Northern States Conservation Center

Providing collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services to collectors and collecting institutions.

Collections Caretaker

Collections Caretaker (August 21, 2010)
August 21, 2010
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States Conservation Center
The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter
In This Issue
Beginning a Volunteer Program
Strategic Planning
Why do we need a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan
Upcoming Classes

September 13
MS002: Collection Protection - Are you Prepared?

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Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. Our old Collections Caretaker is now in a new electronic format to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
There are still spaces available in September's seven online classes. 
Beginning a Volunteer Program
by Karin Hostetter, Gary Outlaw

Managing volunteers is a joy and a responsibility to be taken seriously and with great care. Just as a good volunteer program can make an organization shine, a poor program can wreak havoc. Almost every staff member interfaces with volunteers at some point (or many points) in their career.

Nearly every interpretive organization uses volunteers in some capacity. Sometimes you create a volunteer program from scratch; other times you inherit an existing program. Often, the volunteer program grows, unfolds, and evolves without a preset course until, one day, someone realizes that the volunteers are not what the organization wants or needs.

All volunteer programs consist of several components - either by choice or by absence. The recognition of these components and decisions based on desired outcomes result in a volunteer program that the organization truly desires.

Deliberately setting up a new volunteer program or adjusting the course of an existing one can be rewarding if conscious decisions are made in nine key areas with an understanding of the implications of each decision.  These key areas are:

1. The organization is ready for volunteers because it has a solid foundation, starting with the mission.
2. An understood structure, with an established leader, for the organization's volunteer program.
3. Volunteer recruitment.
4. Volunteer selection.
5. Volunteer training.
6. Quality assurance - making sure the volunteers are performing to the level needed and expected.
7. Recognition of volunteer contributions.
8. Record keeping.
9. Communication.

(from part one of Nine Steps to a Better Volunteer Program.)

Karin Hostetter teaches the online class MS108:Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer ProgramsShe has over thirty years experience with education in museums, zoos and nature centers. She is owner of Interpret This, a consulting company specializing in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and volunteer program management.

Strategic Planning
by Sue Near

A strategic plan is a management tool that helps an organization fulfill its mission. If done well, it creates agreement on organizational priorities and builds commitment among key organizational stakeholders. 

Successful strategic planning involves the organization's stakeholders - paid and volunteer staff, board, clients, funders, and the community. Through the planning process (a series of meetings or retreats), they reach consensus about what end results they, as an institution, are trying to achieve. Stakeholders will discuss and ultimately agree on the institution's external vision, purpose, goals and objectives. Once those are established, then the stakeholders will determine the means to accomplish those results. The means include internal vision, core services, specific programs and activities, and administrative functions.

The final, written strategic plan puts on paper the institution's mission, core values, vision and goals.

The process of strategic planning helps an organization focus its vision to ensure all members of the organization are working toward the same goals. There are four steps to tackling strategic planning:

1. Focus on the most important issues. Prioritize. You have limited resources.

2. Be willing to question the status quo.

3. Produce a document.

4. Make sure the strategic plan is translated into an annual operating plan.

Once a strategic plan is in place, leaders can be deliberate and pro-active in allocating resources to achieve stated priorities.

An organization's strategic plan is not an end in itself, but rather a means of achieving its purpose. The people implementing a strategic plan must have enough flexibility and authority to be creative and responsive to new developments - without having to reconstruct an entirely new strategic plan. Usually the purpose and priorities of the institution don't change, but the programs and activities to achieve them might need to be changed.

(excerpt from the course MS 109: Museum Management)

Sue Near is special projects manager at the Montana Historical Society in Helena. She served over 20 years as director of museum services. Her extensive administrative experience includes grant-writing, heritage tourism, educational outreach, public relations, marketing, planning for new museum construction, and project and event management. She is an accreditation visiting committee member for the American Association of Museums, has conducted peer reviews for the Museums Assessment Program, and has reviewed and served on grants panels for the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ms. Near is a graduate of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware and the Getty's Museum Management Institute.

Why a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan?
By Terri Schindel

A museum is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of its staff, volunteers and visitors in the event of an emergency. The museum likewise has a legal and ethical responsibility to the community it serves to preserve the collection it holds in public trust. The museum recognizes that it is an integral part of the community and will work community-wide following a major disaster. With this in mind, a good disaster preparedness and response plan is vital to the sound management of a museum's assets and will ensure that its collection survives a disaster in the best possible condition.

We have reached a point in our institutional history and professional development that goes well beyond beginning to plan for disasters. We must become proficient and confident in our ability to cope with an emergency.

Emergencies, disasters, accidents and injuries can occur in any setting and at any time, usually without warning. Museums potentially could have a greater range of disasters than many other institutions. Museum collections are both vulnerable and irreplaceable; even small accidents can harm a collection. Being prepared physically and psychologically to handle emergencies is an individual as well as an organizational responsibility.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, people understand the need for emergency planning, but do not realize the many steps it takes to be prepared. Budget time and money for developing a plan. The quality of your plan will be the result of training and good communication.  You will need supplies and regular institutional training. Remain flexible and open to learning new procedures. Expect resistance, start small, make sure management supports the process and, above all, keep your sense of humor.

(excerpt from the course introduction to MS 205: Disaster Plan Research and Writing )

Terri Schindel,graduated from the Courtauld Art Institute, University of London with a concentration in textile conservation. For over 20 years she has assisted museums in writing disaster plans and helped develop national standards for disaster-preparedness materials. Ms. Schindel specializes in collection care and preventive conservation and works regularly with small, rural and tribal museums. Ms. Schindel is committed to maintaining the uniqueness of each museum while ensuring that they serve as a resource for future generations.
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Brad Bredehoft, Sales and Technology Manager

P.O. Box 8081, St. Paul, MN 55108   Phone: (651) 659-9420

© 2002 Northern States Conservation Center

Updated 11 May 2002