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Lean Museum Start-up

I am working on a new museum project in Georgia, a small local history museum.  The project is a bit of an experiment, trying out “Lean Museum Start-Up”. Or in other words “what is the least expensive and fastest way to start a museum?”.

Most often a City or Board of Directors will hire an Executive Director. Then they will want an office and an assistant. Then the Director will start to want to hire staff, then architects, then a museum planner, exhibition designer, and a strategic planner.  Then the Director will need an accountant for the billing and an office for the accountant and still, nothing has been designed or built. Then the architecture and exhibitions go out to bid, need value engineering, and a fundraising consultant to raise the additional costs associated with the project. Then the fabricator and the General Contractor will be hired and there will be a need for a project manager.  This process can take years and be very costly.

In the past, I always thought it was important that the staff structure is in place before construction, to create organizational culture.  The new project that I am working on, has me thinking “What if the community (local businesses, city, local residents) are the culture of the museum?”.

The new project methodology follows the lean start-up methodology; hire a museum planner / de facto Executive Director (Mission, Values, Vision, Strategic Planning, building program, community outreach, board meetings), exhibition designer, owner’s representative, then hire a general contractor, staff, exhibit fabricator.  Keep all systems at a minimum until feasibility is assured.

Too often the typical method creates so much baggage (and costs) that you end up with a bloated (expensive) project.

In eight months, I have worked with the City to create a museum master plan, strategic plans, community outreach, exhibition design, architectural plans and we will start construction and fabrication next month with plans to open the museum in November 2017.  Will keep you updated.

Harvard Business Review “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything”

Forbes “Lean Startup Is Dead “Long Live Lean Startup”

Eric Reis  “The Lean Startup”

About Mark Walhimer

Mark is Managing Partner of Museum Planning, LLC, a museum planning and exhibition project management firm of interactive educational environments for Science Centers, Children's Museums and Natural History Museums. You can reach Mark at mark@walhimer.com.

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