Title: “How to start your own museum”
By: Annuska van der Pol
Date: February 24, 2012
Starting your own museum takes lots of discipline, education, training and business skills. Furthermore the most important thing about the museum is the collection. The collection is always a very personal set of things. Before contemplating about starting your own museum, you have to have a collection of things to go into the museum. Most of the time, it takes a very long time to gather the collection. They are usually objects or books with a lot of emotional significance to a human being. The objects are usually documented and recorded. They are taken care of and protected. In a way, the objects are loved dearly by the person taking care of them. Museums house collections of objects which are loved by human beings. So before you start thinking about the architectural structure of the building of a museum, the curator needs to have collected objects, organized them and recorded them. After that they can be put on display for the public to see. This is when you need to have a museum structure to house the objects. In order to get a museum one needs finances. How does one get finances for the museum? The first step is to find a location that best represents the objects. Once the location is found, you can do one of two things. You can try to find a space that already exists that can be used as museum space, or you can find a location site and arrange to build your own structure. This would require architects to submit ideas to you and you choose the idea that best appeals to you. In general, museums are ideal institutions. They are a place were you can use your fantasy and sit and contemplate serious things in life. How many people sit still in silence and think about things properly? It leads to decision-making and reflection. Things that are all very positive for the human psyche.
Now you have the collection, the documentation of the object and a museum space in mind. The next step is to make a budget. How much is it going to cost to have the museum up and running for the next five years? You are going to have to do financial research and marketing research. The marketing research is going to be desktop research, research based on other peoples’ research. What did they find? What research has already been done? Is there an actual market for a museum in the space and at the location that you imagined? The bottom-line is that the museum is going to have to follow the same path as any other incorporation. It is going to have to slot into the components of capitalism and the simple formula of supply and demand must be in place for the museum to have a lasting future.
The key is to start small. Probably a small room in a busy and popular community business complex would be a good place to get grounded. Renting a small space to show the collection is a good start. This is still a museum. It is no different then any other museums in the world. The main components and intentions are what make a museum what it is; not the type of business structure. For example, the museum has objects that can inspire the community. The objects can inspire curators to prepare exhibitions leading to thought provoking subject-matter, that could promote the well-beings of people within the community. It is through museums that one receives creative ideas and creative ideas are the inspiration for new businesses and more wealth within the community. It is the spear for the entrepreneurial spirit. This is what museum spearhead.
Then you need to write down a list of costs. How much will it cost to hold onto the museum for five years. It is recommended to make a list excluding the possible income. For example, items that need to be recorded are things like rent, electricity, water, building displays, insurance for the objects, your salary and possible other staff members and costs to keep the collection safe and secure from theft and damage. Once this has all been written down, it can be summed up into a chart which is easy for government officials or venture capitalists to read. When the financial predictions for the first 5 years has been established, you need to write a motivational paragraph indicating how the museum and its’ collection will benefit the community. Key words would be: inspiration, self-reflection and contemplation. The motivation paragraph should be both idealistic and practical. It is a dream you are selling and the facts that pinpoint the realization of the dream.
The thing to keep in mind is that you need to find initial finance. Initial finance for the first 5 years. You need to find someone or some business to back your museum idea. Once you pitch your museum idea to, let’s say, a venture capitalist, and they agree to go ahead with the idea, then you are all set.
It is a good idea to have the basic finances covered for the first five years because it is in this time that you really need to develop your museum. You will need to do this through exhibitions and public education programs.
The museum collection in general is a static collection. There made be a few changes made here or there, but in general the collection will stay the same forever. That is the intention. The collection may be the same forever, however the curator will have to come up with current ways to promote the objects in unique ways all the time. Within the first 5 years of the museum, it will be the owners’ actual responsibility to get the museum to generate money. For example, let’s say that the basic costs to run the museum was 100 thousand dollars per year. Then you would need to generate 100 thousand dollars worth of income in order to break even. However, breaking even will not be enough to sustain the museum. It will need to generate at least 200 thousand dollars in order to be profitable. 100 thousand would cover the basic financial costs, and the rest of the profits would need to be deposited in a bank account to ensure the future growth of the museum.