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University Partnerships

  • 1.  University Partnerships

    Posted 01-19-2021 02:51 PM
    I'm wondering if any museums that are not associated with universities have built successful partnerships with universities. We are looking at partnering with our local university and offering classes taught by staff at our museum. While educationally this makes perfect sense, the university bureaucracy is having a hard time determining a way to pay our museum for the use of our staff and our space. Has anyone done this successfully? Thanks in advance!

    Heather Wilson
    Deputy Director
    Cameron Art Museum
    Wilmington NC

  • 2.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-20-2021 06:51 AM
    Heather - do you mean courses vs classes?  I would guess a full course has less to do with compensation than credentialing.  We are a rare case, one of two in the U.S. affiliated with a high school, but have relationships with a State U., Community College and private college nearby.  They key is in personal relationships.  Happy to talk offline.

    Vivian F. Zoë, Director
    Slater Memorial Museum
    108 Crescent Street, Norwich CT 06360
    860-425-5560 vox
    860-885-0379 fax

    "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work," Chuck Close, 2003

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  • 3.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-21-2021 11:40 AM
    Genesee Country Village & Museum has a formal partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology and we collaborate on a variety of different projects, including internships, class projects, and faculty research.  I'm happy to share more about how to make it work if you'd like to reach out to me.

    Elizabeth Wehle
    President & CEO
    Genesee Country Village and Museum
    Mumford NY

  • 4.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-22-2021 09:35 AM
    The Fitchburg Art Museum (Massachusetts) has a robust MOU with the city's state university.

    Laura Roberts
    Roberts Consulting
    Cambridge MA

  • 5.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-20-2021 07:45 AM
    The Smithfield-Preston Foundation is independent of Virginia Tech, but has a shared history with Virginia Tech.  That said, Smithfield provides internships for Public History students, meeting spaces for university functions, etc.; we have several factulty represented on our Board of Directors and collections committee. Virginia Tech assists with maintaining the property. There are many possibilities for future collaboration- it's one of the more exciting parts of the job.  Good luck!

    Ryan Spencer
    Executive Director
    Smithfield-Preston Foundation
    Blacksburg VA

  • 6.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-20-2021 10:03 AM
    The Milwaukee Public Museum and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee began a Museum studies curriculum structured as you describe in 1963.  Today it is a graduate certificate program with an MOU between the 2 institutions with classes taught at the MPM almost entirely by fulltime permanent MPM staff.  Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or would like more information.

    W. Warner (Bill) Wood, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    Coordinator, Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program, UWM
    Adjunct Curator of Anthropology, Milwaukee Public Museum
    President-Elect, Council for Museum Anthropology

    Ph: 414-229-6323



    Pronouns: he, him, his

    UWM resides on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, North America's largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin's sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present.

  • 7.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-20-2021 04:05 PM

    Hello, Heather -

    At my university, there was a PE program which offered classes in numerous activities and sports beyond what the university faculty could provide.  Courses included flyfishing, archery, skiing, dance, etc. (I taught fencing).  For some of these activities, it wasn't possible to use university facilities or personnel.  For example, students taking downhill skiing had their lessons at a nearby ski resort. 

    The university had contracts in place with the resort, and students would pay the course fee to the university as they do for any of their classes.  A portion of those funds would then be paid to the ski resort to compensate the instructors and pay for facility use.  Financially, the ski resort was treated just like any of the other hundreds of service providers and suppliers with whom the university routinely does business.  They could issue payment to the resort, and the resort could sort out the details of who got paid, how much, and when. 

    All of these PE classes had a "lab fee" in addition to the usual per credit tuition cost.  This covered instructor compensation and equipment/facilities, and ensured that any administration costs of these courses were covered, so the university didn't have to find additional resources.  Each class had a calculated minimum enrollment that would be needed in order to make the finances work.  If there was insufficient enrollment, then the course wouldn't be taught that semester, and since instructors were hired contractors, it was easy for the university to flip the "off" switch if necessary.  It seems like your university should be able to treat your classes in a similar way if you can work with them to come up with a cost structure that meets their expenses and yours. 

    One area of potential stickiness is liability.  Every participant who buys a lift ticket signs a liability waiver that protects the ski resort, so I'm guessing that they probably didn't have to do anything different in order to have university students there.  But the university may have asked for some kind of legal protection that clearly separates their potential risk exposure from that of the ski resort.  Don't be surprised if this comes up in the discussion.  (In fact, it would be prudent to anticipate it by consulting with legal counsel to see how liability is handled by the museum in general.) 

    Hope this helps!


    Michael Holland
    Michael Holland Productions

    Redmond, WA USA

  • 8.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-21-2021 02:50 PM
    We have had a partnership for many years a offering graduate option to teacher workshop participants. In our case, teachers paid the museum directly for the workshop. Those that wanted the credit option paid an additional fee to the school at the beginning and did additional required assignments. Our museum educators went through a vetting process to qualify as adjunct instructors. Then they are responsible for reviewing assigned work and submitting grades.

  • 9.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-20-2021 04:17 PM
    In some ways, I did this years ago with a community college.  The museum was on the college campus.  I talked with the various departments and involved the instructors/professors who liked the exchange.   We coordinated exhibits and classes.   The administration was in favor of the relationship.

    Charlene Akers
    Executive Director
    Coronado Quivira Museum - Rice County Historical Society
    Lyons KS

  • 10.  RE: University Partnerships

    Posted 01-25-2021 04:03 PM

    Hi Heather!

    University partnerships can be very fruitful if carefully evaluated an established for truly mutual benefit. My entire museum career featured major university partnerships at each science center or museum I led.

    Your concern is warranted as it is easy to get into one-sided relationships that favor University and suck up time trying to manage through their bureaucracy.

    I have studied, written, presented and consulted extensively on partnerships like these. AAM sponsored my doctoral research in partnerships which was written up in an issue of museum news, cited below:

    Museum Partnerships: Insights from the Literature and Research, Museum News November/December 1998


    The most extensive and successful University partnership we established in under my leadership was when I was CEO at COSI and we had an extensive, multifaceted partnership with the Ohio State University. It ranged over many elements and was highlighted by both visitor forward to research labs and the Universities PBS station and offices actually embedded within COSI.

    An article that I contributed to this partnership is cited below:

    Museum–University Partnerships as a New Platform for Public Engagement with Scientific Research

    Jamie Bell, David Chesebrough, Jason Cryan & Emlyn Koster

    To cite this article: Jamie Bell, David Chesebrough, Jason Cryan & Emlyn Koster (2016) Museum–University Partnerships as a New Platform for Public Engagement with Scientific Research, Journal of Museum Education, 41:4, 293-306, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2016.1228302

    To link to this article:


    I have other pieces I have written on this partnership and others and would be glad to share them with you or anyone else. I can be reached at and

    I believe partnerships-- the correct ones properly set up and continually monitored– are critical for most museums to be truly successful, impactful and financially sustainable.

    I would be glad to be a resource for you or anyone else on this topic.

    Dr. David E. Chesebrough, President Emeritus, Center of Science & Industry (COSI).

    David Chesebrough
    President Emeritus
    Columbus OH