The Short-Term Future—CFM 2011

This post is taken from AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums blog, where you can read Elizabeth Merritt’s musings on the future of museums.

I’m going to use this first blog post of the New Year to share a preview of the themes CFM will focus on in 2011. Based on the trends we monitor through Dispatches from the Future of Museums, your feedback on our forecasting reports, participant contributions at forecasting workshops (and a careful reading of the CFM horoscope), we’re going to pay particular attention in the coming year to:

  • Continuing the exploration of Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums, investigating how the museums can reach a broader and more diverse segment of the American public. I look forward to sharing stories of how various museums are responding to AAM’s call to action as well as reporting on what AAM is doing to help meet this challenge.
  • Plumb the complex relationships between museums, food and community, probing how museums can contribute to the national dialogue about food equity, health and nutrition, and how museums can use food to build connections with their own audiences. (See this post for a story on this theme.)
  • Begin to explore the future of education and the role museums can play in a reshaped educational landscape. While you’ve given us huge props on AAM’s initial forecasting report, Museums & Society 2034, you told us loud and clear we goofed in not addressing  complex and massively important education trends.
  • Establish mechanisms to foster innovation and experimentation in museum operations, in order to discover methods and strategies that will help museums thrive in the future. This is one of CFM’s mandates, and this year we’ll start experimenting with ways to support and recognize innovative practices.

In addition, at the AAM Annual Meeting in Houston this spring, artist Tracy Hicks will challenge conference attendees to think about how natural history museums can help shape the future world and what natural history museums themselves may look like in the future.

With your help, I look forward to exploring these topics through posts on this blog, videos on Voices of the Future, exchanges of scanning hits and resources on Twitter and more in-depth participatory formats such as Web events and in-person convenings. Please write and let me know if you want to become involved in any of these issues—do you have stories to share, ideas to spread, resources to help? And best wishes for a great 2011!

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30 Years of Excellence Through MAP

The Museum Assessment Program has been helping museums of all stripes for 30 years. In that time, the program has worked with 4,270 institutions, 60 percent of which are AAM accredited. As a result of their assessments, nearly all of these institutions have changed at least one practice. As we begin the next 30 years, following is one museum’s MAP story.

“Because of MAP, we as a staff learned what the priorities of a museum must be.” –Amy Winter, director/curator, Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, CUNY

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, CUNY needed a fresh start. In the early 1990s, the museum was downsized due to budget cuts. Over the next few years, the college kept it open but on a reduced budget and staff. As current director and curator Amy Winter explains, “It had been operating primarily as a kunsthalle [a gallery with temporary art exhibits].” However, all was not lost. “The faculty kept pushing the administration to reopen,” she says. The college agreed and hired Winters as the director in 2001. Amy knew that to get her institution on the right track that there would be“many things that needed to be reviewed, revisited and revised.”

To address these concerns, Amy turned to MAP, which she had discovered when she first arrived at the college. “I familiarized myself with grants that support development, conservation and funding through research with help from the college development office.”

The program proved insightful in determining next steps for the revitalized institution. “The key recommendations were to focus on collections use and care,” says Amy. Following their reviewer’s suggestions, the museum swung into action. “We followed up on both by transferring our catalogue from DOS to Windows and will soon be replacing defunct HVAC, lighting and security systems, redesigning the space to maximize storage and exhibition areas, as well as giving a general facelift with new signage, finishes, fixtures, etc.,” she says. Not only did they improve their facilities, but they increased their collections-related staff as well. “We have hired a half-time collection manager and part-time cataloguer.”

“Because of MAP, my organization has flourished,” says Amy. It has helped her staff work more effectively together as a team, and with that, there is nothing they can’t accomplish. “We have gone from an invisible institution on campus and in the public eye to a respected and vital center.”

MAP helps museums achieve excellence and meet standards through self-study and a consultative site visit from an expert peer reviewer. Applications for MAP are available in January.  To request an application or learn more about MAP, visit or contact MAP staff at 202-289-9118.

MAP is administered by the American Association of Museums through a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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Accredited Museums in the News

AAM is collaborating with the recently accredited and re-accredited museums (as determined by the November Accreditation Commission meeting) to generate more publicity for the award, as well to advance our collective advocacy goals. Some of the first fruits of that effort are below:

Virginia Museum of Natural History awarded re-accreditation by American Association of Museums
Historical Society Receives Prestigious National Recognition (Also picked up by MSNBC)

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Welcome, Welcome

Introducing the new American Association of Museums blog!

Here you can expect to find information about all things AAM and the American museum world at large. We’ll be writing about everything from Accreditation to the Museum Assessment Program at 30 to museum advocacy to the annual meeting (in Houston in 2011). We’re also excited to highlight some of the great things that are occurring in museums throughout the U.S.

We also want to hear from you. What questions do you have for us here at AAM? What would you like to know more about? And as always, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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