TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Wrap-up
Author  :  Greg Koos mailto:%20gregkoos@gte.net
Date  :  02-24-2001 on 03:13 p.m.
Why Museums Do What They Do - A Wrap-up

This salon was developed as an attempt to present some of the thinking behind museum management. The previous salon dealing with museum conservation and exhibit issues raised some of these points, but insufficient time was available to create the context for these policies and practices. In this salon most attention was paid to two sets of issues. How museums are guided by objectives and how museum personality reflect the people who operate them.
We also briefly touched on staffing, the relationship of financial support to participation, and how transparency can be achieved in museum decision making.

R. John Howe asked a set of probing questions which clearly suggest that museums need to pay serious attention to development of objectives which are based on out-come, not on process. In John's view to process too often becomes the product. Because of this museums can be viewed as adrift when it comes to making wise choices on the use of their resources. My concern with this dealt with the problem that much of the work dealing with these types of objectives and evaluations is similar to rat psychology. Steve Price raised the issue that such objective based management fails in real world application. John might be happy to know that the Visitors Studies Association is an important affinity group in the museum world. They are conducting various scientific studies on visitor behavior and how museums might better communicate with their audiences based upon these studies.

Discussion on museum styles and personalities covered issues on how trustees, staff and "the head honcho" create a distinct personality for the museum. Patrick Weiler raised the concern on how Ivory Tower attitudes cause significant barriers to public involvement and support for some institutions. This discussion also examined tensions between conservation needs and exhibit and public service needs. It was agreed that electronic technologies have the potential to significantly enhance pubic access to collections. It was also cautioned that electronic access can never replace the real thing.

Museums must listen closely to issues raised in these kinds of forums. Exchanges with knowledgeable individuals can provide insights to issues which may escape the, at times, insular museum community.
Greg Koos

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