Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum

Institution Management Q and A with Curator Renee

The Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum is also a state park that has full time and seasonal staff.  It is part of what was originally U.S. Cavalry property and located in Laramie, Wyoming.  When Wyoming became a state in 1890, the U.S. Government pulled the cavalry out because the new state was responsible for its own security.  The new government did not want more than one state run institution in any city and since Laramie had the University of Wyoming as well as the prison, they chose to move the prison west to Rawlings and donated its land to the University for livestock research programs.  When the university retired the property, they gave it back to the state where, after several iterations it became the Territorial Prison Museum.

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The Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum curator (Renee) was kind enough to spend an hour answering questions and was an information warehouse who is passionate about her institution. Check them out online http://www.wyomingterritorialprison.com/

  1. What processes fund the institution and at what percentages?

The museum receives most of its operational budget from the state but they do write and receive some grants.  They also have a museum association partnership that hosts special events and creates opportunity for people to see the institution and pique their interest.  The door proceeds and the gift store also generates revenue for the museum to use.   

  1. How involved are the board members with the operation of the institution?

Since the museum is also a state park and so does not have a board of directors.  There is a superintendent who has oversight at the museum and reports back to the state park service.  All decsions about the museum operation and mission are made at the institution level by the superintendent and the curator.

  1. What processes do you have for maintaining a volunteer pool and what level of involvement can they attain?

There is an active volunteer pool coming mostly from word of mouth, from visitation of the institution, or workamping news vetted by the state office.  These volunteers are seasonal from April to October and have full RV hookups with Wi-Fi as compensation for 24 hours a week with 3 days off to explore.

  1. What relationship does fundraising have to the mission statement?

They do not do fundraising per se although the museum association does conduct their own fundraising events.  The museum is also partners with the University of Wyoming in Laramie’s museum studies department, who offer an undergraduate minor and a graduate program.  The museum has two-year internships for both programs totaling seven interns.  There is also a Hathaway scholarship for University of Wyoming students coming from the fossil fuel industry and establishing residency in Wyoming for University admissions is easily facilitated in order to encourage students to move to Wyoming and then stay after they graduate.  All this exposure from the university works towards leveraging the students to the museum and increases attendance.  

  1. How involved is the institution with social media?

The museum has its own private website as well as the state maintained website.  They also use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat all maintained by the curator.  I suggested that the museum take the opportunity to solicit input for social media posts on any of the platforms.    

  1. What museum collection software (MCS) is used and where is the data housed?
    1. Is it stored on local servers, the cloud, and is there any backup? ie: M-Disc
    2. Frequency of system back up
    3. What kind of training do you have for staff and volunteers on the MCS?

The museum uses PastPerfect and has since 1999 with the most updated version in current use.  The system backs up to local servers and an external hard drive.  The state provides all IT support for the museum and they were not aware of M-Disc for additional data archiving.  The volunteers do not have access and likely don’t have the skills necessary to use PastPerfect.  Renee said that the internships might be able to function in that capacity but would need to be a case specific conversation.

  1. How often do you update the collection policy if you have one?

The collection policy is part of the master plan/ mission statement and is updated about every six or seven years. 

  1. What do you do with items to be de-accessioned?

Deaccessioning does occur but infrequently.  They use a site donations first within the state system, then to local museums, then to families or donate and sell.

  1. Does the institution have a long term and or short term strategic management plan?
    1. How often is it updated, and who is involved? (staff, volunteers, the board…)

The mission statement is tied to a master plan that covers the collection policy as well.  The mission statement is site specific with approval by the state agricultural department.  The mission statement has been the same since 2004 and the master plan gets updated every six or seven years.  The volunteer program works from the mission statement and could be updated or modified by the master plan.  Renee agreed that the master plan serves much like a strategic plan for nonprofits or corporate entities.  

  1. Could your institution operate as a ‘for profit’ business?

Clearly, the state run institution is not in a position to even consider operating as a ‘for profit’ entity. 

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