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Step 4: Sustain Your Museum

Once your museum legally exists, you need to understand the day-to-day operations of a museum, everything from caring for collections to hiring staff and keeping the museum financially viable. The American Alliance of Museums can help your museum do this.

As the only national organization representing all types of museums, we are committed to championing museums and nurturing excellence. By joining at any stage of planning and operating, your museum becomes a part of the larger field-wide cause and you gain access to a wealth of resources that will help your museum succeed.

Resources to Help You Sustain Your Museum

  • Advocacy: Making the case for museums is an important way you can be part of the professional community. The Alliance offers a vast range of advocacy tools – from online guides and trainings to boost your advocacy skills, to in-depth Issue Briefs on federal policy affecting museums. Our annual Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, DC provides an opportunity for museums to make the case for museums as key providers of education, as economic engines and as community anchors.
  • Continuum of Excellence: the Continuum of Excellence provides multiple entry points and customized assistance for all museums to reach higher levels of performance. Once your museum is established, you can participate in a number of programs that offer opportunities for assessment, feedback and recognition.
  • allows museums to search all 26 federal grant-making agencies and their more than 900 programs. The site offers resources that explain how the site works and tips about the grant search and application process. This site can be helpful in securing funds to help sustain your museum.
  • Foundation Finder: The Foundation Center offers resources to help grant seekers succeed. Foundation Finder is a free tool that allows searching by name for basic financial and contact information on more than 70,000 private and community foundations in the United States.

Recommended Reading

  • Excellence and Equity: This landmark report affirms the contributions museums make to the educational needs of the nation. It helps museums define how well they are carrying out their educational mission and serving the public. (PDF, 32 pages)
  • Manual of Museum Management, 2nd edition: This manual presents a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the principles of museum organization and the ways in which people work together to accomplish museum objectives.
  • Manual of Strategic Planning for Museums: This publication offers proven methods for successful strategic planning in museums.
  • Museum Registration Methods, 5th Edition: MRM5 encompasses all that needs to be known and done when a museum accessions, measures, marks, moves, displays or stores an object or artifact of any kind. MRM5 includes expert advice from more than 60 acknowledged leaders in their disciplines. Contains bibliography, glossary and multiple sample forms.
  • A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections, 3rd Edition: This publication focuses on collection-related problems and legal entanglement issues, reviews relevant cases and court decisions and gives advice on when a museum should seek legal counsel. The easy-to-use text provides outlines, checklists and model documents.
  • Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook and The Trainers Manual:  The International Council of Museums (ICOM) provides a set of comprehensive guides on organizing and running a museum. The guides provide best practices basics and worksheets on the following topics: collections management; collections care; visitor services; exhibitions and education; managing and training staff; marketing; and security and risk management. (PDF, 235/91 pages)

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  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
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