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Online Course: Leadership and Administration for History Organizations

History museum leadership is more complex and demanding than ever before, requiring updated and innovative ways to meet mission and keep organizations healthy. Thoughtful, intentional museum administration and leadership matters, regardless of the size or focus of your organization.

Administration and leadership matter, regardless the size or focus of your organization. This online course covers governance and administrative structure, nonprofit status, mission and vision, board and staff responsibilities, the relationship between board and staff, strategic planning, human resource management, and leadership.


DATES: July 1 - August 23, 2019

COST: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: January 31 - June 21, 2019; 20 Person Limit



FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 weeks; 3-4 hours per week

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Weekly one-hour online chats (schedule to be determined based on student availability); weekly assignments; final course assignment

MATERIALS: Two required texts (see below).

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Description & Outcomes:

During the eight weeks of this course, modules addressing governance and administrative structures, nonprofit status and the public trust, mission and vision, the relationship between board and staff, including their roles and responsibilities; strategic planning, human resource development and management, and leadership will be covered. The course includes a combination of topical reading assignments and related weekly assignments and online chats. A final course assignment is due the last week of class.

Participant Outcomes

After completing this course, participants will understand principles and best practices of Leadership and Administration including the following:

  • the public trust role and governance structure of most nonprofit museums;
  • the importance of museum mission, vision, change, and strategic planning;
  • the major administrative and leadership roles and responsibilities of the board and staff;
  • the key issues in human resource management, including building effective teams
  • why leadership matters at all levels;
  • charting your museum’s future and measuring effectiveness; and
  • where the museum field is heading in the future.

Sample Curriculum

  • Week 1: Course overview; an inside look at nonprofits, public trust and governance
  • Week 2: Museum Boards, Their Roles, Responsibilities, Expectations, and Their Relationship to Museum Staff
  • Week 3: The Importance of Museum Vision and Mission
  • Week 4:  Administrative and Management Responsibilities, Relationships, Structures, Systems and Networks
  • Week 5:  Human Resource Management – Building Effective Teams and Mentoring
  • Week 6:  Why Leadership Matters, At All Levels
  • Week 7:  Charting Your Museum’s Future and Measuring Effectiveness
  • Week 8:  Putting It All Together: Where the Field is Heading and How You Fit In

Texts Used (sold separately)

Required Texts:

Anne W. Ackerson and Joan Baldwin, Leadership Matters, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759121850/Leadership-Matters

Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland (revised by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko), Museum Administration 2.0, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442255524/Museum-Administration-2.0

Who Should Attend:

Successful participants will be individuals in institutional leadership positions at the staff, board, and volunteer levels (where volunteers supervise others), who have significant decision-making responsibilities and who have the ability to affect positive, substantive change within their organizations.  This course is not appropriate for students, interns, or volunteers who do not have managerial responsibilities. We recommend that only one person per institution take this course at a time. To read about a participant’s experience, take a look at this blog post by a Leadership and Administration student: Leadership Matters At Every Level.


In a career spanning three decades, Anne Ackerson has served as director of several historic house museums and historical societies in central and eastern New York, the director of the Museum Association of New York, and now currently serves as the executive director of the National Council of State Archivists.

In 1997 Anne began an independent consulting practice focusing on organizational development issues for the smaller nonprofit cultural institution. She writes regularly about management and leadership issues for cultural institutions in her blog, Leading by Design. She is a frequent workshop/webinar presenter on issues of museum ethics, executive leadership, financial management, and board roles and responsibilities. In addition to teaching this course, she developed curriculum materials and a webinar on strategic planning for the American Association of State and Local History’s StEPS program, a national standards program for history museums.

Can Women Educators Have it All?

I really enjoy the Leadership Matters blog by Joan Baldwin and Anne Ackerson. They write on a variety of topics related to leadership in the 21st century museum environment. A recent blog post of theirs, "Can Museum Women Have it All?", previews Women+Museums, their upcoming book on the specific difficulties of women, specifically women with families, working in a museum environment.


Costumed interpretor dressed as a cook in the Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire.
Costumed interpretor dressed as a cook in the Kitchen at Attingham Park, Shropshire.


Thinking as a woman educator and interpreter in the history field, I had some additional thoughts about the complexity of this topic:

  • Educators are overwhelmingly women. Our work often takes place outside the regular hours of the work week, making child care increasingly difficult.
  • Working a programmatic schedule is not conducive to pumping (if you're a nursing mom), juggling a family schedule, or even maintaining relationships with loved ones on a "normal" schedule.
  • There is at times, the extreme irony that many of us take much time away from our families and loved ones in order to work with families.

As I move into being more of an administrator, it is important to me that we consider quality of life, flex scheduling, and other special allowances that recognize the difficulty of consistently working on an "off" business hours schedule. I ask myself and fellow managers: how we can be kind within the context of the work in order to give benefits whenever possible?

What are other solutions? What do you see at your institution that makes the balancing act of life easier? Please leave a comment below or chime in on social media by tagging AASLH on Twitter (@AASLH) or Facebook.

AASLH Members Save 25% on Select AltaMira Titles

AASLH Members: SAVE 25% in May on These New Books!

Call Rowman & Littlefield Customer Service at 1-800-462-6420 or visit the website now to start shopping.

Use Promo Code B14MAY25 at checkout

New in the AASLH book series!

  • On Doing Local History, 2nd edition, by Carol Kammen
  • Leadership Matters, by Anne W. Ackerson and Joan H. Baldwin
  • Writing Local History Today, by Thomas A. Mason and J. Kent Calder

New museum titles for Spring 2014

  • Museum Law, 4th edition, by Marilyn E. Phelan
  • Manual of Museum Exhibitions ,2nd edition, edited by Barry Lord and Maria Piacente
  • The Preservation Management Handbook, by Ross Harvey and Martha R. Mahard