General Resources

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A Couple of Books To Start

  • Of course first on this list is Positioning Your Museum as a Critical Community AssetA Practical Guide, edited by Robert Connolly and Elizabeth Bollwerk – the basis for this Resource Guide!
  • Mastering Civic Engagement: A Challenge to Museums, edited by the American Association of Museums, 2002. American Association of Museums, Washington, DC. This book is the end product of AAM’s Museums and Community Initiative aimed to transform the relationship between museums and communities.  Though published over a decade ago, the seminal volume contains a series of short articles that set the stage for community engagement and museums. Well worth the read to understand the context from which the current discussions arose.

Our Go To Organizations

  • The American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) is of particular value to the small museum and cultural heritage professional. Their website link to Communities leads to the many affinity groups supported by the AASLH. The searchable Resources tab links to an expansive set of curated tools and discussions. For example a keyword search for “community engagement” produces audio links from AASLH conference sessions, blogs, technical leaflets, and news articles. AASLH membership or a fee is required for some site content.
  • The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the premier all-encompassing museum organization in the United States.  Their website contains a range of offerings from a pdf file on how to start a museum to a robust set of links within their Resources tab. AAM Membership is required for many of the links.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) website link to National Initiatives connects to partnering programs such as Museums For All and Building Digital Communities and their respective resource links. The IMLS provides extensive grant opportunities, resources on museum program evaluation, and seminal publications such as Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills. There is no cost for access.
  • An initiative of the AAM, the Center for the Future of Museums publishes the annual Trendswatch forecast, a regular blog, and weekly e-newsletter. Their Project and Reports tab contains a series of evaluation reports on specific topics such as museum education, community engagement, and visitor demographics.
  • The Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Our Museum is a program based in England with a strong commitment to community and cultural heritage venue engagement.  Their website includes resources that share practical applications and reflect the perspective that museums and galleries must act in partnership with their communities.

Getting Professional Help

  • The Museum Assessment Program (MAP)is jointly supported through the AAM and IMLS.  The 30-year old program geared toward small and medium-sized venues leads museums through a year long process of peer evaluation in one of three areas: Institutional, Collections, or Community Outreach.  MAP is a fee based program with a sliding scale of payment based on a museums income.
  • The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPS) is sponsored by the AASLH, and as the name implies, is geared specifically toward history venues.  Like MAP, StEPS is a peer evaluation for best practice standards in six areas including: Mission, Vision, & Governance; Audience; Interpretation; Stewardship of Collections; Stewardship of Historic Structures; and Landscape Management.  StEPS is a fee based program.
  • The AASLH’s Visitors Count ” . . . is a visitor research program that provides the answers you need to create a successful and thriving history organization. . . Successful organizations understand what people expect, need, and want when visiting―and what will bring them back.” Visitors Count is a fee based program.
  • Sources to obtain free advice from professionals include listservs or mailing lists.  For example, thousands of professionals subscribe to Museum-L and can provide insight on questions ranging from evaluations to program development.

Blog Resources

  • Archaeology, Museums & Outreach by Robert Connolly, Co-editor of Positioning Your Museum as a Critical Community Asset: A Practical Guide.  Since 2008, Connolly’s blog has provided insights, interviews, and case studies on how museums and cultural heritage professionals can best engage with their communities.
  • The Alberta Museums Association’s Community Engagement Initiative has resources and services from Canadian provinces museums.  The blog provides case study examples and tools that are applicable in all museum settings.
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