Why IMLS Investment in Professional Development is Significant

January 23, 2020

Last week the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) made an announcement about additional funding dedicated to professional development for museum professionals. I emphasized in each blog post I wrote about professional development programs I participated in on how significant they are, especially for museum professionals. The recent news from IMLS explained what the additional funding would mean for museums and museum professionals. According to their website, when the Fiscal Year 2020 was passed on December 20, 2019 IMLS was allocated an additional $3 million through the largest program Museums for America and plans to invest this additional funding towards improving the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals.

Museums for America is a program that supports projects to strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public. This program has three categories: Lifelong Learning, Community Anchors and Catalysts, and Collections Stewardship and Public Access.

What does this mean for museum professionals? We would be able to develop our skills to improve the quality of our field and of our work with the public. I hope that with this funding it will help support improvements on onboarding, recruiting, training, and creating a healthy workplace. There is a lot of progress on making museums a better place to work but we do have a long way to go. Recent news about the former executive who worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the sexual harassment complaints against him is an example of what museum professionals face in the workplace (see the links below on the coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer). While we are working to make up for ill treatment within the museum workplace, we need to work on the source of the problems and hopefully more museums will be able to access museum professional development opportunities IMLS has to offer.

On their website, they stated the $3 million will be channeled through two special funding opportunities under Museums for America called Museums Empowered, Grants for Professional Development and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums. Museums Empowered allows museums to use the funds in four specific professional development categories: improving organizational effectiveness, evaluation practices, digital stewardship, and diversity and inclusion. Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a program that supports small museums’ capacity building efforts related to collections, learning, and community at their institutions. The IMLS also included highlights of how professional development offerings make an impact on museums and museum professionals:

National Leadership Grants for Museums, realigned in 2018, now offers dedicated project categories for professional development and diversity and inclusion that allow museum associations, universities, and other non-profits to seek funding that can amplify collaborations, offer training, and develop tools and promising practices for the entire sector.

• The Museums for America, African American History and Culture, and Native American and Native Hawaiian grant programs continue to offer individual museums and tribes support for leadership development and diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as building a pipeline of new professionals.

• The Museum Assessment Program and Collections Assessment for Preservation program cooperative agreements with the American Alliance of Museums and Foundation for Advancement in Conservation continue to provide much needed technical assistance and capacity building help to smaller museums.

To check out more information about IMLS and the programs it offers, visit their website: www.imls.gov.

Links:

https://www.imls.gov/news/imls-invest-3-million-professional-development-capacity-building-across-museum-sector

https://www.inquirer.com/arts/philadelphia-museum-of-art-executive-resignation-joshua-helmer-complaints-20200110.html

https://www.inquirer.com/arts/philadelphia-museum-of-art-timothy-rub-apology-helmer-20200122.html

Relevant Posts:

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/03/09/how-to-lead-a-professional-development-program-reflections-of-my-experience-presenting-one-on-gender-equity/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/16/professional-development-programs-managing-your-museums-online-reputation-and-evaluating-volunteers-and-volunteer-programs/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/07/18/historic-house-keeping-a-hands-on-professional-development-experience/

How History is Seen by the Public: AASLH Partnership for Grant-Funded Project

June 27, 2019

History has always been a subject I have been interested in studying and, as I developed my education and career, I became more interested in finding effective ways to translate the study of history to school children and adult visitors. Over the years, I participated in professional development programs that delved into museum education and involving the public in conversations to help visitors learn more about topics in history, art, STEM, et cetera. I continue to grow and improve the quality of my practices as a museum educator. As the summer begins, I started to reflect on my previous experiences and figure out how I can be a better museum educator as I turn to focusing back to history.

This past week I learned about the partnership between the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), Washington, D.C.-based FrameWorks Institute, National Council on Public History (NCPH), and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) that received a grant for a new project researching American attitudes towards history called “Framing History with the American Public”. The grant of $479,000 is from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which is a foundation that endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. According to an article released by AASLH

Over the next three years, we will carry out a comprehensive, nationwide study of how the public views, interprets, and uses a wide variety of history activities and will develop new tools to strengthen the field’s communications efforts.

“Framing History” will not only provide unprecedented detail about how Americans view these organizations and their work, it will build, test, and share tools that all organizations and practitioners can use to positively affect public understanding of the value of history. Whether it’s a historical society communicating with new audiences, an academic department talking with potential majors, or a museum making their case to funders or legislators, this project will provide history practitioners with tools to frame their messages as effectively as possible.

It is an interesting project to me because my background in history and public history naturally leads me to finding ways to connect with the public to help keep history relevant. By having that information, it will especially help museums and historical societies including the Three Village Historical Society strengthen their communication skills in educating the public on history. If we can improve the way we connect with the public, we will be able to express the significance of history and why we need to keep historical sites and objects protected.

The article continued by briefly explaining the three phases of the project including the partners establishing a panel of history professionals representing the overall history field to identify and principles experts use to explain their work. Another phase of the project was to utilize focus groups, surveys, and on the street interviews to fill in gaps on the understanding of history. Then the last phase is to develop and share those tools and educational materials to ensure historical professionals in the community of the effectiveness of the results.

I am glad that it will take some time to complete the project, even though at the same time I would like to know at an earlier point than stated, because it is important to accurately gain the information needed so we can better serve the public and provide a compelling argument for sharing and preserving history. I also believe the information that will be gathered from the research will also help bring more people in the history field since they will be more informed of what makes history important for our country and for our world. There are a lot of myths about the history major that are addressed in articles like the American Historical Association’s article “History Is Not A Useless Major: Fighting Myths With Data” written by Paul B. Sturtevant, and by having a comprehensive information to share with the public it could inspire more students to major in history and therefore preserve future historical scholarship. To learn more about the project, check out the link from AASLH in the resources section.

I look forward to learning more as the project commences!

Discussion Questions: How do you feel about history? What do you hope for from this project? What do you think we could do to improve communications about history?

Announcement: Because next Thursday is the Fourth of July celebration in the United States, I will not post a new blog post, but I will share previous posts next week.

Resources:

https://aaslh.org/aaslh-receives-mellon-foundation-grant/

https://mellon.org/

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/april-2017/history-is-not-a-useless-major-fighting-myths-with-data

What Grants Mean for Museums

Added to Medium, July 26, 2018

Museum professionals understand that grants are significant for funding museums to keep them exercising their practices such as running programs and caring for collections. Based on my experiences, grants are a tedious necessity since there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out to fund museums, and the information we need to fill out for grants is repetitive depending on how many times we need to apply to the same grant.

One of my responsibilities at the Long Island Explorium includes writing grant applications and proposals. I have worked with state grants and kit applications to keep the museum fulfilling its mission. With the Executive Director, I filled out paperwork to send to the state representative and the county legislator. Also, I filled out online applications for program kits such as the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit to be able to use at the museum. In the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit application, I would first write in the museum’s demographics as well as a brief explanation of how the museum will use the toolkit in a downloaded form then copy the information into the online application after making adjustments to reflect the current year.

While my main interest in the museum field is education, I see value in learning about grant application processes since we need a fund source that is at least somewhat consistent to keep museum education programs running. The problems we all come across in the field is limited availability of grants and being able to convince foundations, government agencies, and other funders of why we need these funds. It is a challenge to find funding for our museums but it is worth the time and effort to search and apply for these grants.

Foundations, organizations, government agencies, and other funding sources have websites that share resources on what grants are out there and how to apply for them. I came across a blog post on the American Alliance of Museum’s website written by Charlotte A. Montgomery who shared some of the websites about grants to help museum professionals get started on the grant search process. One of the websites in the post was for the Foundation Center (http://foundationcenter.org/) which connects people to the resources they need by using data, analysis, and training. Another grant website discussed in the blog post was Grants.gov which is a place to find and apply for federal grants, and it is highly advisable to make sure the organization is registered with the System for Award Management weeks before planning to submit a proposal. Once museum professionals find the grant or grants they want to apply for, they need to figure out what the grant process is like to accurately submit a proposal.

Sarah Sutton’s second edition of Is Your Museum Grant-Ready? revealed one of the first things to do before even thinking about applying for grants is to understand the grant funding system. According to Sutton, she pointed out that

If you need funds for programs or capital projects, then the best way to support the grants process is to understand it well enough to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material and assistance.

When museum professionals are able to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material as well as assistance, the whole grant process will be easier to understand for future grant applications. Also, museums would save a lot of time when figuring out how to apply for the grant. Without knowing how the process is performed, a lot of time is wasted as we continue to correct the errors are made.

I learned that it is important to go over each detail carefully while I was filling out grant paperwork for the Long Island Explorium. Since I have to make a number of copies to send to the state representative and county legislator, it was easy for me to make and discover errors. The good news was I was able to catch them before I sent the paperwork in the mail. If any errors were made in the process, we would not be able to know until a few months after submitting the paperwork; it would take a few months for them to go through the grant paperwork. Understanding the process is beneficial for myself as well as all museum professionals working on grant proposals. Since there are so many museums that apply to grants, each museum need to figure out how they can stand out from other applications.

As I was reviewing information about grants, I came across two blog posts on answers to grant proposals if non-profits were brutally honest. The writer pointed out that non-profits are trained to tell funders what we think they want to hear, and had collected various honest answers to questions posed by grant applications. If non-profits are able to be brutally honest, some of the answers are

  1. What is innovative about your program design? “Our program is entirely innovative. The design is unproven; the approach is untested; the outcomes are unknown. We also have a tried-and-true service delivery model with outstanding results and a solid evidence base to support it. But you funded that last year and your priority is to fund innovative projects. So we made this one up. Please send money.”
  2. How will you use the funds if you receive this grant? We honestly really need this grant to pay for rent and utilities and for wages so our staff can do important work and feed their families, but since you won’t allow your funds to be used for those things, we will say that your grant is paying for whatever you will actually fund, then get other funders or donors to give and then tell them that their money is paying for the stuff that they want to fund. We will ultimately waste hundreds of hours every year trying to figure out who is paying for what, hours that could be used to deliver services. Please send unrestricted money.
  3. What is the mission of your organization? Susan, can we talk? This is a renewal grant. It’s the third year you have supported us. You know what our mission is, along with our programs, outcomes, challenges, etc., because we’ve been in constant communication. Instead of writing an entire proposal again as if you’ve never heard of us, how about I just tell you what’s new since last year? That will save us both a lot of time. What’s new is that Jason got a standing desk that he made out of cardboard boxes and Gorilla tape because you and other funders want overhead to be low. He says hi. Also, demands for our services has doubled. Please send double the amount of money you normally send.
  4. What needs are you addressing? We are addressing the failure of our government and capitalism to provide for people who are suffering from systemic injustice caused by government and capitalism. Please send money or convince corporations and the rest of society to pay more taxes and take care of people better and put us nonprofit professionals out of business so that some of us can pursue our dreams of acting and/or wedding photography.

I believe a lot of museum professionals from time to time have identified with these honest responses. Museum professionals are constantly attempting to brainstorm innovative ideas for programs to draw visitors in and show foundations providing grants we have something unique worth putting money towards.

Also, we do need to consider paying for rent, utilities, and salaries when trying to fund our museums but the problem can be summed up with this question: is there a grant that will pay for us to be in our building and do the work we do to support ourselves? An honest response previously listed suggests there isn’t. One of the issues we are talking about in this field is the lack of providing living wages for our staff and how we should be working towards better pay. As we work towards addressing and resolving what we need to fix, we should acknowledge how we need to receive more support from the government to help us fix the problems we are facing in the museum field. We are constantly working towards making sure the government provides funding for our organizations through our advocacy efforts, and since we continue to struggle to make sure they run smoothly with sufficient funds we need to continue to advocate for our museums.

We acknowledge the need for grants in our organizations, and without grants we would have a hard time keeping our museums running.

Have you worked on a grant or grants for your organization? What are your experiences with grants?

Resources:
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/02/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-with-funders/
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/07/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-part-2/
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442273108/Is-Your-Museum-Grant-Ready-Second-Edition
http://ww2.aam-us.org/about-us/grants-awards-and-competitions/grants-calendar
https://www.comnetwork.org/insights/
http://www.raise-funds.com/positioning-grant-writers-for-success/
https://www.aam-us.org/2015/02/02/your-museum-needs-money-now-what/
http://www.smallmuseum.org/smaresources
https://www.childrensmuseums.org/members/resources/grants-and-award-calendar

Book Review: Museum Administration 2.0 by Hugh H. Genoways, Lynne M. Ireland, and Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko

Originally posted on Medium, April 6, 2017.

After a while, I have completed Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0 with revisions made by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. It took me a while to read this book because I wanted to make sure I comprehended each detail the authors provided. I wanted to read this book not only develop my skills as a museum professional but to learn more about how museum administration works. As a museum educator, in the past, I had limited experience in the administration aspect of the museum. I taught school and public programs and the experiences I gained did not include a lot of administration skills. The administration skills I gained before I went to the Long Island Museum was some time answering phone calls and preparing flyers and mailings.

While I was at the Long Island Museum, I gained more administration skills that helped me develop my skills as a museum professional. In addition to teaching school programs and implementing public programs, I learned how to book 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 program/school/organization/time information on the daily sheet to write down official numbers as well as observe the number of programs for that day.

Also, I was also 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.

In addition to the programming related administration work, I also worked on various projects in the Education department. For instance, 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. Then 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. 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/flyers in the envelopes, borrowed mailing boxes from postal offices to place envelopes in, and send them to the post office to be mailed. Since the Long Island Museum, 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 at the Long Island Maritime Museum.

I decided to write a review of this book because not only will this book be useful for all museum professionals but it has also been a while since I wrote a book review. By reading this book, I gain a deeper understanding of the museum running process on all levels and I hope everyone who reads this blog entry will also have a better understanding of how museums are run.

Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. ISBN: 978–1442255517

This book is a second edition to the Museum Administration book published in the early 2000s and revisions were made in this second edition to provide updates on changes in the field since the first edition was published. The authors pointed out that this book is not just for museum directors and department heads but this book is for all members of the museum staff who have administrative duties. The book also provided not only case studies and case reviews but it also shared activities that can be used to practice the skills introduced in that chapter. There are also diagrams to illustrate the concepts explained in the chapters. Also, the authors pointed out the main point of this book which is this book should be used as a quick reference, inspiration during challenging times, and a jumping off point to dig deeper into more complex topics. Each chapter is dedicated to different aspects of how museums are run from what a museum and administration is to interpretation, exhibits, and programming.

The first chapter not only defines what a museum is and what an administration is but it also discusses types of museums, museum associations, the museum profession, and academic programs related to the field. In this chapter, the academic programs discussed in the book are museum studies, public history, and archival education. The chapter also lists several museum associations that exist in the United States including the primary professional museum association American Alliance of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums, Association of Children’s Museums, International Museum Theatre Alliance, and Museum Education Roundtable. The first chapter also pointed out that ultimately when learning about administration in museums experience is the great teacher. Also, it is important to know that no matter what position one holds in the museum each staff member will be expected to perform some administrative duties and each day presents sets of opportunities to make something happen.

The second and third chapters discussed start up and strategic planning. According to the second chapter on start up, creating a new museum or improving an existing one is a complex process requiring a clear sense of purpose and compliance with state and federal regulations. A couple of things the chapter points out are a museum should form only when a community can specify the need for it and plan a solid business model for its sustainability; and all museums need a well-defined mission statement, written bylaws, articles of incorporation, and IRS tax-exempt status. Another important part of museum operations is strategic planning; a strategic plan is a map or chart an organization agrees to follow for three to five years to reach its goals, and the plans are strategic when the goals that respond to a museum’s environment, seek a competitive edge, effectively serve stakeholders, and identify the keys to long-term sustainability.

There are ten steps in the developing process of a strategic plan for a museum. The steps are initiate and agree on process, identify organizational mandates, identify and understand stakeholders and develop mission, external and internal assessments, identify strategic issues, review and adopt strategic issues, formulate strategies (action or work plans) to manage strategic issues, establish a vision for the future of the museum, evaluation and reassessment, and finalizing the plan. The fourth and fifth chapters discuss topics on finance and sustainability.

I appreciate that the finance chapter went into such detail since finance is important for the staff to have a handle on how money is spent as this helps them make effective decisions with significant financial impact. The chapter discusses how to develop a budget, manage a budget, and accounting. Budget management requires both a day to day approach and a long view so by learning all the steps of developing and maintaining the budget a museum will be able to function and fulfill its mission. On the chapter of sustainability, it discusses how a museum’s financial stability and future rely on effective fundraising and revenue-generating practices that provide for present operational needs and generate income for future capital and operational needs.

There are various parts of financing that help sustain museums to keep them running. For instance, development is about building relationships with people that would lead to the end result (money) for museums. Other parts of sustainability include making a (development) plan, raising funds, accumulate contributed income (i.e. memberships, annual giving, sponsorships, fundraising events, and campaigns), planned giving, government support, and grants. Museums are also sustained through earned income which includes admission fees, museum store, dining facilities, planetariums and theaters, educational programming, special exhibits, traveling exhibits, and blockbuster exhibits and other partnerships.

The sixth and seventh chapters discuss topics on the working museum and ethics and professional conduct. According to the working museum chapter, staff are the museum’s most valuable asset. I agree with this statement because each museum staff member has a role in keeping a museum running, and a museum like any organization is like a car (each part of a car helps keep the car running and performing its functions as well as fulfilling its purposes). The working museum describes how the staff, board members, and volunteers understand how their organization is laid out in chart form that would be especially helpful for new people joining the organization. It also discusses the museum employees which reveals general expectations of the employee based on their job descriptions, and the significance of leadership in museums with detailed descriptions of leadership types. This chapter also went into detail about how the museum board, director, and staff should interact with one another.

In the ethics and professional conduct chapter, it points out that there is a universal agreement that standards articulate a way to guide the thoughts and actions of museum professionals and provide some basis for judging the performance of institutions and individuals. The chapter discusses museum ethics by defining ethics and how important it is to develop a code of ethics for museums. Also, the chapter describes ethics statements and a good statement according to the authors will articulate the traditional values or morals and communal standards of the museum profession. Then the chapter discusses the codes of professional museum conduct through governance, collections, institutional codes of professional museum conduct, and enforcement.

The eighth and ninth chapters talk about legal issues and facilities management. I appreciate that in the beginning of the legal issues chapter the authors stated that nothing in the chapter should be considered legal advice because it reinforces the idea that this book should be used as a reference. The authors also recommended a couple of books to use as museum law references to start with and then seek legal counsel when necessary: Museum Law: A Guide for Officers, Director and Counsel by Marilyn E. Phelan (2014), and the 2012 update of A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections by Marie C. Malaro and Ildiko P. DeAngelis. This chapter provides brief detailed descriptions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBIT), legal liability, artists’ rights, copyright, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. To have a good facilities management plan, museum staff must consider the needs of the people who work within the organization, the preservation and exhibition of objects in the museum’s collection, and the people who visit the museum.

The facilities management chapter describes in detail museum facilities and the significance of maintaining the museum property. Museum facilities includes the physical structure and the utility services. This chapter also discusses facility operations which includes housekeeping, emergency preparedness, health and safety, fire prevention, safety data sheet, hazardous materials, biological waste materials, integrated pest management, and security. Visitor services is also part of facilities management since providing a range of services will make the museum a welcoming environment for visitors to feel comfortable in and a guaranteed return visit. The services provided are pre-visit information, parking, accessibility, orientation, museum stores, rest rooms, food service, and educational services. In the tenth and eleventh chapters, the authors provided details on marketing and public relations as well as collections stewardship.

Both marketing and public relations are married concepts since both concepts deal with communications and reaching to the public. Marketing is a process that helps people exchange something of value for something they need or want. This chapter discusses several aspects of marketing including motivations for marketing, history of marketing activities, the marketing plan, tactical marketing, and e-communications. Public relations, meanwhile, is built upon marketing and is charged with trying to develop a successful image for the organization. The chapter also discuss how public relations are incorporated in museum’s overall strategic plan; it also describes the PR tools museums use in museums’ public relations practices which are events, community relations, media relations, media releases, public service announcements, interviews and speeches, print materials, and buzz. This chapter also discusses the significance of museums and the community working together to maintain museums’ relevance within the community. The authors dedicated an entire chapter on collections stewardship.

In this chapter, the authors describe what a collections management policy is and addresses nine issues that the collections management policies must cover. The nine issues mentioned are collection mission and scope, acquisition and accessioning, cataloging, inventories, and records, loans, collection access, insurance, deaccession and disposal, care of the collection, and personal collecting. Each of these nine issues are fully described throughout the chapter. The twelfth chapter discussed interpretation, exhibition, and programming.

According to the book, interpretation is everything we do that helps visitors make sense of our collections include: exhibitions, education programs, and evaluation. The core of interpretation is communication and it is up to museum professionals to translate these communication pathways to a variety of audiences. In this chapter, it discusses exhibits as well as interpretive planning, exhibit policy, exhibit planning and development. The chapter also went into detail about programming as well as the policy and guidelines for the museums’ educational functions. All museums also need to provide evidence from outcome based evaluations that they are fulfilling the social contract of providing educational experiences for its visitors.

One of the things that we all should take away from this book is the longer one works in the field, the more one will know and the more one will give back to the field. The advice that I took away from this book is to keep your head up, your eyes forward, and your brain learning. This is important to me as a museum professional because I understood that we are always learning from our experiences and we continue to develop our skills as museum educators to better serve our institutions and our communities. While I read this book, I used a pencil to write down notes in the books to highlight the main points of the book for whenever I want to look back at the lessons this book presented. It is an important book I will continue to use throughout my career as a museum professional.

What are your experiences in museum administration? How have you applied your administrative skills in your daily role as a museum professional?