Tag Archives: Historic London Town and Gardens

Small Museum Association Conference Was Really Big

For the first time, College Park, Maryland hosted the annual Small Museum Association conference, which was previously held for decades in Ocean City, Maryland (a seaside resort town where the rooms are cheap in winter).  The relocation was controversial but it attracted a record attendance of 315 persons, plus the facilities at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center were much better suited for a national conference.  Not only were there a nice assortment of rooms and places to meet (not just for sessions but informal chats) but it features an outstanding art collection from the University of Maryland in its hallways, not the usual hotel pablum. Paintings and sculptures mostly by Maryland artists lined the hallways and in their own galleries, curated by Jon West-Bey (formerly at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum).  Were we in a hotel? a conference center? a museum?

While some people might assume that a conference for small museums means that it’s for beginners, you’ll find that like most professional conferences it has a variety of sessions for different levels of experience, except that it’s aimed at institutions that have a small staff and budget. Flexibility and speed are among the characteristic advantages of small museums, who sometimes forget they can innovate much faster than their bigger brethern. Some quick highlights from the education sessions I attended are: Continue reading

Whose Job Is It? Board or Staff?

tug-of-war-300x200A common and contentious management issue for museums and historic sites is the the role and responsibilities of board members and the staff.  Frequent complaints I’ve heard are that board members are interfering in staff projects or lack interest in their role as leaders, or that staff is withholding crucial information from the board or is unable to make progress on major goals.  Navigating these concerns requires a good hand on the tiller by both the executive director and board chair, but I’ve also found that a facilitated group discussion about roles and responsibilities is often just as effective.

In my years of service on several different boards, each was at a different place in their organizational development, which means the roles and responsibilities was different as well.  An all-volunteer start-up organization operates differently from one with a large staff and a long-established set of activities.  Boards are not all the same.

Board members also require orientation and training, which rarely happens.  There doesn’t seem to be Continue reading

Top Ten Ideas to Build Effective Museum Experiences

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A couple weeks ago, I was part of a workshop on building effective museum experiences on June 3, 2013 at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland.  Thanks to a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, they’ve partnered with the Maryland Historical Trust to present a series of workshops for museums and historic sites in the region.

For this workshop, they assembled an outstanding team of speakers:

In the afternoon, we broke into several groups.   I led a discussion with Tom Mayes on creating tours using techniques from narrative non-fiction, giving participants a chance to try Continue reading