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David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On Wednesday and Thursday last week the American Association of Museums held a webinar to address the nation’s financial crisis as it relates to cultural organizations. One concept that emerged was “redeployment.” We’ve often heard that we must “do more with less” or more recently that we should “do less with less.” Commentators however suggested that cultural organizations constantly adapt and even in the best of times there isn’t enough money to simply add more to already over-worked employees and volunteers. Instead, we must make strategic allocation of the limited assets of time and money through redeployment. That means stopping some services that are outdated and no longer highly desired, and adding new practices that further our missions.

If you were to redeploy to best meet your mission in the modern climate, what aspects that you do now might you consider obsolete? What emerging practices might you adopt?

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4 Responses to Redeployment

  1. Mary Warner says:

    To my way of thinking, redeployment is a way to do “less with less,” yet it’s more focused than simply allowing tasks to drop by the wayside because we run out of time.

    One thing I foresee as becoming obsolete is collecting, not because collecting will no longer be considered important, but because of the practical aspect of running out of space. Adding more space in order to keep growing collections is often not practical from a cost standpoint. While museums may be able to raise funds to build an addition, what of the continual costs of maintaining the extra space and the extra collections that fill that space?

    These thoughts are echoed in a blog post by the Center for the Future of Museums: http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.com/2009/03/questioning-assumptions.html

    The post discusses several assumptions we make about museums and fits well with a discussion of redeployment.

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  2. Five major Minnesota foundations commissioned a report on ways to make sure limited money is spent most effectively. Check out the report: http://www.citizensleague.org/bottomline/

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  3. Marcia Anderson says:

    In reflecting on presentations offered at the MHO meetings this spring I suggest that rather than stop collecting due to space issues (and the expenses related to collections growth)that doing serious planning at every museum/society is necessary to redeploy on any level. Developing a focused Strategic Plan, and a Collections Management Plan that helps you articluate how your collections will be used, coupled with a well thought out Collections Plan, will complement the new direction(s)your non-profit may be taking. In the Winter 2009 issue of History News Barbara Franco (who has been pushing the history experience envelope for years)spends the last page talking about collections and collecting. She notes the changing landscape of cultures and communities that should influence our current and future collecting but she also notes that change and continuity work hand in hand. She observes that people connect to each other and history through objects and closes with what I believe is the main element that distinguishes museums from all other cultural and educational institutions. “Collections remain at the heart of what we do and what we bring to the public. No matter how many websites or public programs we develop, it is the collections we hold and the places we preserve that are the keys to everything we do.”

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  4. Yes, an to amplify what Marcia has said, the redeployment of resources needs to be aimed at PROactive collecting, rather than REactive collecting. If we just take some or most of what comes through the door, we are not developing a collection in the same way as we would be with a well-thought-out collecting plan to reflects the priorities established in a Strategic Plan and Collections Management Plan.

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