When Less is More

With government cutbacks and economic hardships shadowing the last several years, museums have been bludgeoned with the outcry for more programs, more events, more visitors, more twitter and facebook followers, and to do it with constantly shrinking budgets. Every institution I’ve worked in has faced difficulty not only accomplishing those feats, but finding ways to balance the weight of all of their other responsibilities in addition to meeting new requirements. Even if visitors and social media engagement reflect the more, more, more, is it worth it? What is actually gained from all that time and effort?

I found this lovely article by Randi Korn (ala Randi Korn & Associates) that gently argues for more careful consideration of quality over quantity when evaluating output and end results. A nice reminder :)

“Museums’ measurements of achievement are often tangled up in building larger buildings, counting visitors and increasing programming. But to maximize their impact on the communities they serve, the fastest and most efficient path may be embracing the very un-American idea of scaling back.

Doing less feels scary, especially when other museums are still on the treadmill. All sorts of fears emerge when considering program reduction. Will the museum’s traditions be lost if programs are discontinued? What might fill the void? Will you receive a poor performance review? Sometimes such concerns prohibit organizations from taking a risk, pursuing a brilliant flicker of an idea or simply moving on when the time is right.

The less-is-more approach necessitates changing how museums plan, care for collections, select programs and exhibitions, and engage their communities. If numbers of digitized objects, visitors, programs or exhibitions are no longer accurate measures of success, then what is? Approaching work with different goals—for example, balancing quantity with quality, satisfaction with meaningfulness and national appeal with community relevance—may help all of us in the museum enterprise realize the true value of our institutions. Museum work isn’t only about how much or how many; it is also about providing the public with meaningful experiences that are personally relevant, significant and enduring.” – Randi Korn

Korn, Randi. (2010) “Less Is More”. Museum, 89/5: 25-27, accessed online 02.20.2012 (http://www.randikorn.com/docs/less_is_more_museum.pdf)


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