Family Learning Forum Videos

If you didn’t get the chance to attend the USS Constitution Museum‘s wonderful One Size Fits All? conference last fall, fear not: they’ve uploaded videos of each presenter to their website. (If you’re not familiar with the Family Learning Forum website, then you really should be – it started off great and keeps getting better.)

Lyn Dierking, Sea Grant Professor in Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University and co-author, with John Falk, of some brilliant books about museum visitor and learning experiences, spoke about patterns of family learning in society and museums.

Lynn McRainey and John Russick of the Chicago History Museum spoke about their experiences in re-designing their museum’s gallery space to be more kid- and family-friendly.

Judy Rand, a museum consultant, spoke about the hilarious and sometimes depressing tour through Label Land that she has undertaken, and offers a model for process.

Finally, Ann Grimes Rand, President of the USS Constitution Museum, gave a wonderful talk about her museums process in designing more family-friendly exhibits, and a preview of exhibits to come.

All of the presentations are fun, informative, and well worth your time – check them out!

A Guide to Guidestar

With the advent of the internet age, we all have a LOT more tools in our hands to begin to learn about specific organizations – and particularly specific museums. Whether you’re doing some research into a museum you’d like to work for, trying to get a good picture for how a museum of a certain size operates, or considering donating to a museum, there are some great tools out there that are promoting transparency and openness for nonprofit organizations.

Today, we’re highlighting Guidestar.

Guidestar is essentially a database of all sorts of nonprofit information. Organizations can establish their profiles and post information – financial statements, programs and events, staff listings, and recent news items. There’s also a section in which the organization can advertise its current funding needs.

Guidestar’s mission is: “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”

To access the full capabilities of Guidestar, you’ll need to register. It’s easy and free, and they send a minimum of email. So, start here.

Once you’ve registered, you can navigate the site by searching for a specific organization, or try a more advanced search for organizations in a particular area or focus. Doing a general search on “museum” brings up some of the heavy hitters on the first page:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum of Modern Art

American Museum of Natural History

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Field Museum of Natural History

Organizations are responsible for updating their own information, so what you see is what the museum gives you. The Met, for example, hasn’t put up their budget numbers, but they have linked to their 2007-2009 990 tax forms and their 2010 Annual Report. (Watch this space for a guide to interpreting museum annual reports, by the way.) They don’t have a lot under staff or programs, either.

The American Museum of Natural History offers some different information. It lists all its board members, and gives a programs overview that includes its budget: almost $149 million. The MFA Houston also has all its board members and programs information, though no budget.

After quite a bit of searching and clicking, the best museum profile I found belonged to our local USS Constitution Museum. They have background statements, staff information, financial information, programs information, and they’ve even put up some of their funding goals. Bravo to them. (You’ll notice that a Guidestar user has also given the museum an enthusiastic five star review!)

Most museums put a bare minimum of information in Guidestar, which is a shame – it’s a powerful tool that’s quick and simple to update. Administrative and financial transparency is a hot topic in the nonprofit world right now – check out the Christian Science Monitor’s Guide to Giving for recent articles about that very subject.

Think about it: if you’re trying to figure out where to donate your hard-earned money, do you give to the organization that’s tight-fisted and secretive about how it’s going to use that money, or do you want an organization who opens its books and says “here, here’s how your $20 made a substantive difference in the way we do our work”?

Guidestar also offers other tools for nonprofit professionals, including a series of webinars about development, community outreach, and other important topics.

Manager of Interpretation and Visitor Services [USS Constitution Museum]

Manager of Interpretation & Visitor Services (Full-time)

Description: The Manager of Interpretation & Visitor Services develops, implements, and evaluates interpretive programs and visitor services offered by the USS Constitution Museum to over 300,000 visitors annually. S/he shares the responsibility of leading a team of staff members, interns, and volunteers within the Museum Learning Department to provide the highest level of customer service and to facilitate hands-on, minds-on interpretive programs. S/he creatively develops interpretive programs based on key themes in USS Constitution’s history (focused largely on the War of 1812 time period) for audiences of all ages, backgrounds, learning styles and abilities. S/he is an integral part of the department’s collaborative management team and actively participates on Museum-wide committees and projects. S/he is also responsible for a number of administrative tasks including coordinating staffing schedules, maintaining visitation statistics, and budgeting. S/he reports directly to the Director of Collections & Learning.

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree and 2-5 years of experience in education, customer service, or management required. Master’s degree and/or prior museum experience preferred

• Demonstrated leadership abilities with prior personnel management experience at a supervisory or assistant supervisory level

• Collegial, team-oriented leadership style with the ability to lead by example, and motivate colleagues towards long-term and daily goals

• Ability to appropriately mentor staff members, interns, and volunteers of different ages and backgrounds

• Commitment to the Museum’s vision, mission, and strategy to share USS Constitution’s history in a hands-on, minds-on environment

• Demonstrated creative abilities with prior experience developing, implementing, and evaluating educational and/or interpretive programs

• Prior customer service experience in a front-line position

• Positive demeanor with the ability to calmly and professionally handle all customer service situations

• Strong organizational and administrative skills

• Clear written and verbal communication skills

Knowledge of Microsoft Office 2007 (emphasis on Outlook, Word and Excel) and FileMaker Pro 8

• Ability to commit to a Sunday – Thursday work week. Additional morning, evening, and weekend hours may be required.

To Apply: Send a letter describing your interest in and unique qualifications for this position, a resume, and a salary history to the search committee by e-mail (amaksy[at]ussconstitutionmuseum[dot]org), fax (617-242-0496), or mail (PO Box 291812, Boston, MA 02129) by June 2, 2011. Only those selected for interviews will be contacted. EOE.