Industry Best Practices
Iowa's hundreds of museums and community historical societies are treasures. They hold in trust for the public the collective identity and memory of Iowa through stewardship of objects, photographs, documents, and art.
These organizations are typically incorporated as non-profit organizations and governed by an elected Board of Directors or Trustees, charged with governing according to industry best practices, and with raising adequate funds to enable their organization to fulfill its mission. The majority of these historical organization receive no local or state tax dollar support, depending on donations, grants, and earned income.
The museum industry in Iowa is supported by the Iowa Museum Association (IMA), which provides a statewide communication network, educational opportunities, and advocates for the industry. Through its educational offerings and resources posted on its website, the Iowa Museum Association encourages all Iowa museums and historical societies to operate in accordance with industry best practices. The IMA is not an accreditation or policing organization.
From time to time, the IMA is contacted by individuals distressed by something occurring at their local museum or historical society. Two areas of concern typically prompt such distress - concerns about the organization's stewardship role, for example deaccessioning, selling of collections, or other perceived mishandling of collections; or concerns about the governance of the organization, for example ineffective or improper Board governance.
The Iowa Museum Association believes that Iowa's museums and historical societies are dedicated to operating in a legal and ethical manner to fulfill their missions, that they are governed by dedicated Board members, and managed by devoted staff and volunteers.
Any Iowa museum or historical society that does not have in place its five core documents for legal and ethical management of their organization is encouraged to contact the IMA for examples and guidance. All individuals working or volunteering in an Iowa museum or historical society are highly encouraged to become involved with their state museum association, to annually attend workshops and conference, to request sample documents as needed, and otherwise educate themselves on the best practices for industry work and governance.