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Museum Governance Matters


While you may be aware that MOA has a Board of Directors, have you ever considered what the Board does?  Or why museum governance matters?

By definition (Canadian Museums Association) museums are not-for-profit institutions created in the public interest.   While museums have operational functions that differ from other not-for-profit organizations,  they still operate within the same legal, ethical and business frameworks.

Because museums are created in the public interest, they have two fundamental public trust responsibilities: stewardship and public service.   The Canadian Museums Association’s Ethical Guidelines defines stewardship and public service as follows:

  • The trust of stewardship requires museums to acquire, document and preserve collections in accordance with institutional policies, to be accountable for them, and to pass them on to future generations of the public in good condition.
  • The trust of public service requires museums to create and advance not only knowledge, but more importantly, understanding, by making the collections and accurate information about them physically and intellectually available to all the communities served by the museum.

Stewardship and Public Service are the hallmarks of museums and the basis for the respected status that they have in their communities.  Not only keeping but increasing the respect of their communities requires museums to be public focal points for learning, discussion, and development, and to ensure equality of opportunity for access.

This is why museum governance is so important: because it is with the governing authority that the responsibility for everything the museum does rests.  Simply put, “governance” is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented.  Whether the governing authority is a Board of Directors (as with MOA), or a municipal council (as with many municipally operated museums), governance is the way in which authority, control, and direction over the museum’s activities are enacted.

So What is the Board’s role in Museum Governance?

The Board is the highest level of decision-making and legal authority in a museum.  By law, it is ultimately accountable for, and has authority over, the museum’s resources and activities.  The Board articulates and communicates the museum’s vision and defines the parameters within which the museum carries out its work.

At MOA, the Board of Directors has chosen to operate under a policy governance model.  This means that the Board provides leadership through policy development and strategic direction and assigns the implementation of day to day activities to the museum’s staff.

Museum governance and how authority is delegated.

MOA is governed by a 13 member Board of Directors, each bringing unique skills and knowledge, as stewards of the museum now and into the future.  Currently, MOA is going through a period of transition which will result in the renewal of the facility, museum exhibits, and community relationships.  While this presents a great opportunity for the museum to re-establish itself as a hub for archaeology in Ontario, it will take significant effort and resources on the part of all involved to achieve this goal.

Board Recruitment

Serving on any Board of Directors requires commitment, energy, and enthusiasm for the museum’s mission and the service it bring to its community.  With this commitment also comes the excitement of working with others to champion a cause you care passionately about.  For more information about serving on MOA’s Board of Directors, check out our Board Recruitment Package.


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