Regional museums in the 21th century (English summary)

The project 'Regional museums in the 21th century' started with a specific question of the Regional history museum Jan Uten Houte in Etten-Leur: how can we create a future proof regional museum? A museum that appeals to new audiences? Many more regional museums are dealing with this issue and some museums have already explored new roads. Erfgoed Brabant (Heritage Brabant) has the role of supporting heritage organizations in the province of Noord-Brabant in The Netherlands. Therefore Erfgoed Brabant together with the Jan Uten Houte museum started this project.

The purpose of this project is to hand over resources to regional museums to succeed in their repositioning and to make their museum future proof. This website reports on the process of evaluation and exploring new ways of Regional museum Jan Uten Houte. The videos tell the story of the process. It makes it possible for other regional and local historical museums to follow the process, start exploring their own position and share their knowledge and experiences.

The project started in September 2014. During the project meetings have been organized for regional museums in Noord-Brabant. A network for regional museums is now active in our province. The next phase will be exploring ways for regional museums to work together.

Are you interested in joining the network? Or do you have questions about the project? Please contact Annette Gaalman.

Part 1: SWOT analysis

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the museum?
  • What opportunities are there to make use of and what threats do we have to face?

When an organization really wants to think about change it can be very informative to make a SWOT analysis. Regional museum Jan Uten Houte did so. About 40 volunteers came together in three groups to share their visions.

By making a SWOT analysis with all contributors of an organization, every vision with regard to the functioning of the organization is collected. The result is a valuable contribution for determining the path of the organization.

Results of the SWOT analysis

How can we deal with the identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? The figure shows what can be done in different situations: 

Some examples:
-          Does the museum have good educational products and a lot of experience in working with students? Is there a growing group of grandparents who are looking for fun activities with their grandchildren? In this case the museum could invest in developing attractive products for a museum visit for grandparents with their grandchildren. You can expand the educational expertise that is already there. Therefore it is relatively easy to reach a new group.
-          Does the museum have little experience with using ICT? Are we also noticing that society is becoming more and more digital? In this case, try to control damage by determining what the museum at least has to do. For example: make the website very informative and keep it up to date. Find a strategy to make a museum visit worth while, even if there are no digital means. For example: make use of experienced museum guides.

Part 2: Stakeholder analysis

  • For who actually is the museum? Who have an interest in the museum?

It is very important to ask yourself once in a while: who are we doing it for? Who are having an interest in the museum? Besides museum staff and visitors there are many more stakeholders, even though you might not directly think of them. Regional museum Jan Uten Houte put all its stakeholders in order.

Bus companies, hotels and restaurants, tourist information, local government, schools, other local museums and associations: they are all organizations that in a certain way have an interest in the museum. Knowing who the stakeholders are helps to think about what the museum means and wants to mean to every single group.

 Different ways of sorting these groups can help to make clear how they relate to the museum:

  • What role do they play when it comes to the museum? Are they users, suppliers, influencers or deciders?
  • To what extend wants the museum to let its stakeholders have influence? Are they being informed? Are the allowed to think about what the museum is doing? Are they playing in a role in thinking about what is necessary? Are they involved in making decisions?
  • Are there shared interests with certain groups? Do the different stakeholders trust each other or is there a lack of trust?

Working with the results

When it becomes more clear how the museum relates to different groups of stakeholders, specific steps can be taken. These steps depends on which goal the museum wants to reach.

For example:
It turns out that hotels, restaurants and campsites near the museum are being informed about the activities in the museum, but they are not involved. When the museum wants to increase the number of visitors it can be useful to evaluate in what way the museum can cooperate with its stakeholders.

Part 3: Business models

  • How can we create healthy business models for our museums?
  • What can we learn from each other when it comes to revenues?

A contribution of the local government, income from tickets, hospitality and the museum store, and sponsors: often these are the most important revenues for regional and local historical museums. Many volunteers and the contributions in natura of local companies are sources of income that are less visible. Support from the local community is essential for a stable financial foundation. Cees Breugelmans (Museum De Looierij in Dongen) and Wim Burgmans (Kempenmuseum De achte Zaligheden in Eersel) explain how they created and maintained support from the local community.

Part 4: Valuation of collections

  • What are we collecting? And why are we collecting this?
  • Do these collections tell the stories we want to tell?

A museum’s collection, and of course also the way of exhibiting, must be coherent with the mission of the museum. The board of Regional museum Jan Uten Houte stated a new mission after evaluating the SWOT analysis and stakeholder analysis:

'Regional museum Jan Uten Houte shows inhabitants and visitors of the region the relationship between the current state of the region and its history: What does the region look like? What do we think is characteristic and notable? How was this established?': 
"Making these connections visible and understandable for as many inhabitants and visitors of the region as possible: that is the goal of the museum. We want to reach this goal by telling stories about our region: landscape, habitation and activity, habits, prominent people and important events. Material testimonials (objects) and immaterial testimonials (dialect, narrated stories, knowledge and skills for certain crafts and professions, traditions and habits) are the museum’s tools to tell those stories."

Assessing museum collections

After composing a new mission the next step is to look at the collection again: what objects go with this mission and what objects are less suitable? What do we miss? Where are the gaps? To answer these questions we used "Assessing museum collections", a method for valuation of museum objects and collections that was developed by Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency.

Part 5: Relation with the local government

  • How do we maintain a good relationship with the local government?

For every museum it is important to establish a good relationship with the local government. During the network meeting for regional museums on 17 September 2015 in the Meierijsche Museumboerderij in Heewijk-Dinther, Ank Lambers (lecturer leisure & creative thinking at Fontys) gave a workshop about this topic.

Part 6: New ways of presenting the stories

  • How do we tell our story?

In the springtime of 2016 students of the Reinwardt Academie in Amsterdam presented their ideas for a futre proof regional museum to the staff of the Jan Uten Houte Museum.