The Importance of Education Management in Museums

Added to Medium, April 5, 2018

Museum professionals, in addition to many professionals in various fields, understand there is a lot of time and dedication that is put into management of programs and administration. Throughout my experience as a museum professional, I have learned the significance of being able to successfully manage education programming and the administrative tasks that go along with the responsibilities of education in museums. In addition to the experiences gained, various books and articles also provide information to assist museum professionals in guiding them on education management. An important lesson every professional understands, and sometimes need to remind themselves of from time to time, is that we are human and we are not perfect. We do the best we can to manage our educational programs so our organizations can fulfil their missions.

Before I went to Long Island, I had limited experience in administration management and mainly taught educational programs in historic house museums in Connecticut. Once I went to Long Island, I gained more experience in management.

At the Long Island Museum, I worked in education management in addition to teaching some school programs. I booked school and group programs including tours and In the Moment program (for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients); after answering phone calls and taking down information such as the name of school/organization and the number of individuals attending, I recorded the information on the facilities sheet, placed the program and organization (as well as the time) on the Master Calendar via Google Docs, and provide the information needed including but not limited to the type of program, school, and the date/time on the daily sheet to write down official numbers as well as observe the number of programs for that day.

In addition to what I previously stated, I was in charge of scheduling volunteers who taught larger school programs that require various stations and geared towards larger school groups. Based on how many of these school programs were scheduled for that month, I used the sheet of the volunteers’ availability to schedule the number of volunteers needed to run the program(s) for the number of days scheduled. Once finalized I printed copies and sent them to all volunteers while keeping one to put on the board for them to refer to while at the museum.

Another part of education management that is important is making sure there is enough materials for each scheduled program. After booking and scheduling programs, and writing the volunteers’ schedules, I also was responsible for inventory of items for programs. Some of the examples of what I took track of are the keepsake photographs for each exhibit for the In the Moment program, and papers for school programs that took place in the one room school house.

With everything that was listed previously, other responsibilities for managing education programs is financially supporting them and promoting them for the public to be aware of what the museum has to offer. I went over budgets with the Director of Education for purchasing food and drinks for the public programs; we collaborated on the paperwork once the items were purchased.

The examples of what I did to help promote the programs was when I oversaw printing program flyers, after the everyone in the department approved of the details, and sending the flyers to the head of the Suffolk County and Nassau County libraries for them to distribute to all libraries in the counties to post on bulletin boards. I also made sure there was many copies printed to be sent to and distributed at the museum’s visitor center.

Also, I made sure the mailing for school program brochures and bus trip flyers mailings went smoothly. I printed address labels, placed address labels on envelopes, placed brochures and flyers in the envelopes, borrowed mailing trays from postal offices to place envelopes in, and send them to the post office to be mailed.

This experience at the Long Island Museum has taught me a lot about behind the scenes situations for managing education programs. I knew that there is a lot that goes into planning what should be taught and what techniques can be utilized that are appropriate for students. What I learned was how much more goes into planning education programs and how they are managed. Also, as time went on I learned that this is continuous work to make sure the programs are well prepped and managed to continue serving their purpose for the museum.

In the book The Museum Educator’s Manual, the writers stated that it is essential for all museum leaders to continually assess and evaluate existing programs by analyzing the time, effort, and cost of each program in comparison to the breath and degree of impact it has on the community, in facilitating visitor engagement, and advancing the museums’ overall goals (13). Continuous work on financially supporting programs and preparing for programs is essential for managing education programs in museums.

When museum professionals are able to manage educational programs well, the programs will be able to benefit the museums’ missions in the long run. In Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0, they pointed out that a well-organized and effective educational programs not only add to the museum’s potential for earned income, but they also help humanize the institutions from the community’s perspective (135). In the end, maintaining a relationship with the community should be the goal for museums, and it is important to maintain that through well-managed educational programs.

I continued to utilize my skills in education management when I did some work with the Long Island Maritime Museum. At the LIMM, I answered and redirected phone calls at the front desk, assisted in gift shop inventory, and tallied volunteers’ sailing Priscilla records during last year’s sailing season. I also created word searches and other similar activities for children to learn about Long Island’s maritime history. I continued to expand my knowledge through more experience and reading through resources on museum education.

I also came across a guidebook that was published by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) called Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook. This included an article “Museum Education in the Context of Museum Functions” written by Cornelia Brüninghaus-Knubel who was the Head of Education Department at the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany. One of the statements that stood out to me in the article was:

Once a museum has decided to establish an education service and has found a suitable candidate to run it, the new education officer has to set up a structure and decide on a policy and programme. This has to be realistic in terms of what can be accomplished according to the museum’s situation, particularly the staff, time, space and finance available. As a minimum, an effective education service requires a full-time professional head who is capable of handling the management and administrative aspects of the job as well as taking part in the teaching and other educational work. Long experience shows that while a single education officer is better than nothing, one person will not be able to carry out every necessary task, especially once schools, colleges, parents and the wider public recognise the value of the educational programmes offered by the museum.

It is a challenge to complete the necessary tasks of many museum professionals when one museum professional is hired to complete them. We need to form a good foundation in the education department, and establish a system that will help museum educators to accomplish the necessary tasks to manage education programming.

I kept all of the experiences I have gained and all of the resources I have read over the years in mind as I continued to learn through my experience at the Three Village Historical Society. I serve on the Education Committee by assisting in editing the volunteer handbook, preparing for and teaching school programs, and conduct informational interviews to seek advice on programming in the distant future.

Education management is a continuous task museum professionals are aware of, and when we are able to form a solid foundation for the museum education management system museums can successfully fulfill their educational missions.

What were your experiences were like in education management? Did you have challenges your organization faced when managing education programs?

Brüninghaus-Knubel, Cornelia. “Museum Education in the Context of Museum Functions”, Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook, Paris, France: International Council of Museums Maison de l’UNESCO, 2004.
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
Johnson, Anna, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann, Tim Grove, The Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques, 2nd edition, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.


1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s