Thursday, February 18, 2010

What is your museum giving up for Lent?

Yesterday began the Christian season of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. For Christians, Lent is a time of introspection, resolution, and moderation-- a time for positive change. Traditionally, it has also been a time when believers give up some comfortable indulgence, at least until the Easter Bunny arrives.

Here's an idea, what if instead of giving up your morning Starbucks, or late-night sweets, you pledged to help your museum give up some of its comfortably self-indulgent practices over the next six weeks?

My list of five habits your museum could lose for Lent:
  1. Starting new initiatives or designing programs without first checking in with the museum's strategic plan. Instead, be sure that your efforts will not only support your mission, but also make progress toward meeting specific objectives.
  2. Ignoring popular cultural trends/events that could otherwise build valuable connections for your visitors. For example, with two weeks of Olympic competition taking place, geography, science, math, weather, history, and cultures could easily be highlighted and give your content a contemporary spin.
  3. Not recycling in your cafe. I continue to be amazed by the number of museums where recycling receptacles are not provided for guests in the cafe. Let us be leaders in doing the right thing for our planet.
  4. Giving today's students the same tour you have given for the last 15 to 20 years. Most of us are only too happy to point out the differences between the youth of today and the childhood we knew ourselves. If kids are so different today, why are many museums still dragging students through the same tired school tour that was already old when I took it twenty-some years ago?
  5. Forgetting the little things families need for a successful museum visit. As we move toward spring break and the increase in family visitors it always brings, take a spin through your museum and make sure that the galleries, cafe, and restrooms are prepared to make families welcome and comfortable during their stay. See my post "Is your museum family-friendly? Really??" for details on how to maximize your impact with minimum effort.
With just a few changes over the next 6 weeks your museum can head into spring with a fresh sense of commitment to serving your audience with authentic experiences and attention to detail. So, what are you giving up for Lent?

Image: No Cupcakes magnet from

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