Small Museums

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The Small Museums Community

The Small Museums Community assists America’s small museums in their endeavors, helping to make them stronger and more responsive to their communities. The Committee encourages small museums to share successful strategies in workshops and national meetings and demonstrate what the field can learn from small museums. Through its programming and initiatives, AASLH plans to strengthen the small museum, an important steward of local and national history.

If you’re looking for a place to network with your peers, find answers to questions, explore opportunities to learn, and more, you’ve come to the right place. This community was created by Small Museum professionals and their colleagues.

What is a Small Museum?

The majority of museums in the United States are considered small and include historic house museums, history museums, art museums, historic sites, general museums, and much more. Our definition is simple, “If you think you’re small, you’re small.” We welcome any and all interested in our mission of making America’s small museums the very best they can be.

In 2007, the Small Museums Committee created a working definition of a small museum:
A small museum’s characteristics are varied, but they typically:

  • Have an annual budget of less than $250,000.
  • Operate with a small staff with multiple responsibilities.
  • And employ volunteers to perform key staff functions.

Other characteristics such as the physical size of the museum, collections size and scope, etc. may further classify a museum as small.
Is it the end-all, be-all of definitions? Certainly not, but it’s a start and gives us a rallying point for our efforts.

Where did that definition come from?

In 2007, the Small Museums Committee distributed an electronic survey to the membership and received 455 responses out of 6,500 sent. It was designed to create a working definition for the Committee so it could better respond to the needs of small museums. Results provided the definition above.

Meeting the Needs of Small Museums

The Small Museums Committee is composed of AASLH members who work for and serve small museums, their staffs, volunteers, and ultimately, their constituencies. The Committee’s major charge is to oversee AASLH’s work with the Small Museum community. We are focused on working with AASLH to provide thoughtful and useful resources for the unique needs of small museums. As a result, AASLH is a valuable resource for small museums, members and non-members alike.

To accomplish our charge, the Small Museums Committee focuses on the following:

  • Creating and fostering Annual Meeting activities that are valuable for small museums. In addition to encouraging a variety of sessions geared towards small museums, the committee also works to ensure that the voices of small museums are heard alongside larger institutions in germane sessions.  Each year, the Small Museums Committee raises money in order to offer annual meeting scholarships. It also sponsors a luncheon at the meeting.
  • Developing Original Content for Small Museum Practitioners.  Through the AASLH website blog and the Small Museums online community, the committee strives to help small museums be the best they can be by providing the kinds of resources that small museums need and can benefit from.
  • Providing Learning Opportunities for small museum staffs and volunteers. The Small Museums Committee works with AASLH to offer, from time to time, online events on topics relevant to small museums.

Committee

The following volunteers manage AASLH’s Small Museum Community:

Jacqui Ainlay-Conley, Chair (2018-2020)
sandycat@ecentral.com

Melissa Prycer, Past Chair (2013-2020)
Dallas Heritage Village, Dallas, TX
mprycer@dallasheritagevillage.org

Ann Bennett (2018-2020)
Laurel Historical Society, MD
director@laurelhistoricalsociety.org

Sean Blinn (2018-2020)
Heritage Trail Association, Bridgewater, NJ
seanblinn@gmail.com

Alison Bruesehoff (2017-2019)
Rancho Los Cerritos, Long Beach, CA
alisonb@rancholoscerritos.org

Laura Casey (2018-2020)
Texas Historical Commission, Austin, TX
laura.casey@thc.texas.gov

Brian Failing (2018-2020)
Aurora Regional Fire Museum, IL
brian.failing92@gmail.com

Nate Meyers (2017-2019)
Chandler Museum, AZ
Nate.Meyers@chandleraz.gov

Aimee Newell (2017-2019)
Luzerne County Historical Society, Wilkes Barre, PA
anewell@luzernehistory.org

Liz Stewart (2016-2020)
Renton History Museum, Renton, WA
EStewart@rentonwa.gov

Bruce Teeple (2018-2020)
Union County Historical Society, Lewisburg, PA
mongopawn44@hotmail.com

AASLH Staff Contact
Alex Collins
collins@aaslh.org
615-320-3203

Small Museums Resources

Small Museum Toolkit

As a small museum staff person, you are responsible for a lot, including areas outside of your expertise or training. You need a quick reference that makes the process of becoming a sustainable, valued institution less overwhelming. The Small Museum Toolkit is a collection of six books that serves as a launching point for small museum staff to pursue best practices and meet museum standards. Find it here.

Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning

Are you thinking of starting a museum? Starting Right has been helping non-professionals learn the basics of museum planning for nearly three decades. This fully-revised, third edition will help you understand what you are getting into, evaluate prospects, avoid pitfalls, and take advantage of many kinds of available help. Find it here.

StEPs

StEPs is a voluntary assessment program for small and mid-sized history organizations. Encourages awareness and achievement of national standards.

Read our blog.

Sign up for our listserv.

Looking for more? Browse through Small Museum resources in the AASLH Resource Library.

How to Join AASLH Affinity Communities


Can I join an AASLH affinity community using my current account?

Everyone will need an individual AASLH account to join one of the communities. This includes active AASLH individual members, those who have staff accounts at active institutional members, academic student and faculty accounts at active Academic programs, and even nonmember accounts.

Institutional members, including partners, must create staff profiles for their employees, volunteers, and board members if you want them to be able to join and participate in AASLH communities. There is no charge for creating staff profiles and no cap on how many staff profiles can be attached to your institution.

Please refer to the Creating Staff Members Flyer for information on how to add these profiles http://download.aaslh.org/Creating+Staff+Profiles.pdf.

Academic Programs can refer to the Creating Faculty and Student Profiles Flyer to create profiles for people in their programs http://download.aaslh.org/Creating+Faculty+and+Student+Profiles.pdf.

Lapsed AASLH members or people who have never had an AASLH account are welcome to create a nonmember account from the Membership Center page. There is no charge for creating a nonmember account.

Signing in to the AASLH Membership Center

To sign in to your individual account, go to https://aaslh.site-ym.com/login.aspx to login to the Membership Center. Links to reset your password or join AASLH are also available at that page. If you do not remember your username please email membership@aaslh.org.

Once logged in, choose the Communities tab to navigate to the community you would like to join. There is no limit to how many Affinity Communities you join. A community showing 0 registered members will still have members, this message appears because AASLH does not share members’ contact information with other members in the Membership Center.

To join the group, select Join Group at the top of the page. You will then be able to participate in the forum discussions. Even if you do not plan on participating in the forums, we recommend you join the Community so you don’t miss out on important community announcements

Small Museums Scholarship

2019 AASLH Annual Meeting
Philadelphia, PA – August 28-31
DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: June

The Small Museums Committee of AASLH will once again offer scholarships for the AASLH Annual Meeting. Scholarships are available to full- or part-time paid/unpaid staff of small museums (annual budget of up to $250,000). The $700 scholarship covers the cost of conference registration and the Small Museums Luncheon with any remaining funds to offset travel and/or lodging expenses.

Apply now

The scholarship is open to AASLH individual members or people working for institutional members and is a benefit of membership.

For questions, please contact Aja Bain at AASLH, 615-320-3203.
Award notification will be made in June by email.

Donate to the Small Museums scholarship fund here.