Update: MANY-Museumwise Consolidation Discussions Continue

Facilitator Scott Sears walks the group through its shared history.

A steamy July day in eighteenth century Philadelphia might not be such a stretch when describing the scene in Albany this July 18th as Museumwise and MANY met for a progressive and productive discussion advancing our investigation into the possible consolidation of our two organizations.  Sure, we weren't birthing a nation and we did have air-conditioning, but we were nonetheless attempting to draw together a dynamic mix of governing perspectives and organizational cultures with the aspiration of envisioning a new model of service to NY's museum field. Led by facilitator Scott Sears, 28 board and staff members of MANY and Museumwise discussed and debated the benefits, drawbacks and operational outcomes of our two organizations becoming one.

Joining the group were five stakeholders:  Phoebe Bender, former MANY Vice President; Marianne Bez, former Museumwise Chairman; Priscilla Brendler, Executive Director of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network; Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director of the New York State Alliance for Arts Education; and Jane McNamara, Director of Grants and Programs at the New York Council for the Humanities.  We thank them for their participation and commitment to our work.

Sears took the group through lively and interactive explorations of the two organizations' histories, visions for the future, and "must have/nice to have/must avoid" criteria.  The shared history discussion surfaced a variety of critical turning points in each organization's past, including their responses to field-wide developments.

MANY Board members Beth Levinthal and Suzanne LeBlanc arrange comments on the "must have" wall.

As you might expect, funding, professionalization, and politics were reoccurring factors in the overall development of field we currently serve.  Click here to see our shared history timeline:  http://prezi.com/ksagzo3xp8bj/final-museumwise-many-shared-history-timeline/ (NB: press the ►button to advance the slides. You may zoom in/out using the zoom tool on the right of the screen)

Key expectations for consolidation included that it would:

  • create an inclusive, "go to" organization which integrates the best of both founding organizations
  • create a unified voice and network of NYS Museums & Heritage organizations
  • focus on and respond to members and users, and their future needs
  • be mission-driven, sincerely committed to providing service and leadership to NYS Museum & Heritage organizations

Key benchmark indicators for a successful consolidation were identified as:

  • equitable blend of organizational cultures
  • establishment of a new vision/mission and brand
  • development of an entrepreneurial business plan
  • creation of an organizational model that achieves consolidation goals and doesn't look as though one is "taking over" the other

The group also reviewed various consolidation models and determined that it wanted to pursue fleshing out two distinctive scenarios for further consideration.  These scenarios will begin to take shape at the taskforce level this month.

The remainder of the summer and early fall will focus on gathering input from the MANY and Museumwise memberships in the form of an electronic survey and from interviews with stakeholders. All of this information will then feed into a second joint meeting of the organizations, which is slated for mid-October.

Keep an eye on your in-boxes -- a request to participate in our survey will be arriving within the next month. In the meantime, we welcome your questions, comments and ideas towards envisioning a new model of service to New York's museum & heritage sites - feel free to drop us a note, Anne info@manyonline.org and Catherine director@museumwise.org.

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