In this uncertain environment, many organizations are unsure about the direction to pursue for their historic site or house museum. Through a self-study process and a personal assessment by an external professional colleague, the Museum Assessment Program (MAP) offers a thoughtful and proven approach to refine your operations, programs, and collections. I’ve participated in several MAPs and clever organizations have used it to confirm a strategy, refine a project, resolve a vexing issue, support a funding proposal, or move to the next level of operations. I can’t think of a better program available, except if you’re accredited by AAM, you have a large professional staff, or if you’re able to afford a large team of experts. Really. To stay sharp, every historic site and house museum in America needs to go through this program every decade and in between, they should be tackling a section of AASLH’s Standards and Excellence Program. Really. If you’re not sure, call the director of the historic sites that participated this year: Montpelier Mansion (Maryland), Old Barracks Museum (New Jersey), Louis Armstrong House (New York), Seward House (New York), Stewart House (Ohio), French Legation Museum (Texas), Poplar Forest (Virginia), and Pabst Mansion (Wisconsin).
To participate, your organization needs to meet some basic requirements (such as be open to the public at least 90 days a year), pay a participation fee (and for organizations with a budget of less than $125,000, it’s free!), and provide the time to complete the self-study workbook within six months (and it does require a serious commitment from the staff and board). The next application deadline is December 1 and you’ll find more information at aam-us.org/resources/assessment-programs/MAP or contact Jill Connors-Joyner or Lauren Silberman at map@aam-us-.org (they’re both very helpful).
Here’s an inside tip: if you’re accepted, you’ll be provided with a list of museum professionals that meet your interests and you’ll choose one to be your peer reviewer. But you can also request a specific person, whether they are currently in the pool of reviewers or not (as long as they meet the basic requirements). If there’s someone in the field that you’ve admired and you’re dying for their advice, MAP is excellent way to pay for their expenses, especially if your organization has a tight budget.