General Institutional Planning

Planning is a common practice in organizations but the “classic approach” is often a “one-size, fits all” approach that’s too cumbersome for most museums and historic sites. These resources suggest alternative planning methods.

1. Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It by Ichak Adizes (1988).
2. Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins (2005).
3. The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter Drucker (2008).
4. Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning, Third Edition by Gerald George (2012).
5. The One Page Business Plan for Non-Profit Organizations by Jim Horan (2007).
6. Museum Strategy and Marketing: Designing Missions, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources by Neil Kotler and Philip Kotler (1998).
7. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan that Works by Ash Maurya (2012).
8. Strategy Safari, Second Edition by Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand, and Joseph Lampel (2009).
9. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (2010).
10. “The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy” by Michael Porter in Harvard Business Review (2008)

Interpretive Planning

1. Interpretation of Historic Sites by William T. Alderson and Shirley Payne Low (1985)
2. Interpretive Planning: The 5-M Model for Successful Planning Projects by Lisa Brochu (2003).
3. Practical Evaluation Guide: Tools for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings by Judy Diamond and Jessica Luke (2009).
4. Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen (2011).
5. Interpreting Historic House Museums by Jessica Foy Donnelly, ed. (2002).
6. Interpretation: Making a Difference on Purpose by Sam Ham (2013).
7. “A Case for Holistic Intentionality” by Randi Korn in Curator (April 2007).
8. The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen (1998)
9. Thinking Styles by Robert J. Sternberg (1997).

Standards and Best Practices for Community Engagement, Historical Interpretation, Public Education

These standards attempt to address the diverse areas of responsibility covered by education and interpretation at historic places and by historical organizations, including scholarship, curriculum development, visitor research, and staff training, as well as the broad range of public programs presented by historic sites, from tours and exhibits to publications and the Internet.  These resources can be used to:

1. Reinforce best practices among board members, staff, and volunteers.
2. Ensure a consistent high quality of experience for visitors.
3. Assist organizations in developing strategic plans, goals, and objectives.
4. Provide goals for developing and improving the educational programs and historical interpretation.
5. Assess the performance of interpretation and programming.
6. Establish performance standards for vendors, contractors, and consultants.


1. For developing, implementing, and evaluating educational programs, activities, and methods, use:

2. For recruiting, supervising, and evaluating staff, contractors, or vendors responsible for interpretation and education, use:

3. For research on people and animals (e.g., oral histories, visitor studies, landscape research, living history farms), use:

4. For the preparation of books, articles, bibliographies, documents, and other text in print or electronic versions, use:

  • Chicago Manual of Style (latest edition) for all works except as noted below
  • Associated Press Stylebook (latest edition) for communications with the press (e.g., journalists, newspapers, magazines)
  • American Heritage Dictionary (latest edition) for word usage and spelling


These standards and best practices are based on generally accepted principles and selected from the codes of ethics of the American Association of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, the American Historical Association, and the National Council for Public History; the Standards for Accreditation of the American Association of Museums; Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations of the American Association for State and Local History; Standards and Practices for Historic Site Administration by the Tri-State Coalition for Historic Places; and the Museum Education Standards and Principles of the American Association of Museum Education Committee. It is also influenced by the work of leaders in the field of historical interpretation and educational practice, including Lisa Brochu, Charlotte Danielson, Lynn Dierking, John Falk, Howard Gardner, Sam Ham, George Hein, Randi Korn, Tim Merriman, Freeman Tilden, and Sam Wineburg. Furthermore, it is influenced by the practice of interpretation at historic sites (especially those who are National Trust Historic Sites) and current related trends, including consumer marketing, tourism, academic history, and public education.

2 thoughts on “Resources

  1. Carter

    Excellent idea and thanks for posting them!

    Be sure to check the clickable highlights in part two’s first and third bullet, part one’s first bullet, and part threes second and third bullets. The computer world is playing tricks on you as it does to all of us.

    Again, excellent blog!


    1. Max van Balgooy Post author

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve corrected the links so everything should work, and in some cases, I’ve hosted the documents on this blog to ensure they’re always available (I typically prefer to send links directly to the organization’s site but some are continually changing their links and I can’t keep up with it).


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