Small museums that form networks: a roadmap to success

Sep 30, 2013

The Italian branch of the Aspen Institute together with Milan’s IULM University have released new research indicating that small museums have survived and thrived by forming networks and sharing resources such as communications, websites, and social networks.

As recently reported in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the Aspen.IULM study – which was conducted over the course of 10 months beginning in September 2012 – indicates that small museums are surviving the crisis by pooling resources and working together to create new catalogues, organize exhibitions and events as well as offering multimedia services and educational activities. Compared to their counterparts who chose to stay independent, museums that belong to networks have shown an increase in both number of visitors and amount public funding.

The network strategy was first developed in the 1990s but has recently accelerated in response to substantial budget cuts. The managers of the museum systems involved in the study confirm that one of the main goals is cost cutting; also indicating that many small museums would not have survived had they not joined forces. The majority of the systems cited in the study are in Northern and Central Italy as this type of system has been more fully developed in these regions. Despite the difficulties faced in developing these systems in Southern Italy, IULM’s rector remains convinced that this model should become national.

The research also indicates that forming networks not only increases ticket sales but also enhances visibility and therefore increases the likelihood of receiving grants from private groups and the European Union. It’s also possible to share other tasks including: joint research, collection maintenance, accounting and personnel management. In addition to applauding the successes of these networks the Aspen.IULM study suggests that these groups should also consider expanding to include joint projects between different museum systems and also include archives, libraries, galleries, research centers and universities in the network. By expanding and increasing synergy between museum systems it’s possible to imagine not only that museums and jobs will be saved, but also that new jobs and areas of expertise will be created.

Francesca Bruni

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