Succession planning

What happens when the people who know all about your collections retire, move on or are made redundant, taking that expertise with them?

For some time there have been concerns that museums are not doing enough to develop their knowledge and to share it – with the public and among themselves. This issue of Museum Practice, which is based on the recommendations made in the Museums Association’s Monument Fellowship Toolkit, explores how succession planning can be built into the spirit of a museum to ensure specialist knowledge and skills are retained when staff retire or leave.

Julie Nightingale explains how museums can safeguard their collections knowledge – especially in light of job losses across the sector. There are also case studies from a range of organisations that highlight the different approaches to succession planning, from hands-on mentoring to creating video guides.

Plus, readers can upload their own case studies and share what their museums are doing to ensure that knowledge is retained for the future. 

Succession planning in the age of austerity

Organisastions should ensure specialist knowledge is retained when staff leave

Have your say on succession planning

What is your museum doing to preserve skills and knowledge for the future?

Case study: hands-on training

Anthea Jarvis combined hands-on work with written "how to" guides to train new members of staff at the Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall in Manchester

Case study: written guides

The Museum of English Rural Life has used written guides to ensure that the terms used to describe its collection of farm machinery are properly recorded

Case study: unlocking databases

Len Pole's work as a Monument Fellow at Saffron Walden Museum not only enriched a new exhibition but also offered long-term benefits to the museum and its staff

Case study: video recordings

York Museum Trust has produced a series of videos to record the knowledge of textile expert Mary Brooks

Case study: mentoring

Engineering curator Jim Wood returned to National Museums Scotland to offer mentoring sessions to groups of staff

Further resources: succession planning

A detailed list of further resources that can be updated and added to as new documents and information become available

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Monument Fellowship Toolkit

A guide to sharing and succession planning for collections knowledge