Collections Stewardship Assessment

Critical Issues Checklist  

Mission and Planning

Mission

  • Do staff and governing authority members have a clear, shared understanding of the museum’s mission?
  • Do the collections support this mission?
  • Are policies, procedures and resource allocation focused on fulfilling the mission?
Planning
  • Are staff and governing authority members engaged in an effective planning process for the museum’s future?
  • Does this planning effectively address the most important issues regarding collections use, care and development?

Interpretation

Audiences and Visitors

  • Does the museum clearly identify its target audiences and take appropriate steps to serve their needs?
  • Are the museums collections and collecting tied to the needs of its audiences?

 Community

  • Does the museum have a clear understanding of its role in the community?
  • Is the community active in and supportive of the museum?
Public Programs
  • Do the museum’s programs make effective and appropriate use of its collections?
  • Do the collections support the museum’s programming goals?
Exhibitions
  • Do the museum’s exhibits make effective and appropriate use of its collections?
  • Do the collections support the museum’s exhibit program?
Research (for museums conducting or supporting research)
  • Is the quality and extent of research fulfilling the potential of the collections?

Publications

  • Do the publications have appropriate goals for communicating with the museum’s audiences and community regarding the collections, and do they achieve these goals?

 Marketing and Public Relations

  • Are the museum’s collections integrated into the image it presents to the public?

 Collections Stewardship

Scope of Collections

  • Are the collections appropriate to the museum’s mission?

Collections Management

  • Is the museum exercising responsible stewardship of the collections?
  • Is the museum making effective use of its resources to provide appropriate care for its collections?

 Acquisitions and Accessioning

  • Is there an effective process guiding the content of the collections?
  • Is the museum functioning legally and ethically in the way it obtains its collections?
Deaccessioning and Disposal
  • Is there deaccessioning that needs to occur and, if so, are there procedures in place to facilitate this?
  • Is the museum functioning legally and ethically in the way it deaccessions and disposes of its collections?
Loans
  • Are the museum’s loan activities appropriate to the support of its mission and service of its audience?
  • Are there appropriate procedures to document and safeguard incoming and outgoing loans? 
Legal Issues
  • Is the museum exercising oversight to ensure that it is in compliance with any applicable local, state or federal laws and regulations?

 Safety as it Relates to the Collections

  • Do museum staff have the knowledge and resources it needs to detect and manage safety issues related to the collections?
  • Are procedures in place that protect staff and visitors from any collections-related hazards?

 Documentation

  • Is the museum maintaining documentation that is sufficient to establish ownership of its collections and to track all associated data?

 Backlog

  • If the museum has a backlog of unprocessed or uncatalogued material, how does this impact the use of space, care of collections and need for resources?
  • Are there plans and procedures in place to manage this backlog?

 Inventory

  • Does the museum have procedures in place to verify what collections it holds, their status, and their location?

 Risk Management

  • Does the museum have a sound understanding of what factors pose the greatest risks to the collections it holds?
  • Is the museum exercising appropriate management to mitigate these risks?
  • Are there effective plans and procedures in place to respond to emergencies affecting the collection, and are staff trained in the implementation of these plans and procedures?

Conservation

  • Does the museum have conservation issues for which it should seek assistance?

 Administration and Finance

Staff

  • Does staff have a clear understanding of responsibilities as they relate to care of the collection?
  • Does staffing meet the collections-related needs of the institution in terms of:
    • number of staff?
    • responsibilities?
    • training?
  • If not, what additional staff are needed most, and how could the museum obtain the resources to add them?
Finance
  • Is the museum in good financial health?
  • Is the museum providing appropriate support for the collections use, care and development?
Facilities
  • Do the museum’s facilities provide appropriate conditions for collections storage and use?
  • Does the museum have effective policies and procedures for maintaining the facilities in good, safe working condition?

Safety and Security

  • Does the museum’s emergency preparedness address the greatest risks in an effective manner?
  • Does the museum provide a safe working environment for the staff?
  • Does the museum provide a secure environment for the collections?

Governance

  • Do governing authority members have a clear and shared understanding of their roles and responsibilities in administering a public trust?
  • Do governing authority members have a clear and shared understanding of the significance of the museum’s collections, the collection’s role in fulfilling the museum’s mission and the governing authority’s role as stewards of the collections?
  • Is the governing authority operating in an effective manner?

Report Writing Guide

Each section below presents a set of guiding statements/questions to consider. Respond only to points that are most relevant to the institution. Be sure to provide an analysis of the museum’s strengths and weaknesses. For each section, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How is or isn’t it working well? 
  2. How is it meeting best practices?
  3. What would you recommend?

Offer constructive criticism along with suggestions for resolution. Benchmark the institution’s current state of affairs in regards to national standards and best practices.

Title Page (1 page)

Include institution name, city, state; assessment type; visit dates; and peer reviewer’s name, title, institution. 

Table of Contents (Optional; 1 page)

Executive Summary (1 page)

Provide a broad summary of the report, including background information, significant observations, identified strengths, areas needing improvement and key recommendations.

Introduction (1/2 page)

Define MAP and its benefits. State the circumstances of your site visit—dates of the visit and with whom you met (attach a copy of longer agendas in the appendix). List the museum’s goals for the assessment and any notable changes since the completion of their application and self-study workbook. 

Brief Institutional History (1/2 page)

Provide the institution’s historical and physical context. Include a brief description of the museum’s current situation and important elements from its past (e.g., date founded, museum’s purpose, overview of exhibitions/collections, program highlights, etc.). 

Mission and Planning (1-2 pages)

Evaluate the institution’s mission statement for clarity of purpose and how this statement guides its planning and decision-making. Consider this topic from the perspective of staff, governing authority and community stakeholders. Evaluate any plans that are in place and specifically address the role of collections use, care and development. Provide recommendations for how the museum can further strengthen its mission and planning with regard to its collections. 

Interpretation (1-2 pages)

Evaluate how the institution identifies its audiences and assesses/addresses their needs. How are collections used within exhibits and beyond? What publications does the institution produce, and what role do collections play, if any? What are your recommendations for improvement? 

Collections Stewardship (3-4 pages)

Provide an overview of the collections (i.e. size, type). Determine the institution’s ability to demonstrate stewardship and care of its collections. Point out any areas for improvement and offer suggestions/resources on actionable steps the museum can take to improve the state of its collections and its collections policies and procedures. Be sure to include details on specific stewardship topics (i.e. (de)accessioning, loans, legal issues, backlog, safety, risk management, etc.)

Administration and Finance (1-2 pages)

Evaluate the institution’s financial/human resources and use of its facilities. Reflect on financial sustainability, adequacies of staffing and overall management and allocation of facilities. Offer suggestions and guidance in areas not meeting best practices. 

Governance (1-2 pages)

Evaluate the composition and functioning of the governing authority as they relate to its commitment to the mission and oversight of the organization. Provide a sense of policies/procedures that define roles/responsibilities, recruitment/training and legal/ethical issues. How does the governance play an active role in organizational planning? Is the governing authority managing resources appropriately (i.e. collections, financial, human)? Does it have a full understanding of its legal and ethical responsibilities regarding the collections? Provide an analysis that communicates its strengths and shortcomings in this area and offer helpful suggestions for improvement.

Summary (1 page)

Summarize the major observations and recommendations of the report. 

Recommendations (1-2 pages)

Provide a prioritized (if possible) list of all recommendations cited throughout the report. 

Resources (1-2 pages)

Support your recommendations by providing a list of relevant books, articles, organizations, websites, etc., that you think will assist the organization in executing its plans.

Appendices (as needed)

Include sample documents or printed resources that support information you have provided in the report. 

AVERAGE REPORT LENGTH: 15-25 pages double spaced; 12-20 pages single spaced

Organizing & Writing the Report

  • Organize your site-visit notes upon your return.
  • Re-familiarize yourself with the Self-Study Workbook and documentation.
  • Focus the report—organize your notes and thoughts within the designated headings.
  • Consider your intended audience(s) for the report as identified by the museum—staff, governing authority, donors and potential funders, community leaders and other stakeholders.
  • Don’t assume—provide enough detail for those not privy to the MAP process, but be concise.
  • Be cognizant of tone—the use of euphemisms and colloquial language can be misinterpreted.
  • Provide a balanced presentation of strengths and weaknesses of the institution.

Submitting the Report

  • Reports should be created and submitted as a Word document.
  • Double-check all facts and proofread the text carefully.
  • Send your report to the MAP office and not the museum. MAP staff reviews all reports before sending to the museum.
  • Be timely. Reports should be emailed to the MAP office within four weeks of the site visit. If you have any questions or need additional resources, please contact MAP staff at 202-289-9118 or map@aam-us.org.