Episode 44: How to Responsibly Close a Museum

Todd Smith, the Interim Executive Director at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, discusses the difficult process of closing a museum and the importance of a deaccession plan that supports the collection as well as the public good.

Todd SmithTodd Smith uses his experience in education, corporate strategy, and nonprofit leadership to help organizations navigate pathways for ongoing public service. Focusing on sustainable outcomes, Smith assists organizations in evaluating goals in the context of real world economics and creating action plans with clearly defined financial targets.

Combining a Masters in Teaching from Duke University and 20 years of business experience, Smith brought a balanced external perspective to the American Textile History Museum (ATHM) in 2012, when he joined the Advisory Board. He became the Interim Director of Development of the museum in January 2015, and was appointed as Interim Executive Director in September 2015. In partnership with the NonProfit Finance Fund, he led a three-month strategic evaluation of potential transformation options for ATHM and a six-month exploration of one of those options. Unfortunately, limited resources and options ultimately led to the decision by the ATHM Board to close the museum.

The situation at the American Textile History Museum is indicative of the current economic struggles of many nonprofit organizations. The process of closing a museum is fraught with stumbling blocks as the organization works to find new homes for its collection. Strategic flexibility within the confines of government oversight and industry ethics is paramount. When time is the most limited resource due to limited funds, thinking and acting outside the box is critical.

The experience of closing a museum is thankfully rare at this point and Smith looks forward to sharing the lessons learned with the museum community at the 2017 New England Museum Association annual conference.

Non-profit Health Check – Key Areas to Evaluate for Long Term Sustainability
Slide deck from Smith’s 2017 New England Museum Association conference presentation

Read Episode Transcript.

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