Chap 9: ‘From idiosyncratic to integrated: Strategic planning for collections,’ by James Gardner

In my new book Museum Practice, the rest of the chapters in Section two: Resources consider collections and collecting, collection care and management, and collection planning and conservation. In chapter nine, James Gardner faces squarely a central problem with collections in contemporary museums—the lack of strategic planning. After realising that their collecting activities after 9/11 were fragmented and serendipidous, Gardner and his colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington embarked on the long and sometimes difficult process of reorienting collecting from an “idiosyncratic” approach to one that was “integrated”. “Rather than continuing to look back at how we’ve always worked, we need to turn around and face the future,” he writes, “but that engagement is impossible without thoughtful discussion and planning.” He continues: “Every museum must make difficult choices about what to collect and not collect, and those choices must be better informed and must be made within the context of integrated, strategic planning tied to institutional mission and thematic goals.”

Dr James B. Gardner is Executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Libraries, and Museum Services at the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. A trained historian, he formerly worked as a curator and then Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. His publications include The AAM Guide to Collections Planning (with Elizabeth Merritt), Public History: Essays from the Field, and essays in The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics and Grassroots Memorials: The Politics of Memorializing Traumatic Death.


About mccartco

Conal McCarthy has published widely on the historical and contemporary Māori engagement with museums, including the books Exhibiting Māori: A history of colonial cultures of display (2007) and Museums and Māori: Heritage professionals, indigenous collections, current practice (2011). His new book is Museum practice (2015) in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. This edited collection includes chapters on many aspects of current professional work from audience, leadership and policy to collections, exhibitions and conservation. His next book co-authored with Bronwyn Labrum of Massey University will explore history of/in museums.
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