Friday, October 23, 2009

Developing a Facility? Your Best Advice May Be Just Around the Corner

I'M ALWAYS ESPECIALLY GRATEFUL TO RECEIVE QUESTIONS from smaller culturals that are in the process of creating or expanding their facilities. These organizations often operate with a dearth of information about building and shaping their spaces, despite the fact that there are thousands of organizations who've gone through it and are happy to offer up advice, warts and all.

Without some unvarnished insights and opinions, most of us are susceptible to the shiny object held out in front of us by architects, professional fundraisers, and product vendors. We don't wish to appear ignorant, even if we are. But do we really want to end up with a museum that has too little collection storage space or a performance hall with a too-small backstage area?

Boards of trustees and many staff do get caught up in the immediacy of such projects, often unable or unwilling to think about the long-term consequences of building decisions. The pressure to raise funds and move forward on capital projects even when we might not be quite ready is very real and a heavy, heavy burden. I give any organization tremendous credit for calling "time out" in the midst of a project to rethink it if it truly isn't working or simply isn't "right".

Doing so is generally an expensive lesson. All the more reason to seek as much advice and opinion BEFORE signing that contract! So, for my readers from smaller culturals, I urge you to reach out to colleagues in your community or region to ask for advice -- and to pay for that advice if necessary. Museum curators, gallery directors, stage/facilities managers, conservators, visitor services directors -- these are the folks who know how space must work. They are your "on the ground" experts. And they're happy to help.

Photo: The Boy Builder from doublewinky

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