Museum Operations


Units: 6

Description: Museums share a responsibility for presenting, preserving, and interpreting arts, culture, history, and heritage for the benefit of the public and society. Yet, each museum has its own unique set of challenges and complexities, managed by a team of staff and board members who all share in the delivery of a museum’s mission, vision, and values. In this course, students will gain an understanding of what a museum is and how it is governed, explore the various operational processes required to run a museum, learn how museums care for and present their collections, and identify the role museums play in serving the needs of visitors and communities. Students will develop an appreciation for program planning and the decision-making processes needed for the allocation of resources. Museum roles and responsibilities, current trends, external relations and engagement functions will also be explored. A range of museum types will be highlighted including art museums, natural history museums, children’s museums, science centers, craft centers, and others. Course work will require students to make connections between theory, practice, and implementation, ultimately providing insight into the many factors inherent in running a museum in the 21st century.

Learning Outcomes: Skills and knowledge gained through this class will be assessed through analysis and discussion of readings, class participation, and assignments. Objectives-Week One (Introduction) • Discuss course content and structure; confirm learning objectives for course • Identify the Characteristics of Excellence for US Museums, based on the American Alliance of Museums (AAM’s) core standards across seven categories of museum operations • Introduce museum types and categories • Share examples and interpretations of financial information vis-à-vis the mission, and consider notions of accountability / oversight of non-profit organizations • Review basic components of an annual operating budget Objectives-Week Two (Governance, Organizational Structure and Systems) • Overview of organizational structures and options, identify approaches and discuss pros and cons • Understand the options and mechanics of management systems in museums • Review the roles and accountabilities of the Staff and Board of Directors • Address expectations of visitors and how they might be shaped by experience or other information • Discuss the types of museums and reasons why a museum might renovate or expand Objectives- Week Three (Museum Planning and Trends) • Evaluate the critical role of proactive planning for appropriate and affordable facilities to optimally support mission delivery • Consider the many personnel who actively participate in a museum setting and what resources the physical plant needs to provide. • Consider the ‘facility’ of a Museum, offering distinct types of space, serving a variety of functions • Identify capital and operational financial considerations of building and running a museum • Discuss risk management considerations • Examine concerns in the field regarding current issues facing museum operations Objectives-Week Four (Visitor Services and Collection Management) • Address expectations of staff and board in lines of communications and delivering services • Contextualize the importance of auxiliary services in terms of both visitor experience and in terms of revenue streams for a museum • Describe the opportunities and challenges unique to museums in seeking earned revenue (museum stores, cafes, special events, travelling shows, etc.) • Examine the role and facets of a collections management plan Objectives-Week Five (Collect, Preserve, and Present: Practitioners) • Participate in museum operations review of two local but internationally recognized museums • Learn from practitioners about the current state of publications and curatorial processes • Consider the historic context of museums to “Collect”, “Preserve”, and “Present” • Understand that “Presenting” is a comprehensive term that addresses visitor access, understanding, and appreciation for the work of a museum Objectives-Weeks Six and Seven (Final Project Presentations) • Students present term projects; Students look critically at regional museums to determine how effectively they serve the community • Acknowledge the importance of museums in a community’s culture. • Through the lens of various operational systems, reflect and analyze the responsibilities of museums in terms of collecting, preserving and presenting works • Consider how the different types of museums interpret their mission, specifically in the context of the output of museums: programming, publications, exhibitions, education, and other operations • Identify and discuss new models/directions for museum work and audience engagement Course Requirements and Policies

Syllabus: 93-807_Museum_Operations_Syllabus_S19.pdf