Operating a Museum For Profit: Furthering the dialouge about corporate structures available to museums
Donley, Flannery Kathleen
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A few professionals are suggesting museums consider a for-profit model because of recent funding challenges facing museums and the rise of social entrepreneurs and social benefit corporate structures. However, little is known about the small number of for-profit museums that exist in the United States today, in part because they are private entities and are not easily identifiable. This qualitative research seeks to understand how a for-profit museum operates and identify possible trends across the sector. One case study consisting of an interview and facilitated task was conducted with a for-profit museum, the Museum of Sex in New York City. Using this information, a business model was created to better understand how the museum operates. Additionally, a cross-sector analysis was completed using two other prominent for-profit museums. The findings suggest that the Museum of Sex utilizes programing to create a space to experience and discuss sex without censorship through the lens of an historical or scientific approach, has a wide range of one-time visitors, and utilizes physical, intellectual, human, and financial resources to make its business model work. All three for-profit museums analyzed have a permanent collection and capitalize on a niche field, and two of the three publicize corporate sponsorship opportunities. This exploratory research can be used to inform the dialogue on alternative corporate structures available to cultural institutions while providing a baseline of understanding about for-profit museum operations.
- Museology