What is TAM Doing about the Impact of COVID-19 on the Museum Field?
Since the formal shut down of museums across the state of Texas in March 2020 due to COVID-19, the Texas Association of Museums (TAM) has pivoted to address the new challenges faced by Texas museum professionals and Institutions. To support this effort, TAM is conducting a qualitative and quantitative needs assessment. The assessment results will assist us in getting a better understanding of current challenges, and informing the development of resources and opportunities to help museums and museum professionals overcome them. Preliminary results show that these challenges mainly revolve around 1) the reduction of staff positions, 2) the development and advancement of virtual programming, and 3) the uncertain future of museums that remain closed.
- With reduced income, museums are resorting to cutting expenses through reductions in staffing affecting both the institution and the individual. TAM extended a renewal grace period to its members through the end of July and is now exploring the merits of discount promo codes to encourage new membership. TAM is also reviewing current membership levels and accompanying benefits to provide furloughed and early-career professionals greater access to our networking community and museum resources. Benefits are being designed to strengthen skill-sets and professional expertise to enhance competitiveness in the job market. For Institutions, we are reviewing our current benefit levels to provide greater access for their existing staff by increasing the number of designees under each institutional umbrella. Both Individual and Institutional Members have access to a suite of technology-focused programming currently being developed.
- Temporary museum closures exposed the need to create enhanced virtual programming resources and assess how originators might use data and digital tools to become more efficient and sustainable. TAM is developing a major initiative with funding from the Houston Endowment, titled Finding Alternative Futures Phase 2 (FAF2). In FAF2, TAM will focus on coaching participating Houston area institutions to build online courses and programming that assess a museum’s digital strategy, assist in developing proposals for financial support, inform organizational decision-making, manage vendor relationships, and use social media for community engagement. Additionally, TAM is working to develop similar programming for museum educators that address the following topics: Virtual Tour Creation, Virtual Object-Based Learning, Virtual Camp Development, and Leveraging Social Media for Education. These professional development resources are specifically designed to enhance museums’ abilities to be agile in response to future challenges.
- TAM recognizes with sadness that some museums may not survive the devastating financial impact of COVID-19. To address worst-case scenarios, TAM is working to make Finding Alternative Futures Phase 1 (FAF1) process documents available to member museums. These publications include best practices for three different museum scenarios: A Process Guide to Reinventing the Local History Museum, A Process Guide to Partnering for Sustainability, and A Process Guide to Closing a Local History Museum. Online programming planned for early 2021 is under development to walk through the steps outlined in the documents.
While the future of many Texas museums in light of this paradigmatic disruption is still uncertain, TAM remains committed to finding ways to keep our community intact, build on our existing network, and to help museums re-skill and re-invent. Strengthening Texas museums is at the core of our mission. We continue to listen and forge ahead for the benefit of all our members.
-TAM Council and Staff