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Reference: André Desvallées and François Mairesse (Eds.). Key Concepts of Museology. 2010. Available in 9 languages from http://icom.museum/professional-standards/key-concepts-of-museology/


n. – Equivalent French: gestion; Spanish: gestión; German: Verwaltung, Administration; Italian: gestione; Portuguese: gestão.

Museum management is defined today as the action of ensuring the running of the museum’s administrative business and, more generally, all the activities which are not directly attached to the specific fields of museum work (preservation, research and communication). In this regard, museum management essentially encompasses tasks relating to financial (accounting, management control, finances) and legal responsibilities, to security and upkeep, to staff management and to marketing as well as to strategic procedures and the general planning of museum activities. The term management is of Anglo-Saxon origin (although the Anglo-Saxon term comes from the French manège and ménage), and is currently used in French with the same meaning. The guidelines or ‘style’ of management illustrate a certain concept of museums – in particular its relationship to public service.

385402829439_MgAhwQ1x_lMiniature libraries of Marc Giai Miniet

Traditionally the term administration (from the Latin administrate, service, aid, handling) was used to define this type of museum activity, but also, more generally, all the activities necessary to make a museum function. The treatise of museology by George Brown Goode, Museum Administration (1896), examines the aspects connected with the study of the display of collections and the daily management, while also addressing the overall vision of the museum and its integration into society. Rightfully derived from the civil service rationale, the act of administering means, whether referring to a public or a private service, ensuring that it operates properly while taking responsibility for initiating and running all its activities. The notion of (public) service, or even, with its religious undertones, that of vocation, is closely related to administration.

8692667391557_ah7dJacO_lIllustration, Mr. Bingo Graphics

We are aware of the bureaucratic connotation of the term ‘administration’ since it is used in connection with the (dys)function of public authorities. So it is not surprising that the general evolution of economic theory in the last quarter of a century, favouring the market economy, has led to increasingly frequent recourse to the concept of management, which had been in use for a long time within profit-making organisations. The concepts of market launch and museum marketing, like the development of tools for museums that have resulted from businesses (defining strategies, focusing on the public/visitor, resource management, fundraising, etc.) has considerably changed the museums themselves. Thus some of the conflicts regarding museum organisation and policies have been directly conditioned by the conflict, within the museum itself, between a market rationale and a more traditional rationale of governance by public authorities. The result has been the development of new forms of financing (expansion of the ranges of museum shops, renting of premises, reintroducing entrance fees, developing popular temporary exhibitions – blockbusters – or even selling objects from the collection. Increasingly these tasks which were auxiliary when they first began have had a real impact on the conduct of other museum tasks, to the point that they have sometimes been developed to the detriment of the other operations required for preservation, research and even communication.

d7245d05ff9cdb9011d2558b34690fff3D Graphics, Creating Tomorrow

The specificity of museum management, which may be structured around the sometimes contradictory or hybrid logics of the market on the one hand, and the public authorities on the other hand, derives from the fact that it is structured around the logic of giving (Mauss, 1923), through donations of objects and money or the actions of volunteers and associations of friends of the museum. Although donations and volunteer activities are properly and implicitly taken into account, this aspect has been less examined for its medium and long-term impact on museum management.

Resources: André Desvallées and François Mairesse
And the assistance of the ICOM International Committee for Museology

Main image and for social networks: Indianapolis Museum of Art Title Graphic and Poster (Under Your Consideration)