Bell County Museum, Belton, Texas
Institution Management Questions and Answers
The Bell County Museum is my home base museum since we are residents of the area and return often for a variety of reasons. I have volunteered there since August of 2016 and even with a four month hiatus I have given close to 600 hours of time. I finally made the opportunity to interview the Director, Coleman Hampton.
The BCM is located in Belton, Texas and shares a border with Williamson county whose museum has been interviewed for this blog. They share the monthly tours of the Gault archaeological site by alternating months. http://www.gaultschool.org/ The museum is located inside an old Carnegie Library that has been combined with an annex that allows for convenient office space, collection housing, research room, and an exhibit hall.
- What processes fund the institution and at what percentages?
The Bell County Museum is funded by the county to the extent that the building, utilities, and staff are paid. This makes up more than half of the BCM’s annual budget. The rest is a combination of funds from charitable bingo, (state accepted gambling) 2 large fundraising events, memberships, the gift shop, and individual donations. The bingo games are two games from two different venues whose profit, if any, is split with 15% going to the local boys and girls club. If there is no profit from the games then the museum has to come out of pocket to cover the difference, which fortunately does not happen often. The revenue generated from the fundraising goes towards bringing traveling exhibits to the museum for the enrichment of the local community.
- How involved are the board members with the operation of the institution?
The board is not involved with the day-to-day operation maintaining a long-term focus. They serve a three year term and rotate a third out every three years preventing wholesale changeover in one year.
- What processes do you have for maintaining a volunteer pool and what level of involvement can they attain?
Requests for volunteers come through the posting on the website and word of mouth. Admittedly, they have been fortunate enough to have access to the University of Mary Hardin Baylor where internships also help the staff. The opportunities for volunteers is in line with their expressed desire to perform, skillsets, and availability.
- What relationship does fundraising have to the mission statement?
All of the BCM’s fundraising is specifically for the collecting, display of local history, and bringing traveling exhibits to Bell County. This includes an exhibit specifically for the Gault archaeological site.
- How involved is the institution with social media?
The Bell County Museum has a website hosted by the county I.T. department. Their most successful social medium is Facebook although they do link everything to Instagram and Twitter as well. Their expectations are that Facebook will become a focus for their social media growth.
- What museum collection software (MCS) is used and where is the data housed?
- Is it stored on local servers, the cloud, and is there any backup? ie: M-Disc
- Frequency of system back up
- What kind of training do you have for staff and volunteers on the MCS?
The BCM uses PastPerfect Museum Software that is hosted by the county servers where backups are performed every night. The volunteers are given some training on this software when they express a desire and possess the skills necessary to facilitate completion of many different projects. This training comes through hands on training with guidance from paid staff and through the self guided training from the DVD training series based on PastPerfect’s webinars.
- How often do you update the collection policy if you have one?
The collection policy is updated annually with the staff providing the bulk of the policy and then getting the board’s approval.
- What do you do with items to be de-accessioned?
Deaccessioning is an ongoing challenge that fortunately does not come up very often. The collections committee makes the decisions for both de-accessioning and for accessioning. The curator runs the collections committee and is a member as is the director. The rest of the committee is comprised of no less than 5 and no more than 9 members without the curator and director. De-accessioning would follow National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums provided by the American Alliance of Museums. http://www.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/financial-stability
- Does the institution have a long term and or short term strategic management plan?
- How often is it updated, and who is involved? (staff, volunteers, the board…)
The Bell County Museum has a master strategic plan with no long term or short term since the rapid changing environment of the 21st century environment does not allow for more than 18 months to 2 years of planning. This is according to La Piana Consulting who published “The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution” by David LaPiana. http://lapiana.org/insights-for-the-sector/insights/strategic-planning
- Could your institution operate as a ‘for profit’ business?
The board and the director continue to have forward thinking conversations about the profitability of the museum although they do not relate specifically to ‘for profit’ thinking. The BCM believes that profitability starts with responsible stewardship of the county’s funds.
I started volunteering at the Bell County Museum in August of 2016 and accumulated more than 345 hours in nine months. The BCM family is extremely welcoming and awesome to work with. I assisted in almost every area of the institution including docent work, exhibit design and set-up, construction, curation of objects and working with the cataloging software, Past Perfect Museum Software. http://www.museumsoftware.com/
I worked closely with the education coordinator, Kayte Ricketts, during the monthly outreach programs and with scheduled school tours. My docent work took place in the BCM’s Gault Archaeology site exhibit, which is very hands on for student learners. http://www.gaultschool.org/
The curator, Mikaela Young, gave me tutorials from PastPerfect Museum Software, where I developed proficiency in accessioning artifacts, keyword searches, and donor file creation or updates.
Archival grade scanning of photographs is another area where I excelled after quality training by another accomplished volunteer. The BCM has an extensive collection of photographs stored in their vault and continues to digitize them for research and possible online exhibit.
We were able to locate an improperly stored photograph on celluloid that was deteriorating very quickly. I suggested storage in their deep freezer would help keep the image intact longer.
One of the most rewarding experiences with the BCM was the ability to work with two different directors on several travelling exhibits. I assisted with simple construction, painting, layout, design, lighting, assembly and eventual breakdown. The encouragement the staff showed me and the trust that placed in me is something I will cherish and come back to many times.