held accountable for its operations.
As young people are our future it is important to encourage them to be regular visitors to the museum to engage with its exhibitions and programs and to alert them to the possiblities of being a volunteer.
Providing a Safe Environment
The safety of visitors, staff and volunteers is an important responsibility of management.
Local government authorities (LGAs) are the most accessible level of government to small museums, and can be a source of assistance and support.
Providing inclusive and appropriate access to collections, exhibitions and resources is a primary goal of a museum. Barriers to access can be more than just physical or sensory. They can also be cultural, social, intellectual, attitudinal and financial.
Policy Frameworks for Museums
Policies are set to provide long-term frameworks and guidelines for decision making. What sorts of policies are essential?
A museum’s collection policy is central to its operations and will provide the core from which the other policies will be developed.
A conservation policy will identify priorities for allocating resources to two types of conservation strategies: interventive conservation and preventive conservation and will include guidelines for the very different requirements for display and storage of collections.
Exhibitions and displays are the ways in which museums communicate with the public and are the most visible expression of a museum’s ambitions.
A museum’s interpretation policy provides directions for the ways in which it will communicate and exhibit information and objects for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment.
National Standards for Australian Museums and Galleries
Staff Training Policy
Knowledge gained from staff training can be directly translated into improvements to museum programs, exhibits and overall operation. The development of a staff training policy and the implementation of a training program should enable community museums to upgrade services and meet established standards.
Volunteer Personnel Policy
Attract the right volunteers and match their skills to the needs of the museum. Volunteers are an integral part of most museums and they should be well-utilised, appreciated and rewarded.
Buildings and Facilities
Museum security is often overlooked. The security of the collection should be a high priority, and planning to protect it will pay off in the long term.
Building and Site Requirements
Both new and existing museums need to consider a number of issues when planning museum design and operations.
Fundraising and Sponsorship
Fundraising can be achieved through philanthropic donations and corporate sponsorship. Partnering with businesses and corporations to encourage financial sponsorship is becoming an important component of museum fundraising, but this can raise some ethical issues.
A museum should take out insurance to cover workers’ compensation; volunteer workers; public liability; fire, flood and storm damage; loans, objects in transit and travelling exhibitions; contents (non-collection items); and professional indemnity. Collection insurance is an option that should be considered carefully.
Local Community Insurance Services (LCIS) provide a range of insurance covers for community and Not-for-profit (NFP) organisations throughout Australia. If your group has annual funding or turnover of less than $5 million; provides a public benefit or serves a charitable purpose; does not distribute profits to members and comprises mainly volunteer members then LCIS may be able to provide the insurance cover you require. Most groups will be able to obtain an online quotation for a premium that is especially calculated to reflect the generally low risk activities undertaken by such community organisations. Visit the LCIS website for further information: www.localcommunityinsurance.com.au
Applying for Grants
Grants are available from state and federal government departments, and private foundations, for a range of museum activities and projects. Use these guidelines to develop a successful grant application.
Cultural Gifts and Bequests Program
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 'Cultural Gifts Program': http://www.arts.gov.au/tax_incentives/cgp
Tax & GST
The Australian Tax Office has a number of publications that can be of assistance, including videos. These are all available free and can be ordered through the ATO's phone line and website. Telephone 13 28 66 or visit to the ATO website.
Multicultural - Cultural Diversity and Social Inclusion
Gay & Lesbian
Link to Copyright Council ‘Galleries and Museums' information sheet
Marketing, PR and Evaluation
Connecting to Community
The survival of small museums often lies in the strategies it develops to build more interest and involvement in the organisation, within the community. This will attract more volunteers and supporters, and help ensure ongoing operations and development.
Marketing helps museums meet their goals and objectives. It helps attract visitors, and by identifying and meeting their needs, ensures they have a satisfying experience.
Public relations is the management of public opinion in order to earn the good will and understanding of the public. The public for a museum is not just its visitors but also the staff and volunteers, members, government officials and potential sponsors.
Liaising with the Media
Media coverage is a cost effective way of communicating a range of messages to a range of people. This kind of publicity is a great way for small museums to enhance their image, attract visitors and draw attention to their programs and activities.
Shops and Merchandise
A museum shop can be an integral part of the museum visitor experience. Not only can additional income and revenue be generated for the museum, in addition, the visitor may experience an overall enhancement to their visit by leaving with a memorable souvenir.
Evaluation systems are a very powerful tool for shaping and improving the way a museum achieves its objectives. Evaluation can provide invaluable audience information, deliver positive feedback to staff and help shape planning, running and revision of many museum activities, particularly interpretation.
Performance indicators are a means of measuring performance and are a useful accountability tool.
Link to Heritage Council/Tourism WA 'A Heritage Tourism Strategy for WA' Report
Conservation Building Plan
Link to Heritage Council of Western Australia 'Conservation Plan Study Brief'
Staff and Volunteers
Friends of Museums
Associations of Friends are voluntary organisations which are formed specifically to support their adopted institution.
Volunteers are the backbone of community museums across Australia, and provide integral support to larger museums. Attracting the right volunteers and retaining them requires an investment of museum resources and will benefit the museum, the volunteer and the community.
Guides are an important link between external groups and the museums collection. In general, guides need to be clear about their aims, the special needs of their audience and they need to have a clear plan to use during their tour. The success of an education program may depend largely on the expertise of the guides.
Knowledge gained from staff training can be directly translated into improvements to museum programs, exhibits and overall operation.
References and Links
Contacts and Organisations
A list of references and further reading.
Also, please refer to the below links:
AICCM (Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials) www.aiccm.org.au
Collections Australia Network www.collectionsaustralia.net.au
Heritage Council of Western Australia www.heritage.wa.gov.au
Museums and Galleries NSW www.mgnsw.org.au
Museum and Gallery Services, Queensland www.magsq.com.au
Museums Australia www.museumsaustralia.org.au
On UNESCO website search for Museum studies training package to locate "Running a Museum: a Practical Handbook" and
The "Trainer's Handbook to Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook" both edited by Patrick Boylan (2005) available as free downloads
A list of kindred bodies including contact details and website information.
Suppliers and Consultants
Suppliers and Consultants
Dealing with Consultants
In small museums not every aspect of operations can be covered by staff and volunteers. Often a consultant is employed to undertake a specific project.
Contractors and Consultants
Link to Museums Australia, List of Suppliers and Contractors, via Museums and Gallery Services Queensland
Link to Heritage Council of Western Australia, Directory of Consultants
Link to AICCM, Members in Private Practice
Cross-cultural awareness training - Kim Bridge & Associates, 15 Richmond Street, North Perth WA 6006 T: (08) 9328 1185
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