Tag Archives: Museums

New guide leads to 35,000+ U.S. museums – hackers invited to expand the data

Museums provide places of relaxation and inspiration. And most importantly, they are a place of authenticity. We live in a world of reproductions – the objects in museums are real. It’s a way to get away from the overload of digital technology.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art

According to the Museum Universe Data File, there are some 35,144 museums in this country – and still counting. The newly-released file includes a broad range of museums – aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children’s museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums and zoological parks.

The Museum Universe Data File is a new tool, recently released after several years of compilation and modification by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It’s the first–of-its-kind resource based not on third party commercially-produced sources but on original data from the IRS. The file includes information about nonprofits in the U.S. though not always from public and for-profit museums, e.g. museums governed by state and municipal agencies or public universities may be undercounted.

Still in its early release stages, the Museum Universe Data File is open and publicly available for use without restriction. It is a useful tool for a wide audience – for sight-seers and local chauvinists interested in geographic markers, for policy-makers concerned with fair allocation of funds, for journalists writing about local stories or sites, for educators teaching young learners about their community, and for families and individuals who just want to do some armchair travel planning. Because of its close links with pre-school and early childhood education programs IMLS has matched museums as social indicators with information about the locale and nature of other community-based resources such as Head Start Centers and early childhood service organizations.

The process of creating the data file is interesting in itself. From the outset, IMLS invited interested museum organizations to engage in the process – recommending additional sites, updating data, and otherwise contributing to the development process. The approach was to cast “a very broad net, include data from many different sources, and keep the records open to the public so the issues can be explored and discussed.” Short-term plans are to convene representatives of museum service organizations, museum faculty and other museum professionals in Spring 2015 to discuss next steps.

Patrick John-Murray has created US Museums Explorer, an app to complement the data file. (http://museums.hackingthehumanities.org) Each entry is linked with a Wikipedia entry – If no entry is found the site displays an invitation for users to create a new Wikipedia entry – or to update the existing entry. Enthusiastic designer Murray-John is there to help. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to Tweet @patrick_mj, who writes “I built this [US Museums Explorer] because I love data, making data useful, and getting cultural heritage data out in the open and sharing it.”

Checking the resource may add some new sites to your local museum agenda – or get you started thinking about what’s out there to be explored when Spring vacation comes!



Historians Make History as They Gather in St. Paul

Though history’s always in the making in St. Paul the saintly city is more than ever abuzz this week with curators, archivists, preservation and conservation experts, scholars, digitizers, funders and dedicated historians of every stripe.   It’s impossible to categorize, much less describe, the thousand-plus committed attendees at the annual conference of the American Association for State and Local History meeting this week at the Crowne Plaza on the banks of the Mississippi (if you don’t count the Kellogg Boulevard speedway….)

“Greater than the Sum of Our Parts” is the intriguing theme of the conference. A few hours in the exhibits gives meaning to the phrase – the exhibitors reflect the diverse and interdependent functions that comprise the complex world of these stewards of the narrative of the nation’s towns, states and regions. The robust agenda includes programs and tours on corporate history, museums, archives, court and legal history, classrooms, interpretive centers, historic homes, military history, religious history and more.

The keynote speakers for the conference suggest the diversity of the themes and participants — Garrison Keillor keynoted today followed tomorrow by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of Carlson and more.   Speaker at Friday’s awards banquet is Dr. Anton Treuer, Executive Director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University and editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.

There are tours and more tours – of St. Paul’s brewing history “from Pig’s Eye to Summit”, a farm tour of the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the Oliver Kelley farm, tours of the mighty Mississippi, the Alexander Ramsey House, several farmers’ markets and corporate museums. And there are sessions on services for people with disabilities and one session that caught my eye, a discussion entitled “Memories Matter: Our Historic Resources to Help Those with Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases.”

The exhibits range from high tech digital archives to art conservationists determined to preserve art and objects as “primary sources”, reflected but not replaced be digital reproductions (or paint-by-number replications) of the original.

Squadrons of Minnesota museum mavens, clad in sky blue water t-shirts, are everywhere welcoming the visitors, pointing out the area’s sites and eateries, telling the stories, and having the strength to get up and do what needs to be done to guarantee that the 2014 American Association for State and Local History will go down in history!






Minnesota Museums Month – 600 Amazing Possibilities!

Minnesotans are museum enthusiasts – so much so we will be celebrating May 2012 as Minnesota Museums Month. – the first in the nation, it is said.  And we will be hosting Thousands of museum professionals and supporters at the American Association of Museums annual conference meeting in the Twin Cities April 29-May 1.

For the most part, Minnesotans know about and often have visited the Minnesota Insstitute of Art and the Walker, the Science Museum, the History Center, the Weisman and the Goldstein Museum of Design on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota.  Lin Nelson-Mayson, distractor of the Goldstein chairs the Minnesota Association of Museums, the organization spearheading the Minnesota Museums Month initiative. 

According to the Minnesota Association of Museums, Minnesota has 600 museums with an economic impact of more than $300 million annually.

So what and where are these 600 centers of interest?  For starts, 55 are in the Twin Cities.  We know the majors, but have you visited the Firefighters Museum in Northeast Minneapolis, or the new African American Museum and Cultural Center in South Minneapolis,  the Bakken Museum near Lake Calhoun or the Model Railroad Museum at Bandana Square in St. Paul.

What of the other 544 museums  outside the metro area?  The Minnesota Department of Tourism offers a great overview of science, arts, historic, environmental and every conceivable museum site.  Consider a trip to the Northwest Company Fur Post in Pine City or the National monuments at Pipestone and Grand Portage or the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria.  And there are still 538 others.

New York Times writer Carol Kino sets the historical context for the rich heritage of Minnesota museums.

It started with the Minnesota Historical in St Paul, founded in 1849, when Minnesota was still a territory.  In1872, the legislature established the state’s first science museum in Minneapolis, now known as the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History (Coincidentally, it is named for the grandfather of Ford Bell, the current president of the American Association of Museums.)

In 1879, the Walker Art Gallery opened – the first art museum west of the Mississippi founded by the lumber magnate Thomas Barlow Walker in his own home.  In 1940 it was re-established as the Walker Art Center, a community art center run by the Works Project Administration.  The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, today one of America’s major encyclopedia museums, opened its doors in 1915.

Her article goes on to describe he range of museum options – from the William & Joan Soderlund Pharmacy Museum in St. Peter to the Spam Museum in Austin to the several museums devoted to the history of Native Americans in the region.

There are numerous initiatives surrounding Minnesota Museums Month —  special museum sections in the press, an expanded Explore Minnesota site and public television programming.  Keep an eagle eye on the Minnesota Museums Month website as it grows and follows developments.

Most of all, take time to visit one of the hundreds of museums you may have somehow missed.  Explore Minnesota – including Minnesota’s incomparable heritage of museums.