To kick off this pre-meeting session, Chris Reich, Chief Administrator, Office of Museum Services, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), provided an overview of IMLS, which was founded in 1996, previously called IMS (Institute of Museum Services), which was founded in 1976.
The IMLS is an independent agency, and the Director is appointed by the president. The Board is a congressional appointed board of museum and library professionals. IMLS is funded through annual congressional appropriations; primary source of federal support for the nationals 123K; libraries and 35K museums ; most well-known for grants; also conducts research and produces publications.
Programs that IMLS sponsors: Museums for America (Museums Empowered), Native American/ Native Hawaiian Museum Services, Museum Grants for African-American History and Culture, National Leadership Grants for Museums – fund projects that benefit multiple museums, help to advance the profession, and create models for other museums to use.
IMLS also sponsors the Museum Assessment Program (MAP), Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS), and the Collections Assessment Program (CAP), which are funded through cooperative agreements. Grant funds go directly to the administration that administers the grants (FAIC for CAP, AAM – American Alliance of Museums – for MAP, and AASLH – American Association for State and Local History – for StEPS).
I snapped a picture of this slide that demonstrates the purpose of each program:
Why are assessments important for cultural institutions?
- Aimed at small and medium sized museums – entry point to become poised to apply for state and federal grants
- Improve professional practices
- Awareness of national standards
- Re-energize boards and staff
- Working together
- Establish shared goals
- Foundation for planning
- Building community credibility and support
- Non-judgmental support – these assessments are collegial visits – helping that institution examine its operations and practices to help them become more professional
First, Danyelle Rickard, Museum Assessment Program Officer, American Alliance of Museums, spoke about the MAP program. It’s been around for 36 years, and operates as a self-assessment program, coupled with a site visit and peer review, and then a final report. The process has three different types of assessments available: organizational, collections stewardship, or community engagement. To be eligible for a MAP, you need to have/be the following:
- One professional staff for FTE
- Nonprofit – private or public
- Located in a US state or territory
- Open at least 90 days/ year – special events and outreach count
- Cares for/ owns/ uses tangible objects
Costs for the MAP depend on the operating budget of the museum:
For the fee, you get a Self-Study Workbook, focused on the assessment type requested, and a Peer Review Report. The Report provides an honest snapshot at the time of the visit, manageable recommendations and resources, and also highlights good (and not-so-good) processes.
Who are the AAM Peer Reviewers?
- Volunteers (expenses and honorarium provided)
- Familiar with MAP and Accreditation
- Review materials
- Conduct site visits
- Write reports
- 5 years experience in decision-making roles
- Knowledgeable about standards, ethics, practices, operations
- Engaged with the museum community
- Good communicators
- Critical thinkers
- Committed to the highest ethical standards and level of professionalism
Benefits to being a peer reviewer: learning experience, networking opportunities, giving back to the profession, and a source of professional development.
Time and Cost: 40-60 hours per assignment; AAM reimburses expenses; $400 honorarium; keep online profile and availability up-to-date; about 1500 volunteers currently
Types of Museums: children’s museums, university museums, specialized museums, zoo and aquariums, science centers, nature centers, botanical gardens, art, and history – MAP is specifically looking for people with expertise in these types of museums as volunteers.
Then, Tiffani Emig, CAP Program Coordinator, talked about the CAP Program, which is a program that provides small to mid-sized museums the opportunity to have a conservator and an architectural conservator come to their museum to perform an assessment of their buildings and operations as well as their collections care methods. The museum receives a report that is a high-level, well-rounded view of collections care for the museum.
How can CAP help museums?
- Provides a path forward; “here are the things that are the most important things to do to help you best care for your collections.”
- Shows evidence and support of need for grant funding
- Outside perspective – improved board and administration support
Conservators and architectural conservators can apply to work on these assessments; there is a rolling application process. Eligibility requirements for assessors:
- Professional training in conservation, zoology, botany or horticulture, architectural conservation, architecture, landscape, architecture, engineering, or related field
- At least five years of professional experience in preservation, conservation, or collections care in one of the above fields
- Experience conducting general conservation assessments
- Potential workshop being developed for eligible people who do not have experience in conducting assessments
There is an annual call for institutions to apply for the funding for the assessment. Museum eligibility:
- Small or mid-size – reviewable in 2 days
- Organized as nonprofits or unit of state, local, or tribal government
- Located in the United States or territory
- Organized on a permanent basis for educational or aesthetic purposes
- Own tangible objects and make them available to the public
- At least 1 FTE paid or unpaid
Assessor fees are based on the annual operating budget of the museum. If an assessor’s fee is higher, the museum must make up the cost difference. They also pay for transportation, lodging, and meals.
CAP Program Cycle 2018
- Museum Applications 11/15/17
- Assessor Applications: Rolling
- Museum Applications Close: 2/1/18
- Availability for a new more museums for this fiscal year (before the end of 2017)
Laura Hortz Stanton, Executive Director, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, presented on StEPS, which has been funded by IMLS since 2005 to assist in creating incremental standards for the History Museum field.
Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS) is open to any museum. It’s a great entry-level program for institutions that don’t feel ready for another assessment program, or can’t use an outside assessor. It is a self-study tool that is used by 850 organizations nationwide (current enrollment numbers).
The self study tool is a notebook, made up of check boxes. If one can’t check off a box, that means it is an opportunity for improvement for the institution. Here’s a sample picture of a page in the notebook:
As shown in the image above, each section has three levels – not a “one size fits all” and not intended to meet best practices if you can’t do it on your first shot. it creates a way to have meaningful progress without having to spend lots of money. The institution spends more time than money on this process. The notebook also includes:
- Board orientation manual
- Job descriptions for board officers and paid/ unpaid staff
- Ethics code
- Facilities Rental Policy
- Emergency Plan
- Maintenance Plan
- Collections Policy
How to enroll:
- One-time fee of $175 for AASLH members; $290 for non-AASLH members
- No application to fill out and no deadline to complete the program
Benefits of StEPS:
- Focus direction
- Increase credibility
- Justify funding requests and decisions
- Plan for the future
- Learn about standards
- Track progress
- Articulate accomplishments – StEPS benchmarks
- Receive recognition (certificates when you reach certain goals)
- Prepare for other assessment programs
After the presentations, the group broke up into groups for people to ask one-on-one questions to the presenters about their program.