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Category: Management

History museums, learning from history

History museums, learning from history

Can museums use museum history to think about the future? Can their past successes and failures guide them? How might they find possibility and potential in the past when they need to change? I suggest that one way to do this is to look to the long history of museums. Museums have been many things. They have found many ways that museums have balanced the often-conflicting needs of audience, collections, patrons, and educational goals. Looking to this history can help…

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The Art of the Turnaround, Revisited

The Art of the Turnaround, Revisited

When I started as director of the Haffenreffer Museum, two years ago, Michael Gerhardt, a professional interim director who was then interim director of Mt. Hope Farm, suggested I read Michael Kaiser’s Art of the Turnaround. It was good advice. Kaiser gives ten rules for turning around an arts organization. You can find versions of them on many websites: here’s the version from a useful interview with Kaiser at Minnesota Public Radio 1. Someone must lead. 2. That someone must…

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Process and Product

Process and Product

The last six weeks have been winter break at Brown. And it’s been an incredibly busy time at the Haffenreffer Museum. Good? Yes, in terms of product. We’ve accomplished a great deal. Two new exhibits installed, a lot of design completed. It’s easier to get things done when there are no classes to teach and no students around. But not so good, in terms of process.  After all, with no students around, we’re missing our most important goal: to give…

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Branding

Branding

I’ve always been a bit suspicious of branding. Important for selling things, perhaps, but museums aren’t in the selling business. And university museums are even further removed from the market. We’ve got a sophisticated audience, fairly narrowly defined; we’re not after numbers, but after a quality relationship; and we don’t want to come off as too slick. We’re academics, after all. But I’ve changed my mind about branding. All of the reasons that we don’t need to worry about add…

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What I want from my collections management system

What I want from my collections management system

One of the first problems I identified on becoming director of the museum was its collections management system. It infuriated me. The interfaces were arcane. The data was imprisoned in a proprietary system – one that seemed designed to make reports difficult and information sharing impossible. It was complicated, to the point where most of the staff just stayed away and asked the one person who could figure it out to use it. I’m not mentioning names. It’s a fairly…

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Planning for 2011-2012

Planning for 2011-2012

July 1 is the start of the new year at Brown, and so it’s an appropriate time to look ahead. Here are some of the things we’re thinking about for next year: Haffenreffer Museum planning July 2011 – June 2012 Exhibits CultureLab study center New entrance cases: Representing people Roger Williams 375th anniversary (with RIHS) Taiwan aboriginal arts Taoist paintings (with RISD Museum) El Anatsui Art/Archaeology program with Bell Gallery Begin work on Weihe Collection Liberia exhibition [additional for spring]…

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