Convincing the Board
by Burt Logan
An oft-heard question is,
“How do I convince my board that we should become more family-friendly?”
Responses to this question will vary by museum; however, many concerns expressed by a board can be summarized in three areas:
Unless the museum is focused solely on a specialized, adult audience, becoming more family-friendly should not undermine the institution’s mission. The museum’s purpose and unique identity need not shift. What will change is the museum’s relevance as a new, intergenerational audience discovers that exploring galleries and participating in programs can be both fun and educational.
Becoming more family-friendly should not imply that the museum’s exhibit and program content is being “dumbed down.” To the contrary, writing label copy that captures and holds the attention of an intergenerational audience requires a finely honed message that conveys only essential information. Effective interactive exhibits that elicit dialogue and conversation between generations will bring out the inquisitive child in adults.
Focusing on an intergenerational audience should not decrease the museum’s market share. If anything, attendance and participation should grow over time as word spreads about how much more enjoyable the museum has become.
The board is responsible for ensuring the museum fulfills its mission as a public trust, and is justified in posing these and other similar concerns. However, the central question that many individual board members fail to ask of themselves is, “How enjoyable would a visit to this museum be for my children (grandchildren, niece, and nephew) and me, as a family? Would it be so enjoyable that we could not wait until our next visit?” If individual board members cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, then perhaps the board needs to pay more attention to the value and the necessity of becoming more family friendly.
USS Constitution Museum