Date of this Version
Curator: The Museum Journal (July 1999) 42(3): 216-230.
Universities and natural science museums have a long, productive history; however, this has been an uneasy alliance in the United States at least since the 1880s. Decreasing resources and increasing expectations have made the position of all museum directors extremely difficult, but the situation for university natural science museum directors is probably the most complicated among these because they direct museums that are small administrative units within larger university organizations. Some of their challenges include conflict between museum and university missions, governance issues, relationship between director and the university administrator/board member, lack of understanding of museum functions, middle management role of the director, lack of control of staff time, lack of staff support, public access to museum, and limited public and fiscal support. Solutions offered to meet these challenges include a written mission statement, recognition of education as the primary goal of the museum, a written strategic plan, accreditation, a highly active faculty/staff, documentation of the museum’s economic impact, the creation and building of a public support organization, the formation of alliances with local cultural organizations, continuing education for staff, and an open decision-making process.