The museum that I chose to look into is the American Museum of Natural History. The museum does have a downloadable link that lays out their governance policy. It appears that a Board of Trustees runs a lot of the functions of their governing. In their governing policy there are also Officers of the Board, Committees, and Officers of the Museum. The largest section would the Committees, as there are a lot of smaller committees that run little subsections that make up the Committee as a whole. The Board of Trustees mainly do oversight work, and also “provide leadership and financial support for annual operations, as well as for capital, endowment, programmatic, and other fundraising
initiatives, and are important ambassadors for the institution in providing outreach to prospective individual, corporate, and foundation donors.”, so people with money. The committee of the Board is made up of trustees that are already on the Board of Trustees, they mainly do things like budget, finance, and collection overseeing. The Committee on Trustees and Governance are the ones in charge of reviewing people who want to join the Board and orientation for newbies. There is also an investment Committee that is in charge of reviewing and managing any type of investment that the Board decides upon.

The mission statement that is provided through the website is “To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.”

I wasn’t able to find a vision statement available on the website.

There were a couple of policies that were available on the website. In the governance policy, there is a Museums Collections and Ethics section, that basically just stated that Board members couldn’t compete with the museum over collections and that they can’t use the museum or the staff to help with their own personal collections, either in storage or otherwise. There is also a Conflict of Interest Policy that is about Board members not being able to have outside opinions about collections, they must only think with the best interest for the museum.

Question: Through reading about the governing policy of AMNH, it was revealed that there are many politicians in the Board, including the Mayor of NYC, Speaker of the Council of the City of New York, Comptroller of the City of New York, and the President of the Borough of Manhattan. What are your thoughts on politicians being an integral part of an institution like the AMNH?

New York City American Museum of Natural history

3 Thoughts to “American Museum of Natural History”

  1. Michelle Barbieri

    Though I do understand why some would find the idea of politicians being part of a museum institution rather odd, I can see the benefits of having such influential people being part of it as they can attract funding that the institution may need, as well as expand its reach. I do not have enough knowledge of this subject to properly clarify this asnwer however, that would be my best speculation.

  2. Maxine Laberge

    Wow! I should have thought to look up some of the members of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (which is the museum I chose to research.) Undoubtedly there are politicians, but I would need to check who exactly is there.

    Politicians always raise an eyebrow, however I do agree with Michelle that they could add many benefits that might include access to new resources. I hope that there are checks and balances on these types of powers.

    Also… I wonder how much work these politicians actually do for the museums they are on boards for? (I have no clue what the answer to this is.) Are they part of the museum community and tuned into what is going on? Do they need to be?

  3. Angela Linn

    Great observation Arianna. I’ve noticed that some big museums use the Board of Trustees / Directors as a way of gaining social capital – prominent and important people on your board help raise the prestige of your institution and certainly the pool of donors who can fund programs and acquisitions. So much of what museums do depend on relationship building and in major urban areas, every bit of leverage helps! But you’re right, having politicians on your board makes it that much more important that you have a clear code of ethics and review it at each meeting.

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