Collections Management Policies for Small Museums…Part 2

So, I continue to plug away at my small museum’s first-ever Collections Management Policy…and based on the view counts for my previous post on the issue, so are many of you.

Since small museum workers should have their own therapy group, I want to contribute to progress by saying that actually, this is not that hard. The hardest part is getting everyone else in the institution on board with the process. Once that’s done, the writing part is easy.

Before you write, get out your museum’s charter and by-laws and hard-core read them over. It’s probably been years since anyone’s really done this, but as you’ll find out, writing the CMP is a good time to re-evaluate all of this stuff anyway.

Next, gather the policies of organizations of similar size, mission, and in your region. Sometimes they’ll put their CMPs on their website, but often, you can just shoot an email to the director or the curator or registrar of the organization and they’ll gladly share with you. Museum people like sharing. And the document is a public document anyway…that’s actually half the point of the policy–so the public SEES that you’re being all responsible about your collections.

Next: Read them. Yup, just sit down with a hot cup of tea (or a cool glass of lemonade, whatever  fits) and read through the policies (I’d get at least two). You’ll notice how they cover similar topics, but in a personalized way.

NOW, HERE’S THE KEY TO THIS: How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite, baby! Do not think of this policy as one big POLICY (capital P). That’s what it will eventually be, but for now just think of it section by section.

So, when you open that Word document, title it “Accessions and Acquisitions” and only focus on that one section. It will be less than four pages, maybe significantly less. And start there. Think about how things work in your museum, how you want things to work, and how things practically CAN (and cannot) work.

Most importantly, when you have a draft of the policy, SOLICIT EVERYONE’S OPINIONS. Yup, everyone. Board members. Executive Director. Volunteers. The works. Make contact–not just an email that never gets answered–with everyone and make sure they read it and give you comments. Take no criticism personally. If something, for legal reasons, must be a certain way, explain why. If there’s room for compromise, make it. The more direct input everyone has into this thing, the more it’s going to be followed, and the less of your time is wasted in this effort.

Both my Board President and Executive Director, plus our head tour guide, gave me great suggestions on the document. The Board President and I even duked it out over some stuff, but it was a productive duking because at the end we reached consensus and everyone was involved in the process. It was a good thing.

….To Be Continued…

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