Why support small museums?

There’s probably one right down the street, and you don’t even know it.

They’re small museums, and they’re struggling. Small museums struggle even during the best of times–they’re squeezed out of grant money by foundations who only fund already over-funded organizations, they’re under-covered by local reporters who depend on fully-staffed PR departments to give them their next story, and they’re under-visited by people who have no idea what they’re missing. Now imagine running a small museum during a recession.

I volunteer at a small museum in the United States, and I know everything these diamonds in the rough have to offer: eccentric, off-beat exhibits, personal interactions with real people, and viewpoints you won’t necessarily find within organizations with multiple levels of bureaucracy. I also know what it takes to run one day-to-day. In the really small museums (like the one where I volunteer), it means tallying up the revenue from tours every weekend to see if we’ll make the next oil-heat bill on time. It means anxiously counting the money from the metal box at the end of our annual events to see if we at least broke even. It means buying supplies out-of-pocket because you really want to see the place succeed. It means dabbling in areas you’re not even remotely qualified to dabble in, wearing many hats, and trying to put together a grant for the first time while taking four college classes and working part time. It means making sacrifices.

I have personally faced some of the challenges associated with small museums, and I have watched other people deal with many more. I hope to use this blog to work out some of these issues.


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