It’s not just about survival but recovery

“Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

The results from the recent AIM survey in the April issue highlighted that independent museums are still facing challenges, despite being optimistic that we have turned the corner of the pandemic problem.  Fewer visitors, less income, less money from other sources – all these bring greater pressures.  So it’s not just about survival and sustainability but recovery too.

Hilary McGowan, Associate Supplier, supports and advises independent museums on governance and organisational renewal.  Here are her top tips taken from her recently published book (with Piotr Bienkowski) Managing Change in Museums & Galleries: a practical guide.

Is your organisation fit for purpose?  Is the way that it operates capable of withstanding the pressures, especially if you’ve lost volunteers?  Are these pressures making your organisation’s weaknesses more obvious?

You need clarity of purpose; it’s AIM’s first Hallmark of a Prospering Museum!   Your staff and volunteers need to know and trust that the Trustees and management have this clear vision for your organisation, and the ability, energy and drive to get it there.  In return you need to look after them so they can play their roles in your recovery.  There can be no passengers, especially on the Board.  Everyone must pull their weight and make a positive contribution.

These may seem obvious, but do you have a Recovery Plan in place?   Do you have a team that knows where the organisation is going and what is expected of them as individuals?  Are they all pulling in the same direction, or in several directions at once?

Top tips for recovery

  • Change in various forms may need to happen but change doesn’t always have to be large and sweeping: small changes add up, so find a ‘Quick Win.’
  • Pilot projects: test things before you make permanent changes. If you try things out on a smaller scale, you could be saved from disaster later and you can tweak your plans accordingly.
  • Be focused: there is nothing more important than ensuring your museum is safe and successful. Do not be tempted to pursue new initiatives or pet projects until you have a sound foundation from which to work.
  • Make time for people, their worries and their questions. Listening, understanding and supporting are key tasks for a leader – whether you are a Chair, a member of staff or a volunteer.
  • Communicate with everyone and ensure no one gets left out or feels ignored.
  • Ask for help: there is a lot of useful information even from the early days of the pandemic, so use it and ask your friendly partner museums for support – they are all in the same recovery boat!

Free support

Hilary is offering any member of AIM a FREE 30 minute telephone consultation where you can discuss the problems you’re facing and benefit from her experience and knowledge.

Contact Hilary on 01934 811955 or

Hilary will also be at AIM Conference and will be pleased to meet you there!