Magnetic Museums: A local author's how-to-thrive guide
At a February reception for her newly published book, Magnetic Museums: The Art and Science of Engagement (American Alliance of Museums), Cultural Data Project president and CEO Beth Tuttle said she and co-author Anne Bergeron wanted to ask one important question of the $21 billion U.S. museum sector: What is it about the institutions that thrive rather than just survive?
To answer that question, Tuttle and Bergeron undertook a three-year research study to understand what drives these top arts organizations, and presented their findings with a series of best practices tied to case studies from across the U.S.:
- Building core alignment: The Philbrook Museum of Art
- Embracing 360 engagment: Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
- Empowering others: Chrysler Museum of Art
- Widening the circle and inviting the outside in: Children’s Museum Pittsburgh
- Becoming essential: Natural Science Center of Greensboro
- Buliding trust through high performance: The Franklin Institute
The Philadelphia museum highlighted in the book draws on the leadership of the longest-serving president in the history of the Franklin Institute, Dennis Wint. Standing next to the 350-ton Baldwin 6000 locomotive at the Franklin Institute’s iconic “Train Factory” exhibit, Tuttle asked Franklin Institute employees if they recognized Wint’s mantra, “no margin, no mission.” All museum staff at the reception were able finish the phrase before Tuttle could get there.
“At this institution, whether they’re a staff member, a trustee or a donor, everyone really gets that where there’s no margin, there’s no mission,” says Tuttle. “It’s pervaded the culture.”
Wint’s success in instilling a high-performance culture and practicing magnetic leadership at The Franklin Institute are highlighted in Chapter 7 of the book. She noted that in leveraging the importance of institutional mantras like “no margin, no mission,” Wint gets people focused and do what they need to do.
While Magnetic Museums gives arts administrators checklists and inspiration on how to work toward becoming an efficient and effective organization, Bergeron concluded the evening’s remarks by pointing out that it’s easier to write a book than to put ideas into practice. As the associate director of external affairs at the Dallas Museum of Art, Bergeron speaks from experience. “Now that I’m back to being a part of that,” she says, “I’m reminded that it’s so much easier to write about magnetism than to do it.”
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