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Integrating Collections into Your Strategic Plan

February 13, 2018

As pressures on cultural institutions grow, it is becoming more important for those institutions to show their stakeholders that they are working to increase their sustainability. One of the best ways, but certainly not the easiest, is to develop and implement a strategic plan. A good strategic plan sets mission-centered goals for the institution, provides action steps for meeting those goals, outlines the resources necessary to accomplish the actions, assigns responsibilities and shows how progress toward the goals and success will be measured.

Each function of the institution should be represented in the strategic plan. If your organization is a collecting institution, it is very important to be sure that collections stewardship is fully integrated into the overall plan. Keep in mind that even a slight shift in direction for the organization, a common result of strategic planning, can lead to a shift in how the collection is utilized or added to in the future. The following is a list of questions to ask as your organization moves through the planning process that can help keep the collection in mind.

  • Do your collections support your mission and vice versa?
  • Do you have a written and board-approved collections management policy?
  • Do you have a written and board-approved collecting plan?
  • Are your collections management policy and collections plan reviewed annually?
  • Do you have a written emergency/disaster preparedness plan that includes collections?
  • If you have a current strategic plan, how is collections stewardship addressed?
  • Are collections included as a separate objective of the strategic plan?
  • Do your plans and policies adhere to current museum standards and best practices?
  • Will you need to invest more time, people, space and money in the following aspects of collections stewardship?
    • Research
    • Acquisition
    • Documentation
    • Conservation
    • Cataloging
    • Storage
  • Where do other museum functions overlap with collections?
    • Technology
    • Exhibits
    • Access
  • Are collections addressed in the outward-facing strategic plan objectives?
    • Use of collections
    • Public/researcher access

Whether or not you are currently involved in strategic planning, these questions can help with discussions about collections stewardship as well as how your collections fit into the daily and long-term activities of your institution. The answers could lay the foundation for a stand-alone collections plan. After completing a strategic planning process, remember to look back at collection documents and ensure every part of the institution’s policies are in line with the new plan for its future. Collecting institutions have a responsibility to their collections, make sure they are not forgotten during important planning processes.

Resources

American Alliance of Museums

American Association for State and Local History

Connecting to Collections Online Community

Indiana Historical Society Local History Services Lending Resource Center

Tamara Hemmerlein

Tamara Hemmerlein is the director of Local History Services. She loves traveling all over Indiana and working with all kinds of history organizations. Her favorite thing is to hear stories about little known local history.

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