Site Visit

The questions you ask, discussions you hold and recommendations you make on-site set the stage for future museum growth and your report’s incorporation in that process. Use the assessment specific Critical Issues Checklist and Report Writing Guide to focus your thinking during the site visit, comprehensively review institutional operations and emphasize strategic issues.

Prepare for the Site Visit: Review the Documentation

Prior to the site visit, MAP will send you the museum’s application and self-study workbook, and the museum will provide additional documents to you in order to develop an understanding of the museum. Please review the documents. Your analysis of these materials will help you:

  • Decide which additional materials to request and which questions you’ll ask on-site
  • Develop the agenda
  • Draft an outline for the report (please refer to the report writing guidelines) that includes key areas for discussion and questions you may have developed from the self-study

Establish Contact with the Museum

After your participation in the review is confirmed, MAP staff will send contact information to the museum and the peer reviewer(s). The museum will then contact you to make arrangements for the site visit and set the agenda. If you do not hear from museum staff within this time, use the information provided in your notification letter to contact them. For a two-person visit, decide who will initiate the conversation and make sure to cc all parties on the emails. Work together to establish and confirm the dates for the visit, incorporate the strengths of each partner and divide responsibilities.

Schedule the Site Visit Date

The site visit should take place:

  • When the director, relevant staff and members of the governing authority are available
  • When you have time to complete the report within four weeks of the site visit
  • When the museum is open to the public (major exhibits should be open)
  • Within the time frame provided by MAP staff

When the visit has been scheduled, inform MAP staff of the date. This is important for establishing the report deadline.

Visit Length

The appropriate length for a site visit depends on the size and complexity of the museum and its governing structure. Please discuss with your museum contact and, if applicable, team member the ideal time frame for accomplishing the goals of the review. Typically, vis­its last 1½ – 2 days (two to three nights). Large museums, those with multiple sites or those with multiple sup­porting groups or advisory boards may require a longer site visit.

Financial Arrangements

The site visit is a professional business trip that typi­cally includes transportation (airfare and car rental), hotel accommodations and meals. MAP is directly responsible for the expenses. Peer reviewers are reimbursed directly by the MAP office for any documented, out-of-pocket expenses and are responsible for making all travel arrangements. You can request reimbursement from MAP as soon as an expense is incurred. Depending upon the institution’s location and restrictions, the costs for reasonable travel arrangements may exceed the Alliance’s cap. Contact MAP staff about any questions regarding the travel cap. Before making plans for the site visit, please review our peer reviewer travel policy.

Visit the MAP Reviewer Resources page for an expense reimbursement form.

Set the Agenda

Work with the museum to set a sit visit agenda to help conduct a comprehensive review that provides:

  • insight into each area of the museum’s daily operations relevant to the assessment type
  • answers to questions or concerns raised in the self-study and supporting documentation
  • time to visit off-site branch, satellite and storage facilities, if necessary
  • full participation of museum stakeholders: staff, governing authority, support organizations, volunteers or any other key figures
  • time for reflection and taking notes

On the MAP Reviewer Resources page, you can find the MAP sample site visit agenda, which can serve as a useful tool in determining what to include on your agenda. This sample is simply a guideline and should be tailored to meet the museum’s needs.

In collaboration with the museum—using the Report Writing Guidelines and Critical Issue Checklist and referring to your own (and if applicable, your team member’s) notes and questions—develop an agenda that allows for the following:

  • Initial interview with the primary contact
  • All-staff meeting to explain the purpose of MAP
  • Facility tour
  • Assessment team meeting
  • Individual staff or departmental meetings
  • Governing authority member meeting
  • Additional stakeholders
  • Exit interview with the primary contact
  • Assessment-specific components

Explain to the museum that it is important for all staff and governing authority members to be familiar with the MAP process, the self-study and the museum’s priorities for the process (as identified in the MAP application and self-study conclusion).

Site Visit Expectations

Most site visits go very smoothly and are a source of satisfaction for the peer reviewer, the museum staff, the director and the governing authority. There are, however, occasional tensions. The most common sources of frustration reported by peer reviewers and museums are:

  • Conflicting expectations
  • Hesitation about openly addressing underlying issues or concerns
  • Lack of involvement of key staff or members of the governing authority
  • Specific expectations or goals of individuals involved in the process, due to conflicting agendas, goals that don’t reflect those of the MAP program, etc.

Open a dialogue with the museum by speaking with your contact several times before you arrive at the institution. Use these occasions to:

  • Explore the museum’s situation in terms of its evolution and challenges
  • Manage expectations
  • Hone objectives
  • Understand the museum’s communities
  • Understand the director’s and governing authority’s expectations for the assessment
  • Discover any complicating factors that may affect the site visit or the report
  • Ensure that the right stakeholders will be available during the site visit or soon afterward via phone

Clear, consistent and regular communication helps to avoid these potential problems. Clarifying the purpose of the site visit in the review process and the peer reviewer’s role will set the stage for a successful visit.

Conduct the Visit

The site visit is an important part of the process. It is your opportunity to find out more information about the museum and help the museum begin to address its needs. You can use this opportunity to help the museum hone its objectives for the assessment, explain the assessment process better to museum staff and governing authority, set expectations for the visit and report, find out more about the museum that wasn’t fully revealed in the application, self-study or additional documentation, and get a better understanding of the state of the museum.

Please refer to the Critical Issues Checklist and Report Writing Guidelines throughout the MAP process. These are useful tools in designing and conducting site visits, as well as drafting and guiding the report’s content and organization.

When on-site, introduce yourself and the process at an all-staff-and-governing-authority meeting or at the start of each interview if an all-staff meeting is not possible.

If you encounter difficulties during the site visit, call MAP at 202-289-9118.

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