Adapting museums to a postmodern environment
Museums are facing an era of greater competition for resources and. it has been contended, many are fighting for institutional survival. This dissertation examines the proposition that the postmodern museum is a less stable institution and analyzes the use of strategies to address a more contentious community environment and perceived organizational instability.
The study begins with an exploration of public involvement in the development of the American museum and then presents documentation on the changes in support that have altered the nonprofit environment in which contemporary museums exist. The research thesis contends that the impact of this changing environment on museums can be ascertained through examination of financial status, professionalization standards, and audience characteristics. The research subsequently asserts that specific strategies have been implemented as survival mechanisms to address increasing organizational instability resulting from the challenges facing the postmodern museum. The analysis concludes with an assessment of the amount and type of change in the use of management strategies in response to perceptions of organizational instability.
A random sample of museums nationwide was undertaken. Analysis of the data from more than 600 institutions indicates that museums overall are addressing issues of competition by employing new and/or different management strategies, but many do not view themselves in a struggle for survival. Rather the strategies are being employed to improve organizational stability through increased community financial and audience involvement. The data illustrates dramatic differences in perceptions and use of strategies based on size of institutional budget, number of professional staff, and annual attendance.