Museum Planning, LLC

Qué nombre te parece mejor para mi empresa en México?

No Comments 26 May 2014

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Future of Museums, Museum Websites

Museums and Net Neutrality

2 Comments 06 May 2014

No Passing

Museums and Net Neutrality.  Please join me in telling FCC Chairman Wheeler that it is imperative that the internet remain “Net Neutral”, write an email to Chairman Wheeler using the Freepress Take Action Link  

Join me in signing the Popular Resistance Petition

Join me in donating to the $50,000 in 15 Days to Save the Internet

The future of informal education, shared authority and the democratization of content is at risk.  If the new FCC rules are approved,  internet service providers would be able to receive fees to distribute selected content faster  to audiences. As an example, a large corporation that can afford the additional fees can have their content “pass ahead” of other content and be delivered to the internet user.

1. As an example, a for-profit corporation’s content on King Tutankhamun could be placed ahead of a museum’s content

2. A for-profit corporations science fiction toy could be placed ahead of the content delivered from a small local science center

3. A larger museum’s content could pay to have their content pass smaller museum’s content

4. A chain restaurant’s information could be placed ahead in a search for “Educational Actives Nashville”

5. An artist represented by a large gallery could have information on their Art delivered ahead of an unrepresented artist

The power of the current internet is we each vote with our “clicks” and the time we spend reading a website page.  Currently internet content is delivered according to an algorithm based on time spent on a website, number of pages visited and how many times we return to the same website (amongst other factors).  If the new FCC regulations are  allowed to pass, corporations can pass each of our “click votes” and the corporation’s content will go to the “front of the line”.  The power of the internet comes from shared authority with examples such as citizen scientists, online education, crowdfunding and wikipedia.

Please join me in telling FCC Chairman Wheeler that the internet needs to remain Net Neutral.

New York Times: FCC New Net Neutrality Rules
Museums and the Web: Net Neutrality and the Future of Museums Online
The Atlantic: The Best Writing on Net Neutrality
Wired: So the Internet’s About to Lose it’s Net Neutrality
The Association for Computers and the Humanities: Open Letter on Net Neutrality
Bill Moyers: Don’t Let Net Neutrality Become Another Broken Promise
Freepress: Net Neutrality 101
Tim Wu: Network Neutrality

Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

“Start-Up Success Isn’t Enough to Found a Museum”

No Comments 20 March 2014

David Wallis Article “Start-Up Success Isn’t Enough to Found a Museum”.  Success at museum start-up isn’t enough to make for a successful museum.

Museum Planning, LLC,

MUSEUMPLANNER 2013 – Thank You All !

No Comments 22 January 2014


Museumplanner 2013

Museum Planning, LLC

Plans for 2014

  • Complete Alcatraz Landing
  • “Museums 101″ published
  • New “Mail at Alcatraz” exhibit
  • On-line artifacts for “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock”
  • 2014 Museum Costs Survey
  • Museum Trends iPhone App
  • “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock” app
  • Interviews with leaders in the museum field
  • A potential show featuring Museum Planner
  • More great clients in 2014 !

Thank you for the great year!  Looking forward to completing more research on the topic of Museum Planning & Exhibition Design at and working with more great clients in 2014.

~Mark Walhimer
Museum Planner

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Museum Branding in 10 Steps

No Comments 10 November 2013

The Who 1967

The Who 1967

I never loved the Beatles, not to say they are not a wonderful musical group, just not my thing. For me I prefer the Rolling Stones or the Who, that is just me. There is no apology needed for likes and dislikes, as my mother used to say, “it is fine to say “No, thank you””.

I never loved the Whitney Museum, again not to say it is not a wonderful museum, but not my thing. I prefer MoMA or the Guggenheim. Yes, I know they are very different collections, but those are my likes and dislikes.

It is important to understand that every community cannot include everyone. Different people belong to different communities.

Below is a list of “how to build a museum brand in 10 steps” or  “Museum Branding in 10 steps” :

1. Founders – It all starts with the personality of the founders. Understand the founders individual and group personality and if a key component to the brand is laking from the group, consciously add those personalities to the mix of people.

2. Community – Understand your target audience. Age, income, religious beliefs, social beliefs, distance from the venue, interests and non-interests.

3. Segment Community – Once you understand your targeted community, segment the community. The 2-5 year old user has different requirements than 5-7 year olds; 20-35 year olds have different requirements from 30-40 year old family audience.

4. Segment Requirements – Understand the requirements of each segment.

5. Create a loop – Ask each targeted segment of their needs, listen. Test, and make changes. Repeat. Your “loop” can be used for testing all aspects of the museum from ideas of new exhibitions to on floor programming, donor requests and collection acquisitions.

6. Share the vision – Build and share the brand vision.

7. Cull – In the process of building and sharing the vision you will loose staff and community. That is fine. Be realistic, trying to build a brand for a historic house in a community of 10,000 people and expecting to attract 300,000 visitors per year, is not an issue of brand, but of expectations.

8. Staff Selection – The most important impact on brand is staff selection. Even more difficult to change than institutional culture is brand. We can all sense a less than genuine brand, when the staff and brand are not in alignment, there is a inconsistency. When I go into REI, I believe the floor staff use the equipment, when I go into Big 5, I have no confidence that the people who work there use the merchandise.

9. Refine – Starbucks has now removed the word Starbucks from their logo, the brand is now so strong we all know the logo and all that it embodies without the company name. MoMA, is seldom written out (Museum of Modern Art), the four letters have become an embodiment of the brand. Reduce your brand to it’s core.

10. Let the brand out – I love the City Museum, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, The Mutter, The Yale Art Gallery and DIA, (to name a few). I am happy to promote each of the venues, I am an enthusiast (an unpaid enthusiast). I don’t receive any payment from any of the mentioned venues, they have never been a client, but I am happy to spread their message and share their brand with others. Encourage others to spread the brand.

You will notice there is no mention of logos or color schemes above. A logo is a symbol of a brand a way to communicate brand. Brand is is much larger than graphic design and logos, it is the embodiment of an institutional culture.

Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Building a Museum Brand

12 Comments 26 October 2013

Frank Oppenheimer, from the Exploratorium, David Baker

Frank Oppenheimer, from the Exploratorium, David Baker

Brand is the glue that holds together a successful museum, it gives visitors a comfort level and engages audience.  Building a museum brand is often an unintentional output of a founder, sometimes it is a well crafted form of communication.  This series of blog posts will examine how to craft a brand that touches on every aspect of a museum.

I have a friend Mark.  He and I have been friends since the first day of kindergarden forty-five years ago (I will be 50 this year).  I know Mark as well as anyone in the world, I know how he walks, what makes him smile and his interests.  Every time I see Mark, it give me a sense of place, I know who I am, I know how to act and I get a sense of comfort.  When Mark, my wife and I go out for dinner, the dynamic changes and we are now a group and the dynamic has changed.   When Mark, my wife and I go to a dinner party, we have now joined a larger group and there are too many variables for me to know the expected behavior of the group.  This is where brand comes into play, a way to help people with expectations and predict outcomes.

Businesses are the same (yes, museums are a business), a founder hires a staff and most often the founder finds board members and staff that reflect his personality.  Most often the culture of a museum can be traced back to the personality of the founder.  Brand is the output of a culture, both intentional and non-intentional.     I love the quote “You cannot not communicate”.  Even when we do not wish to communicate we are still communicating.

I am working on a book “How to Start a Museum”, and I have been struggling with how to create a framework for the book.  I believe brand is the framework for all museums.  Many will disagree with me.  They will say that museums are based around a collection or a mission statement, I say it is a narrative that engages audience.  Narrative is the story of an exhibition or program, “museum voice” is how the museum communicates brand.

This idea of brand touches every aspect of a museum, including:
Engaging Community
The Content of collections
Museum Programming (Education)
Exhibition Evaluation
Museum Marketing
, (Earned, Owned and Paid)

Back to Mark.  When I get together with Mark, I know how to act, it would be out of character to go to a dance club with Mark.  If we went to a dance club it would be a joke and we would become silly, because it would be out of character for both Mark and I.

I loved the old Exploratorium.  For me, central to the brand was the vision of Frank Oppenheimer of making science accessible.  I loved the rough and tumble approach, the plywood exhibits just rolled out of the exhibition shop.  At the old location, it was dirty and messy, a place of passion for science exploration.  The old Exploratorium allowed me to “own” the content, the content became accessible.

As a next step I will start to describe how to build a new museum around this idea of brand and how existing museums can recraft themselves with a strong brand. Future blog posts will examine each aspect of the museum around the idea of brand.

Small Museums with a strong brand:
Mutter Museum
Museum Jurassic Technology

Medium Size Museums with a strong brand:
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
The American Visionary Art Museum
Museum of the Moving Image

Large Museums with a strong brand:
The Getty
San Diego Zoo
Monterey Bay Aquarium
American Museum of Natural History
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Built to Last
Please Understand Me
Paul Watzlawick
Experience Economy 
Constructivist Learning Theory

Museum Planning, Science Center, Starting A New Museum

Science Pop

6 Comments 10 September 2013

Mobius Lab, Preview Science Center

Mobius Lab, Preview Science Center

A year ago we worked on a new science center in Indonesia. The project was on a very short schedule and we needed to use all “off the shelf exhibits” to meet the deadline.  As part of the project we created a database of quickly available exhibits.  Start to finish the Indonesian science center opened eight months, after I was first contacted.  The process got me thinking, “Why can’t we open lots of little science centers all over the world?”.  In Asia cites are popping up so quickly they are calling them “Cities in a Box”, why not “Science Centers in a Box”?

I am bothered by the “big box” science centers, $300 million dollar projects seem unnecessary.  You could build 100 smaller science centers for the same $300M budget.  My thinking behind Science Pop (science center in a box), has grown out of a need for community based science centers.  I receive an email a day from groups all over the world interested in starting small community based organizations without the resources to move forward.  There has been a dramatic shift in the world of science centers / children’s museums towards “Big Box” multi-million dollar organizations leaving smaller organizations behind.  To my thinking there is a greater impact to opening 100 small community based organizations world wide than one large destination based organization.  Below is an “elevator pitch”:

Science Pop

Let’s open 100 science centers worldwide.  Why can’t science centers be like a restaurant franchise?  A parent organization helps with site selection, then delivers a proven solution and continues to advise with oversight.  With a $20M (approximate) budget a foundation can be formed to create 100 tested proven educational facilities throughout the world.   Each science center would be self sustaining, with the core organization continuing to assure quality and adherence to science standards.

We receive many emails from people interested in opening a Science Center in developing countries.   These centers could be self sustaining but part of a core organization that assures quality with adherence to Science standards.  Since the Science-Pop (working title) development costs would be covered by the granting organization, the costs would be minimal: $250,000 start up and $70,000 per year operating (approximate).

We have found that trying to explain a science center is difficult.  It is much easier to build a “Preview Facility” and show people.

The next steps:

  • Create Advisory Board
  • Partners, Corporations; Non-Profits
  • Create request for business planning grant
  • Form 503(c)(3)
  • Start List of Locations / Organizations
  • Create Science Pop Prototype

What do you think?

Museum Planning, Museum Trends, Types of Museums

What is the most innovative type of museum?

No Comments 09 August 2013

Which Type of Museum is the Most Innovative ?

What is the most innovative type of museum?.   As a follow up to the post  “Science Centers Leading the Way”  there has been a very interesting discussion in Linkedin Group “Museum Planning”.  Created a survey about innovation in museums by “type”.

Survey Results:

Science Centers: 25.3% (21 votes)

Children’s Museums 20.5% (17 votes)

Science Museums 19.3% (16 votes)

Art Museums 16.9% (14 votes)

Natural History Museums 8.4% (7 votes)

History Museums 8.4% (7 votes)

Corporate Museums 1.2% (1 Votes)

For the purposes of the survey I made a distinction between Science Center (non-collecting) and Science Museum (collecting), if I add the Science Center results with the Science Museum results,  the results would be 45.7% (37 Votes).   In many ways I see the perception in museums just as important as the actual results.  Visitors expect Art Museums to support innovation in Art, but necessarily in the institution and visitors expect innovation in Science Centers.  What do others think?  Please take the survey, and add your voice to the conversation in the linkedin group, Linkedin group link.



Exhibition Design, Exhibition Management, FAQ, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

What are your museum questions?

17 Comments 02 July 2013

What are the top challenges facing your museum?

If you could ask someone for some advice, what would you ask?

On I try to address all issues facing museums and museum professionals, whether you are an established museum or just starting out. Over the next month, I’m here to help.   All you need to do is ask your question below in the “Post a comment” section.

Ask your questions, your challenges, whatever. Then, over the next couple weeks I’ll review all the comments and do my best to try to help as many of you as I can.

Look forward to hearing from you!


Exhibition Design, FAQ, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Frequently Asked Museum Questions

No Comments 07 April 2013

question_mark1Frequently Asked Museum Questions

Every day, I get a couple of emails asking questions about museums.  Thought I would put together a blog post of “Frequently Asked MuseumPlanner Questions”.

1. “How do you start a museum?”
Since 1992, I have been part of opening and expanding more than thirty-five museums.   Most of my work has been with science centers, children’s museums and natural history museums.
Link: “How to start a museum”

2. “How do you raise money for a museum?”
Link: “Museum Fundraising” blog post

3. “How do you get a museum job ?”
Link: “Getting a Museum Job”
Link: “Getting Started in Museums”

4. “How much do museum exhibitions cost?”
Link: “2011 Museum Exhibition Cost Survey”
Link: “How Much do Museum Exhibitions cost?”

5. “How do you create a museum exhibition?”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part I – Planning”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part II – Design Phases”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part III – Fabrication”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part IV – Installation”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part V – Maintenance”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part VI – Evaluation”
Link: “Creating a Traveling Exhibition”

6. “How do you Start a Science Center ?”
Link: “How to Start a Science Center”

7. “What do you do (Mark Walhimer) ?”
Link to What do you do?” 

8. “How do you increase museum attendance ?”
Link: “How to Increase Museum Attendance”

9.  “What is a museum?”
Link “What is a Museum?” 

10. “What is Museum Strategic Planning?”
Link: What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part I
Link: “What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part II Feasibility Studies”

Did I miss any Frequently Asked Questions?, if I did please add them in the comment section below, thanks! -Mark

Museumplanner is run by Mark Walhimer, Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC an exhibition design and museum planning company.

Mark is available for consultations. Feel free to contact him using our contact form.

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