Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Budgets and Funding Interpretive Planning

Let's face it:  planning is an area where small museums are apt to skimp on the budget.  There is always something seemingly more important to be done with vital and scarce resources. All museums worry about money, and in an era of tightened belts smaller museums may worry more than others.  

This does not diminish the importance of interpretive planning.  Rather, it forces us to be creative with how we do it.  

Before setting out on this process, compile a budget. This should factor in money that will likely be spent (and there will be some of this) but perhaps even more importantly be clear about the time and energy that will be expended.  Remember to include costs of your staff and volunteers; good planning and training will take their time as well as money, and this should be quantified in some way.  

For budgets the following may apply to your list of possible expenditures:
-Telecommunications (telephone, website, blogs)
-Related programming (i.e. pilot programs)
-Supplies and Materials
-Administrative overhead 

As with all things the range of costs are variable. Interpretive planning projects, especially when well-conceived, are compelling and can attract outside funding. If grants or other funding are available that is great, but the process does not need to be costly. More elaborate processes can cost tens of thousands.  With creativity they can be done for far less, and excellent projects can be undertaken for a few hundred dollars.

For many small museums, an expenditure of time and energy on the part of a committed group of volunteers may be easier than spending cash. Find ways to recruit volunteers: perhaps local teachers or an art historian from a local college.  Secure donations for printing.  Few organizations are as imaginative in this regard as small museums.   

If you are committed to this process and willing to be creative to see it through, then the budget can be scaled accordingly. A community concert done on a shoestring budget can be just as rewarding and enjoyable as a big-city symphony orchestra. 

Stephen G. Hague is currently the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Ernest Cook Trust Research Student at Linacre College, University of Oxford, England. His research interests center on architecture, material culture, and social history in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world. Previously he worked as executive director of Stenton, a historic house museum in Phila- delphia administered by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He holds a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s from Binghamton University.

Laura C. Keim is curator of Stenton and Wyck, two house museums located in historic Germantown, as well as a lecturer in historic interiors at Philadelphia University. A graduate of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, she holds a preservation degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s in art history from Smith College. She has published widely on early American material culture and coauthored Stenton’s interpretive plan.

1 comment:

  1. We are planning for a small to medium museum. This is very helpful. Many thanks.