With coronavirus forcing the closure of museums, our work has shifted to entirely online. While the pandemic has posed numerous challenges for us personally and professionally, it also gives us an opportunity to reflect on past practices, improve our systems, and implement better strategies.
In a previous post, we reviewed first three project areas museum staff should prioritize during this time of remote work. Those areas were: digital asset cleanup, digital collections management, and digital strategy. This post will cover: future project preparation, museum management, and museum advocacy.
Future Project Preparation
Projects may be paused or delayed due to museum closures, but once things reach a new normal, many museums will be scrambling to ramp projects back up. Be ready for this transition by planning and prioritizing those future projects now.
This section provides recommendations for how to plan for future museum projects:
- If you’re considering your first digitization project, give yourself a solid foundation by reading this post.
- Figure out your museum’s digitization equation to calculate accurate costs for digitization projects and pinpoint duration lengths for each step of the process—arriving at how long the project will take.
- Craft museum digital project specifications for anticipated digital projects so that all staff and contractors are aware of the timeline, best practices, costs, and deliverables.
- Brainstorm on how the museum can offer cultural heritage experiences through the CMS, review peer museum efforts, and catch up on professional literature.
- Create your grant writing roadmap and go get yourself a free e-copy of my book: A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing. This year will continue to be financially difficult, putting even more pressure on museums to seek outside funding. Additionally, with stimulus packages being released in multiple countries, museums will have even more grant opportunities to apply to for financial relief. Now is the time to get grant ready.
Pre-coronavirus there was never a “good time” to review policies. Well, we have time now. Being physically distanced from our museum and forced to work together in new ways creates an opportune time for us to reflect on the efficacy of current policies and improve them.
This section includes policy ideas and resources:
- Pull out and review all policies. Make a list of policies that need updating and appropriate point people (if you’re fortunate to have peers you work with).
- Review museum core values and how they may influence policy updates and policy creation.
- Kickstart or revise your museum’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion practices and make sure you include digital accessibility and ethical labor practices (such has internships and term positions under the DEAI lens.
- Create or revise a policy for responsible practices when working with communities and their collections.
Museum and Professional Advocacy
Museum finances are strained now, more than usual. With stay at home orders in place many museums have let go of or furloughed their staff. The hope is that the stimulus packages will assist in rehabilitating the industry, but we can’t count on that. The first US stimulus package (passed March 27, 2020) funded less than 5% of what museums requested ($4-billion-dollars). There is still more work to do and museum advocacy will play a central role. This is also a perilous time to be employed by a museum, so I’ve included links for individual advocacy.
This section will include resources for museum and professional advocacy:
- Strategize on how your museum can identify and articulate its value because you’re going to need it when advocating to government representatives, donors, granting agencies, and other bodies that can make a difference in your financial health.
- Review the museum’s role in social well-being and pinpoint how it positively contributes to the local community. This is a critical area of evidence to provide to granting agencies and your local government representatives.
- Be aware of labor resources for professional advocacy and make a list of what you can do to advocate for yourself and your job role.
- Write letters to your representatives (Watch for an upcoming post, Museum Advocacy: How to Write a Letter to Congressional Representatives) to urge their support of government aid that can directly benefit your museum and you.
For more information on how the coronavirus is impacting museums and find resources to help support staff who have been let go, please see these two posts on my personal blog: COVID-19: Five Actions to Take Right Now for Archives, Museums, and Cultural Heritage Organizations and An Evaluation of the Stimulus Package and Resources for LAM Professionals.
This is an uncertain time and working separate from our collections is an extreme paradigm shift. However, there are still many activities we can carry out remotely in our stewardship of collections. If your supervisor, museum director, or other management official is having a hard time visualizing what your remote work entails, show them this post (and don’t forget part 1). There is plenty of important work to keep us busy.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Read Ms. Woody’s other blog posts and check out Lucidea’s unrivaled CMS, Argus, that empowers you to pursue your digital museum vision and make it a reality.
Museums have largely based their success on capitalist models, using for-profit values of power, productivity, and economic metrics of success.
Many disasters are driven by climate change; museums can use their nonpartisan credibility and communications skills to build climate policy consensus.
Mental health for both museum staff and the external museum community is important; museums can be good for our mental and physical health.
Analysis of some of society’s broader physical infrastructure issues that keep seniors from fully participating in the museum world.