Issue 114/04, p15, 01.04.2014
What makes a resilient museum?
Gaby Porter, consultant (additional material from Clare Moran)

“The capacity to adapt: to reactively respond to external pressures and proactively transform itself as times change.

Resilient museums articulate their values and purpose clearly, enabling them to respond flexibly but maintain stability while changing. Resilience strengthens organisations and reduces the likelihood of major shocks that threaten survival.

People who work in them are alert to new perspectives and possibilities; willing to grasp complexity; sensitive to context; making constant shifts in thinking and behaviour to fulfil their potential.”

Fiona Talbott, head of museums, libraries, archives, Heritage Lottery Fund

“Resilience in any heritage organisation is a priority for the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our knowledge, experience and research provide the tools for us to identify the key characteristics for a successful museum.

The starting point is a leader who possesses both clarity and vision for the long term and is also flexible enough to change tack if required.

Museums that stand the test of time regularly review their governance and management. There is also the need to build up and diversify income streams. Finally, true resilience comes from a museum rooted in its community.”

Anna Brennand, chief executive, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

“Change is the only constant so a resilient museum is one which is able to anticipate and scenario plan effectively and one which makes adjustments to its way of working to accommodate expected and unexpected changes.

“A resilient museum is one which is able to adapt and change and seize opportunities as soon as they become available. It remains true to its core purpose and it has a creative, flexible leadership and workforce, with strong governance that enables calculated risks to be taken.

Resilient museums are also collaborative and work in partnership for mutual benefit.”

Andrew Lovett, director and chief executive, Black Country Living Museum

“Have a vision that gets the pulse racing.

Stay true to what matters to you and always be proud of what you’re doing.

Think ‘customers’ not ‘visitors’.

Hire as much for attitude, as skill.

Budgeting is a test of ability, not arithmetic.

Cash is king and income and profit are not the same thing.

Hiring and developing a great team is essential, as well as being a delight.

Continually innovate.

Anticipate challenges and plan the future.

Establish a brand.

Work hard but have fun.”


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MA Member
13.07.2014, 16:35
A resilient museum is one that knows its carbon footprint and its audience. Staff switch their computers off at the end of the day and are offered incentive to cycle schemes. Collections rationalisation is core business according to a clear mission of purpose that puts relevance and value for audiences front and centre, in line with principles listed in Museums Change Lives. This is balanced with environmental controls that are realistic, sustainable and strive to adhere to PAS 198 recommendations.

See intelligent thinking on awareness of environmental impact from Maurice Davies in two articles published in 2010 and 2013 below:

"Ultimately, a carbon footprint is the first step to improving your museum’s performance." Maurice Davies 'Why museums need to know their carbon footprint' Museums Practice 17.05.2010 (http://www.museumsassociation.org/museum-practice/carbon-footprinting/17052010-why-find-carbon-footprint#.U8KgYMu9KSM)

Also, Patrick Steel's account of Davies' talk at UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage in December 2013 'Museums need to do more to be sustainable: research finds that museums could be more energy efficient' Museums Practice, 18.12.2013.


"Instead of trying to raise more income to keep getting bigger, perhaps museums could stay the same size or even think about getting smaller so they would need less money and less natural resources, Maurice Davies, the Museums Association’s (MA) head of policy and communications, told an audience at the University College London Centre for Sustainable Heritage last Thursday.

Davies, who oversaw the MA's Sustainability report, praised Arts Council England’s (ACE) decision to embed environmental sustainability in its major programme funding agreements from 2012, and singled out the Happy Museum Project for helping museums to create a high-wellbeing, low-energy future.

But, he warned, museums have much to do. According to Sustaining Great Art, an ACE-commissioned report from environmental organisation Julie’s Bicycle published last week, major regional museums have the highest energy intensity of all the organisations profiled.

The report estimated that the total carbon footprint for all 704 ACE-funded organisations was around 121,000 tonnes, representing an estimated total spend of £26m, while over 782 million litres of water was used in 2012, the equivalent of 40 million regular baths."