The Small Museum
“You wake up one morning to discover you are no longer simply a field interpreter. Your list of job duties now includes budget oversight, fund-raising, supervising staff, creating a strategic plan, performance reviews, maximizing objectives, and much more. You are an interpretive manager. Amid paperwork, forms, and meetings, the trees, birds, or historic artifacts you dedicated your career to interpreting seem very far away.” —Management of Interpretive Sites (2005)
Today, the majority of museums in the U.S. are small. Their staff members are skilled professionals who, despite being modest in number, wear many hats and offer a diverse range of skills. More and more, small museums are being asked to transform and evolve to remain relevant, sustainable organizations in the communities they serve.
The traditional role of the museum professional has grown from collection, preservation and exhibition to developing exciting exhibitions, museum education, fundraising and strong management. While museums remain a significant force in the cultural life of communities across the country, for many museums, these transformations have been key to their very survival. And, as in any profession, these changes require a unique and specialized skill set from the people they employ.
This class is cool because it introduces students to the history and nature of small museums in the United States. In The Small Museum, students will be introduced to unique experiences and issues in museum operation, like administration, finance, funding, staffing, program and exhibition development, community involvement, and partnership building, among others. They will explore readings that help develop the managerial skills needed to work in small museum operation. Most importantly, they will obtain the knowledge necessary to help these important cultural entities thrive and reconnect with their love for the work that drew them to the field in the first place.