Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ReWind: Building Internal Capacity

In honor of an article I have in the current (January-February 2012) issue of ASTC's Dimensions magazine entitled, "Internal Capacity: Making a Good Museum Great," I thought I'd reprise the post below. Enjoy!

If there is one silver lining to the continually oppressive economic news, it's the opportunity for museums and other organizations to focus (or re-focus) on building their internal capacity.

It might sound funny for an independent museum professional like myself to advocate for museums being able to develop and create programs and exhibits internally, but I am a strong believer that all types of museums should build upon the strengths of their existing staff and other institutional resources, rather than automatically looking for outside help. (See my recent posting on the importance of in-house exhibit workshops, for example.)

One way for museums to stretch their resources in these tough times is to look for ways to increase such internal capacity.

Art Museums, as one obvious instance, are starting to think more carefully about how the items in their collections might be reinterpreted or redisplayed to create new exhibitions, or even "mini-exhibitions" of a few works, rather than booking traveling shows, or trying to mount expensive "blockbusters."

Any type of museum could benefit from taking a fresh look at their programs and exhibits to try and creatively, and economically, improve them. Is there a way to slightly change or reconfigure a troublesome exhibit component to make it more interesting for visitors? Can you rethink or revitalize an exhibit in storage, and bring it out of retirement? What about building upon a current news item to rapidly develop a combined education program and mini-exhibition on the topic?

So why not try to stretch your museum's ideas (and budget!) by thinking some more about internal capacity?

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