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Research and Collections

Research and Collections

Getting Started

If you are considering establishing a cultural centre or community museum, these guidelines may provide insight into this involved process. Establishing a cultural centre requires a great amount of planning and organization. Note that the following is only a brief outline. Since there is no single way to establish a cultural centre, these points should be viewed as general guidelines only.

The Vision

A vision begins with an idea. Think about your goals and how to achieve them. The vision should direct and guide you throughout the project.

Determine Community Interest

There are various ways to ascertain community interest. One method is to hire a research firm to prepare a feasibility study. The consultant will prepare the study and analyze the results. This kind of study may cost between $5,000 and $10,000 1, depending on the scope of the project.

Another way to determine community interest is to conduct a survey. For best results, a survey should be filled out by as many stakeholders and members of the community as possible. Survey information can be collected in many different ways, by telephone, by mail or over the Internet 2.

Focus groups can also indicate community interest. These focus groups are small groups of people with similar interests or vocations, such as teachers, elders, students, etc. An informal meeting will elicit various opinions from community members 3.

The information gathered through these various methods should be used to support your grant applications 4.

Start Small

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Begin with a small rather than a large cultural centre that the community can manage, and make plans to expand over time. The organization should also have a clear mandate. Collection management and conservation policies should be established early in the development of a cultural centre with provisions for optimal storage, handling and use of the collection 5.

Establish a Board of Directors/Trustees

Ideally, Board members should come from a wide variety of backgrounds. For example, they could be business owners, individuals with cultural/heritage backgrounds, female and male community members, and represent various age segments of the population (Tanner-Kaplash, p. 2-5) 6. The people selected for the Board should also be highly motivated and have a strong interest in the project.

Determine which individuals should occupy the various Board positions - president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, etc. Form sub-committees to carry out specific duties. You will also need a policy that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Board members.

Develop a Mandate and Mission Statement

These documents should be clear and concise. The mandate should state what you hope to accomplish. The mission statement dictates the direction of the facility and should include what the organization will do and why 7.

Approach Community Organizations

Working with other organizations will increase your odds for success. Community organizations can provide considerable support to cultural centres in the form of financial resources, supplies and volunteers. Some of the organizations to consider could include band councils, local businesses and municipalities.

Establishing partnerships with other museums, cultural centres and/or private sector businesses is mutually beneficial. All parties will benefit from shared business experience, publicity and promotion, networking and keeping abreast of new developments in the cultural sector. Remind local businesses that the tourists that visit the cultural centres/museums will also benefit the region. The longer an individual or group stays in your community, the more money these people will spend at the various local businesses 8.

Develop a Business Plan

“Planning involves taking a look at where your organization is now, making decisions about where you would like to be within a certain period of time (i.e. 1, 3, 5 years) and then creating some logical steps to getting there” (Tanner-Kaplash, p. 2-27) 9.

To ensure financial security a cultural centre must be managed like a business. A business plan allows the centre to focus and organize financial matters. If no one in your project has a business background it is possible to hire a consultant to write the business plan.

A Business Plan generally:

  • Includes financial planning, indicating how funds will be raised, estimated income, and operating costs
  • Defines short and long term goals
  • Establishes operating procedures

For more information about creating a business plan, check out http://www.howtowritebusinessplans.com.

Registering as a Non-Profit Organization

The provincial government administers the registration of non-profit organizations. To register an organization, you must have a constitution and by-laws. The content of these documents varies from province to province. Check your provincial Non-profit Corporations Act for more details.

Although it is not strictly necessary, you could also incorporate your organization. This process provides legal status, which is often needed in business transactions. Other benefits include registering for charitable organization status, and the right to sue or be sued, which protects members from personal liability and allows membership to change without affecting the existence of the organization (Tanner-Kaplash, p.2-27) 10.

Create Policies

Policies are the guidelines by which an organization governs itself. All policies must be written in accordance with the mission statement and mandate 11.

Numerous policies have to be established early in the development of a cultural centre. Initial policies are required for organizational needs and application forms for funds. Other policies range from corporate (financial matters) and administrative (personnel) to collection management and conservation 12.

Funding

When seeking funding from various sources, make sure that your organization and projects meet the eligibility criteria. Proposals should be prepared with clearly defined and articulated objectives and they should also be complete. Another important element to a proposal is the budget. It must include all project costs, sources of funding and projected revenues. Do not leave preparation of proposals to the last minute; late or incomplete proposals are usually not accepted 13.

See Writing a Grant Proposal for more tips on writing proposals.

1 Graham, Karen, Director Audit and Evaluation, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Personal interview. 4 March 2002.

2 Graham, Karen, Director Audit and Evaluation, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Personal interview. 4 March 2002.

3 Graham, Karen, Director Audit and Evaluation, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Personal interview. 4 March 2002.

4 Graham, Karen, Director Audit and Evaluation, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Personal interview. 4 March 2002.

5 Robertson, Céline, Consultant, Cultural Development, Arts & Heritage, Ontario Region, Canadian Heritage. Personal interview.

22 March 2002.

6 Tanner-Kaplash, Sonja. 1996. Basic Museum Studies. Victoria: British Columbia Museums Association.

7 Pilon, Elmer, Director, Bytown Museum. Personal interview.

1 February 2002.

8 Pilon, Elmer, Director, Bytown Museum. Personal interview.

1 February 2002.

9 Tanner-Kaplash, Sonja. 1996. Basic Museum Studies. Victoria: British Columbia Museums Association.

10 Tanner-Kaplash, Sonja. 1996. Basic Museum Studies. Victoria: British Columbia Museums Association.

11 Pilon, Elmer, Director, Bytown Museum. Personal interview.

1 February 2002.

12 Robertson, Céline, Consultant, Cultural Development, Arts & Heritage, Ontario Region, Canadian Heritage. Personal interview.

22 March 2002.

13 Robertson, Céline, Consultant, Cultural Development, Arts & Heritage, Ontario Region, Canadian Heritage. Personal interview.

22 March 2002.

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