What is a Small Museum?

In 2007, the Small Museums Committee created a working definition of a small museum:

A small museum’s characteristics are varied, but they typically:

  • have an annual budget of less than $250,000,
  • operate with a small staff with multiple responsibilities,
  • and employ volunteers to perform key staff functions.

Other characteristics such as the physical size of the museum, collections size and scope, etc. may further classify a museum as small.

Is it the end-all, be-all of definitions? Certainly not, but it’s a start and gives us a rallying point for our efforts.

Where did that definition come from?
In 2007, the Small Museums Committee distributed an electronic survey to the membership and received 455 responses out of 6,500 sent. It was designed to create a working definition for the Committee so it could better respond to the needs of small museums. Results provided the definition above.

Needs Assessment Executive Summary
From 2002-2007, the Small Museums Committee hosted events and sessions and compiled information from other sources to assess the needs of small museums.

Needs Collected at National, Regional, and State Meetings 2002-2007
This is the data from which the committee drafted the above Needs Assessment Executive Summary.