Curatorial, Events, Programs, Education, Conservation, Sponsorship, Visitor Services…museums all over the world have diverse collections and diverse organizational structures.
In some museums, one person may be what three people are in another museum and some museums may not have any staff.
Instead, they’re entirely volunteer run. Whilst the staff composition may vary between museums, the goal of museum staff is universal.
Or is it?
Although we survey our audience on an ongoing basis and ask them to share their opinions of the museum experience, how often do museums seek the same insights from their staff?
Questioning staff on the museum’s purpose will most likely guarantee a choir reciting the museum’s strategic plan:
- “The museum’s mission is to…”
After this, you may hear the following variations:
- “…preserving the collection…”
- “…providing a positive visitor experience…”
- “…raising the profile…”
Each of these statements not only reflects the staff member’s own personal beliefs in museums but may also reflect the objective of their role.
And rightly so.
Museums much like any organization need diverse staff from all walks of life to help provide a richer working culture. After all, our museum audiences are varied and so too should our staff. We want to be accessible to our audience in many ways and we employ many people with various roles to achieve this outcome.
So what happens when staff roles and staff perspectives differ?
Naturally, a staff member in the Events Department may struggle with the no food and drink in the museum rule when trying to pitch the museum as the perfect Christmas party venue. And of course, the Conservation Department may have cause for concern with audience engagement programs occurring so close to the objects.
Below are a few tips to help your museum staff achieve its squad goals:
If your museum has a large staff pool, it can be helpful to share ‘departmental encyclopedias’ or a ‘Who’s Who and How To’ listing what the department’s focus is, how it achieves this, and what each person does.
An additional feature can also include who to contact for certain queries. This not only helps build respect for each department but gives better insight into how each staff member helps make the museum operate.
Include the museum’s mission in the job role
Many museums introduce the purpose of the museum and then begin to elaborate on the job role as two separate things. Intertwining the mission into the role is especially important in positions that are not exclusive to the museum sector. Some key examples include HR, Marketing, and Events.
A possible example of how two separate roles could include a mission statement:
- ‘The Visitor Services Manager ‘raises awareness of the history of the 19th century…’ by actively engaging visitors in…’
- ‘The Head of Marketing raises awareness of the history of the 19th century…by…’
This not only unifies staff in the same goal and fosters collaboration, but it also helps break down organizational barriers.
Fewer meetings, more meet
No doubt about it, decisions and actions get made in meetings. Bringing a diverse group of people and departments can provide great insight into issues and can solve problems, but relying on, or having too many meetings can cause issues.
To help staff attain museum squad goals, create relaxing environments for staff to meet informally and socially. Chances are you’ve heard that the water cooler is where some of the best conversations and deals have been made. Incorporate this culture into your museum and it will help departments come closer together.
BY: STEFANIE BAILEY
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