Industry ‘standards’ for NSW museums

Exterior of the Thredbo Ski Museum

Photo: courtesy of the Thredbo Ski Museum. 2011


Most large museums and galleries adhere to a set of management principles in order to be accountable, sustainable and to maintain reputation and standing in their community.

These management principles broadly operate as ‘rules of engagement’ and in some sense represent the ideal of museum management. Given that no organisation has unlimited constraints, these standards are taken seriously and upheld through rigorous scholarship, documented research practices, the science of conservation and various business management practices. Competition also plays a part as organisations vie for regular and repeat and dedicated audiences.

So in reality museum standards are self-regulated. In managing a facility at the local level, the rules of engagement are a little different. Collections have often been inherited, or have grown organically, instigated by a group of passionate individuals out of a desire to conserve local history, family history, specific sites and buildings.

The Standards Review Program operated in NSW by Museums and Galleries of NSW helps state-based museums and galleries assess their work practices, plan for the future and adopt some of the ‘ideals’ of museum management in accordance with National Standards for Australian Museums and Galleries.

Museums who have completed our Standards Program are more likely to win an industry award, often have greater success in attracting funding and are identified on our website using the Standards logo.

The year-long Program is offered in a different region each year and museums ‘opt-in’ if they want to participate. M&G NSW organises and facilitates a series of structured self-review activities and assigns two external reviewers as mentors for each museum. Strengths and weaknesses are identified and strategies to address these are developed. Whether it is the need for better displays and exhibition programs, improved storage and conservation facilities, or ways to attract new volunteers attention the Program is designed to respond to each museum’s individual set of requirements.

Relationships with other regional cultural organisations and long-term partnerships with local government are strengthened with the view of increasing access to funding, business development and general support.

The Standards Review Program was first trialled in 2002 in the Hunter region. Since then, 113 museums, galleries and keeping places in NSW have participated in the Standards Review Program.

Museums and galleries in NSW who have successfully completed the Standards Program are more likely to win an industry award, often have greater success in attracting funding and are identified on our website using the Standards logo.

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