Museum management and marketing
Richard Sandell and Robert R. Janes (eds), Routledge, 2007.
ISBN-13: 9780415396295 (pbk). RRP A$88.00

review by J Patrick Greene
Museum Management and Marketing book cover

Museum management and marketing is a volume in a series of Leicester Readers in Museum Studies. These are designed, according to the preface by the series editor, to 'provide students of museums — whether employed in the museum, engaged in a museum studies programme or studying in a cognate area — with a selection of focused readings in core areas of museum thought and practice ... They deal with practice as it is relevant to the museum today, but they are also about expanding horizons beyond one's own experience.' The two editors in their preface state that 'our purpose is to introduce the current breadth and depth of museum management and market thinking'. The volume has to be judged against these objectives and unfortunately it falls well short of the mark.

The book is organised into three parts: 'Museums and change', 'Museum management', and 'Marketing the museum'. Each part is introduced by means of a short essay by the authors and then a series of papers, all of which have been previously published elsewhere, and of which there are 25 in total. The authors come from America, Britain, Australia, Canada and there is a single contributor from France. The geographical imbalance that results is unfortunate. It is as though Europe (excepting the United Kingdom and the one French author), Asia, Latin America and Africa have nothing to contribute to the subject. In consequence, the concept of management and marketing is one that makes no reference to the challenges of operating museums in developing countries, the role of museums in emerging economies, or the museum renaissance in former communist states. Even management practices in countries that have made such a mark on museums, such as Spain, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, are absent. Ironically, Kenneth Hudson, the founder of the European Museum of the Year Awards, is quoted on page 32 and, with the same quotation, on page 313, yet the extraordinary riches of creativity that the awards have unearthed across 50 European countries over a 30-year period are invisible.

The compilation of previously published papers results in a second flaw, for despite the intention stated in the preface to reflect current thought, the selection is anything but topical. Over half of the papers were published before 2000 and the more recent papers tend to report research carried out some years before. In the fast-moving fields of museum management and marketing it is essential to remain up-to-date, but these papers are often past their sell-by date. One example is 'Embracing organizational change in museums: a work in progress', by Robert R Janes (one of the review's editors). In 1999, when this paper was first published, it described the unfinished task in which he was engaged as president and chief executive officer of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada and would have made interesting reading. Times have moved on, however, and on Glenbow's website there is a pen-portrait of Mike Robinson, president and chief executive officer since 2000: 'Mike specializes in leading organizations through periods of strategic change'
(, so there is clearly a much more topical account to be had of the museum's management challenges. It makes even less relevant the inclusion of a companion piece to Janes's paper, 'Museum staff perspectives on organizational change', that provides a reaction from a selection of Glenbow staff to his management, and was first published in 1997. Another paper, 'A delicate balance: Museums and the marketplace', by Victoria D Alexander, begins with the words 'As we approach the millennium', while 'Visitor experiences in museums' by Zahava D Doering contains the statement, 'In the United States, the number of museums has grown fourfold in the last 25 years. The most recent estimates (1992) count 8,200 independent museums'. There can be no excuse for presenting as current, material that is 15 years old.

The origins of much of the book in the late '80s and early '90s lead to a serious omission. A search of the index for terms such as 'website', 'internet', 'world wide web' and 'search engine' results in a complete blank. It produces a strange sensation of travelling back to a different world, for who today could contemplate either the management or marketing of museums without the internet? That thought leads to another: why publish a reader such as this at all? Museum studies departments such as Leicester University's can provide a broad range of reading material that represents the latest thinking through their websites with hotlinks to on-line journals such as reCollections.

There is comfort to be had, it must be admitted, in coming across worries that afflicted museum managers a decade ago and finding that things turned out better than expected for museums. In 'Can museums be all things to all people? Missions, goals and the marketer's role', published in 2000, Neil and Philip Kotler state that a 'growing number of museum leaders are concerned about competition from the entertainment and cultural districts of central cities'. They proceed to describe one such threat: 'Sony built the $160 million Metreon in downtown San Francisco as the urban equivalent of a Disney theme park combined with a suburban shopping mall'. I looked up Metreon using Google and this is what I found on 'The Metreon has been less than successful since opening in 1999 ... San Francisco is far too interesting to be imprisoned in the Metreon'. Museums continue to shake off such challenges, proving more robust than we might have thought when others appeared to be invading our territory.

The most telling paper in this volume is also the oldest. In 1977 Peter Drucker published Management Cases and one of his examples was 'The university art museum: Defining purpose and mission'. This is no dry analysis presented in management speak, but rather an engaging tale of enterprise and commitment by a founding curator that is followed, on her retirement, by the disastrous path of her successor. When he leaves, under a cloud, the board sets about finding a new curator and Drucker reveals that no two members can agree on the kind of person they are seeking, as the goals of the art museum have never been defined. Such organisational confusion repeats itself constantly and therefore a well-crafted parable will always maintain its currency. I would read that book; but I'd suggest that Museum Management and Marketing is transformed into a regularly-updated reading list of current papers made available on the internet.

J Patrick Greene is chief executive officer of Museum Victoria.