Governance

The structure of all art museums can vary depending on the size of the organization, but many are very similar with the Board of Trustees at the top level of governance and the art museum Director overseeing the general administrative staff underneath the Board. The responsibilities and requirements of each level of staff are as follows:

Board of Directors

Responsibilities:

  • Adopts and updates the mission, the bylaws and policies that guide its function, and the museum’s operations
  • Oversees plans and finances
  • Attends meetings with the entire Board to clearly communicate decisions
  • Is a part of a smaller committee to apply special skills and delegate responsibilities
  • Approves policies, such as conflicts of interest and ethical conduct, through voting and is responsible for appointing a director or CEO if necessary.

Choosing a Board:

  • Should include members with a background in enhancing a museum’s ability to fulfill its mission, which does not necessarily mean experience in museum management
  • Must represent the diverse community the museum serves

Chief Executive Officer or Director

Responsibilities:

  • Foster collaboration, communication, respect, and delegation among the administrative staff
  • Oversee the daily responsibilities of employees
  • Responsible for the appointment of staff
  • Attend all board and executive meetings to be aware of everything happening within museum management
  • Nurture the intellectual and aesthetic philosophy of the museum

Choosing a Director:

  • Should possess an appropriate balance of training in art history and/or knowledge of art, museum experience, administrative skills, and demonstrated leadership ability

Professional Staff

Responsibilities:

  • United in their commitment to the institution’s mission and responsibilities
  • Daily responsibilities vary depending on the department

Choosing Staff:

  • Includes specialists in the museum collection, education, communication, interpretation, design, marketing, and public relations, as well as information scientists, registrars, conservators, security staff, administrative staff, and maintenance and support workers
  • Professional staff comes from a variety of different professions and backgrounds
  • Provided with compensation benefits, a supportive work environment, and opportunities for professional development

Volunteers

Volunteers are not considered professional staff; however, they are an important part of an art museum structure. Volunteers often engage in fundraising and assist with tasks for the museum and are a great way for the community to get involved in their local art museums (Lewis, 2019).

University of Michigan Museum of Art governance structure

Structure at the Allentown Art Museum

During my interview with Amanda Lovell, the Director of Public Engagement at the Allentown Art Museum, I asked her about the structure of the museum, because it is a smaller museum. The museum has a total of 35 staff members in a few different departments. Four senior staff members oversee their departments including the President, Director of Public Engagement, Vice President of Curatorial Affairs, and Vice President of Development. I was informed the public engagement department is very small for how much there needs to be accomplished, so Ms. Lovell is looking to expand it in the future. Currently, there are two employees under Ms. Lovell, as well as high school and college interns. The curatorial affairs and development departments currently have five team members. There are also shop workers, facility operators, and security guards that work within the museum.

Structure at the Woodmere Art Museum

The Woodmere Art Museum is also smaller, but has a different structure, according to Stephanie Cehelsky, Chief Financial Officer at the Woodmere Art Museum. Due to the size of the museum, Ms. Cehelsky is not only the CFO, but also takes on the role of Director of Human Resources, Chief Operating Officer, and Guest Services Director. Since the museum has a smaller operating budget, Ms. Cehelsky is required to wear many hats within the organization, which isn’t very common for a CFO. During our interview, I asked her how she collaborates with the Director of Woodmere. Similar to many other museums, the Director and CFO don’t work together on many projects. The Director handles more development work, while Ms. Cehelsky handles financial tasks. The main task the two work on together is finalizing the budget each year. The two positions only collaborate when necessary.

Structure at the Museum of Art and Design

Terry Skoda, the Interim Director of the Museum of Art and Design, provided me with a lot of insight on how a larger museum is structured, such as the Museum of Art and Design. The Museum of Art and Design is broken down into many departments including Marketing and Communication, Fundraising, Special Events, Finance, Exhibition, Education, Curatorial, and Operations. Mr. Skoda informed me this is how many larger museums are structured.

As the Director, Mr. Skoda’s role includes supporting a safe environment for his staff, cultivating donors, making sure the museum runs smoothly, and planning for long-term activities. He is also working on the annual budget and restructuring of the organization. His top priorities are to keep the museum solvent by raising and generate enough money to cover expenses, establish a strategic plan, which the museum hasn’t had in the past, and work on a new three-year exhibition and budget process. This allowed me to see how his role is involved in the larger structure of the museum.

References:

Association of Art Museum Directors. “Professional Practices in Art Museums.” Association of Art Museum Directors, 2011. aamd.org/sites/default/files/document/2011ProfessionalPracitiesinArtMuseums.pdf.

Lewis, Geoffrey D. “Management.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/museum-cultural-institution/Management.

“University of Michigan Museum of Art: Standard Practice Guides – University of Michigan.” UM Standard Practice Guides, Nov. 2019, spg.umich.edu/org-charts/513200.

css.php