Wise Strategic Advising
Karen Wise


Resources for leaders

of museums and related organizations


This Page provides a list of major sources of information and professional development including periodicals, professional organizations and a few books

Under construction - June 2019

How do you keep yourself and your team inspired?  How do you keep up with trends, issues, standard practices and ground-breaking projects?  This page is meant to provide a portal to useful resources. It is aimed primarily at U.S. audiences, but some of the most interesting sources and thinking originates outside the U.S. 

What museum leaders read regularly

There are some major online resources that many museum leaders tend to monitor. A 2017 survey of people on the mailing list of the Informal Learning Review (http://www.informallearning.com/about-informal-learning-review.html ), combined with many conversations with museum leaders yields the following list of go-to resources that many read:

Enews from major museum professional organizations - Most leaders choose one or two of these, depending on the nature of their museum or interests), and they may also be part of one or more specialized organizations (longer list below)

AAM Member Newsletter - enewsletter of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) - a membership benefit that each member needs to sign up for https://www.aam-us.org/

Dispatches from the Future of Museums - enewsletter from AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums (free) https://www.aam-us.org/programs/center-for-the-future-of-museums/dispatches-from-the-future-of-museums/

ASTC Informer - A weekly enewsletter for members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) - a membership benefit that each member needs to sign up for https://www.astc.org/

AASLH Weekly Dispatch - enewsletter for members of the Association of State and Local History https://aaslh.org/

ACM E-forum - monthly newsletter from Assoication of Children’s Museums https://www.childrensmuseums.org/

Note that regional, local and more specialized museum related associations almost all have their own enews as well (see list of professional organizations below)

Museum & related Industry blogs

Know your bone https://www.colleendilen.com - Colleen Dillenshneider, Chief Marketing officer consulting group IMPACTS website and blog. Written summaries, videos etc. abstracting data and analysis from their proprietary research. Very punchy and well written. Also easy to follow on twitter @cdilly

ExhibitTricks A widely read blog by Paul Orselli featuring short, thought provoking notes, reviews, interviews and occasional guest blogs on a wide range of museum topics

Leadership Matters A blog featuring short entries on museum leadership

Museum 2.0 Nina Simon’s once weekly (now roughly monthly) blog advocating for and presenting examples and approaches for museums to become more open, community based, and “of, by and for all.”

Other sources that many museum leaders follow or scan for broader context - note that most of these produce weekly e-newsletters as well as monthly or quarterly print publications.

Nonprofit Quarterly https://nonprofitquarterly.org/

Chronicle of Philanthropy https://www.philanthropy.com/

Stanford Social Innovation Review https://ssir.org/

Pew Research Center http://www.pewresearch.org/

Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/

Journals and periodicals

The magazines published by the major professional organizations are widely received. These include Museum (AAM) Dimensions ASTC and many others

Peer reviewed journals


Delivering our mission and reaching for our vision requires us to reach people. Understanding who our visitors are, what motivates them to visit or otherwise engage with us and our programs helps us meet people where they are and let them know in language they use and respond to what we have for them. While many major museums have in-house evaluators, and some even have in-house researchers, others either hire consultants or participate in one of the national programs emerging to provide baseline visitor data that can be used to improved visitor experience, and which allow benchmarking. A few publish annual summaries including:

The Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies (COVES) http://www.understandingvisitors.org/ A growing national collaborative, currently science museums and children’s museums that provides surveys and collates them into annual reports. They have begun producing freely available aggregate reports http://www.understandingvisitors.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/COVES-FY18-Aggregate-Report_spreads.pdf

The Data Museum A website http://www.wilkeningconsulting.com/datamuseum and blog by Susie Wilkening, a visitor researcher who does annual surveys under contract to approximately 20 museums across the U.S. Provides her own take on visitor trends, attitudes and opinions

professional organizations

Most museum people find that face to face interactions - conferences, workshops and peer or cohort-based groups - are their most important and gratifying sources of inspiration and information.  Professional networks matter to museum people.  Choosing which organizations to join, become involved in at the institutional level as well as the personal level is an important decision which should be made based on the needs of the organization, its' leadership and staff.   The range of offerings of the professional organizations can feel overwhelming to newcomers to the field or to those expanding their responsibilities. That said, there are categories of organizations

As you consider which organizations to join, you might start with this resource https://www.fastcompany.com/90234459/consider-these-3-things-before-you-join-a-professional-association. After that, more specifically, think about what kind of a person you are and what type of networks are most important to you. If you are an emerging museum professional (student or first five or so years of working in museums, or coming into museums from another field), you might start with local networks of professionals in your general area, and also consider state and regional organizations. Attending local and regional meetings in person is often considerably less expensive than attending national meetings, which tend to be more expensive in terms of both time and money. That said, you may find that the national and international organizations enew, blogs and digital professional development is a bargain.


LARGE NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: American Alliance of Museums (AAM), Association of Children’s Musuems (ACM), Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), Association of State and Local History (AASLH)

SPECIALIZED ORGANIZATIONS OF MUSEUM LEADERS: Association of Science Museum Directors (ASMD) https://asmd-us.org/, Nattural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA) http://www.nscalliance.org/






Other organizations with overlap: AZA, APGA, NAI, NCPH,

Large National Organizations

American Alliance of Museums (AAM) https://www.aam-us.org/

AAM is the largest and most visible national association of museums and museum professionals, and it is the accrediting body of Museums in the United States.   AAM has three tiers of institutional membership, as well as individual membership.  It's many professional networks are important professional "homes" to many museum staff, who only have to pay for their affiliation with the networks.  The AAM website provides access to a wealth of free resources for members, including all kinds of information needed to develop core documents for new or formalizing museums, resources on grant opportunities, links to the many professional networks and resources.  Anyone new to the museum field or to museum leadership should explore the website and use the documents there as a resource for learning about museums, what they do, how they are run and  governed.

AAM's most significant resources include

  1. the annual meeting http://annualmeeting.aam-us.org/

  2. Job HQ, one of several national (and to some extent international) sites where museum jobs are advertised https://aam-us-jobs.careerwebsite.com/

  3. AAM's two main electronic newsletters https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-aam/e-newsletters/ are widely received. AAM has various social media accounts as well.

    1. AVISO (e-mailed to members weekly)

    2. DISPATCHES FROM THE FUTURE OF MUSEUMS (emailed weekly, by free subscription https://aam-us.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2605bbc11e6752de338ce7e61&id=f06e575db6 )

Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)

ASTC https://www.astc.org is a lively organization of Science Centers and Science Museums. Although it has tended to focus less on the issues of collections holding organizations, there tends to be more programming around a wider array of programmatic issues and they have been active in looking at the social and cultural value of science museums. ASTC provides a wide array of webinars and digital learning opportunities.

ASTC’s most significant resources include

  1. The annual meeting

  2. ASTC digital newsletter The Informer

  3. ASTC Communities of Practice

  4. ASTC webinars

  5. ASTC also publishes a glossy magazine, Dimensions


Association of Children's Museums (ACM)

American Association of State and Local History (AASLH)


 My Top Three book recommendations for museum leaders

Jim Collins Good To Great & Good to Great and the Social Sectors. While there are many approaches to organizational direction setting, this one, with its “hedgehog” approach to finding and depicting your organizations’ sweet spot can be very useful. The one diagram, once you have developed it, can be an outstanding guidepost for work at all levels from the board to each department and functional area.

Randi Korn Intentional Practice for Museums. This new book asks what is the impact you hope to have for your audiences? And it provides a blueprint for finding, sorting through, and articulating the answer as well as for evaluating and learning from the results.

Beverly Serrell Exhibit Labels. While this may seem specialized, it’s actually about the one thing that CAN take your museum from good to great - clear thinking about your big idea, creating interpretive labels that work for visitors - this requires clear thinking, a solid decision making process that insures accurate content, the hard work of writing interesting labels, and decent information design that serves the visitor. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but understanding the rigor needed will help every museum leader hire the right people and also ask the right high level questions - what’s this actually about? and why should anyone care?

It’s no coincidence that the two museum books I most recommend are written by experienced visitor evaluation and research professionals. Setting big goals is critical, but so is testing with visitors to be sure you’re meeting these goals. There are many other books on leadership, change management, outstanding and exemplary work in many museums and related organizations, but these three are the ones I go back to, use and apply.