Starting a Museum
When starting a new museum, remember the Oklahoma Museums Association is the primary provider of professional training and technical information to staff, board members and volunteers of Oklahoma's 500+ museums, historic sites, tribal cultural centers and historical societies. OMA members receive discounted fees on seminars and other training opportunities as well as the ability to apply for scholarships to OMA training.
What is a museum? Although there are varying answers, in general a museum is an organization committed to public service, education and inclusion grounded in stewardship and scholarship. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency, defines a museum as a public or private nonprofit agency or institution organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes, which, utilizing a professional staff, owns or utilizes tangible objects, cares for them and exhibits them to the public on a regular basis. Definitions of museums from other professional organizations can be procured from the American Alliance of Museums. The accepted definition of a museum by the Oklahoma Museums Association is: A museum as recognized by the Oklahoma Museums Association, is defined as an organization which uses a professional staff or the equivalent, whether paid or unpaid, that is primarily engaged in the acquisition, care and exhibition to the public of objects or interactive displays/exhibits owned or used by the institution. Further, a museum is understood to possess a variety of the following characteristics: 1) is organized on a permanent or regular basis for essentially educational and/or aesthetic purposes; 2) owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; 3) cares for these objects; and 4) exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis at or in a facility which it owns or operates; 5) provides educational and cultural programming.
The American Association for State and Local History has many resources for small museums.
The Oklahoma Museums Association encourages excellence in museums including best practices and standards which can be used as a benchmark for their own performance. Standards are generally accepted levels that all museums are expected to achieve. Best practices are commendable actions and philosophies that demonstrate an awareness of standards, solve problems and can be replicated. More information.
Museums should consider a business plan in their early stages of planning. Cecil C. Carter of Murray State College offers one model for museums.