Hybrid Models for the Future of Museums

Last week while I was at a meeting at the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, DC, I had a chance to catch up with Elizabeth Merritt, founder and director of the Center for the Future of Museums. She was previewing some of the emerging trends that she’s been eyeing that could influence museums in the coming years. One of the interesting items that I thought was especially relevant to what we are trying to accomplish at the Astor House is the emergence of hybrid nonprofit/for-profit companies that leverage economic generators to advance their social mission.  

Across the country there are a number of organizations that are creating new revenue models that allow them to achieve their mission and grow resources. One such place is Rising Tide in Florida that, instead of focusing on seeking donations to help children with autism, it has built a carwash that employs autistic youth.  Their philosophy is:

Invite communities to see the potential people with autism have through providing a top-notch car wash experience. We do this by setting our people up for success through intensive training, team building and caring for our communities. With this model we hope to provide people with autism an opportunity they rarely receive, a chance to build a career and an independent life.

Similarly, Women’s Bean Project helps impoverished and transitional women by providing them with job and skills training while assembling gourmet soup mixes for sale in a retail market. The profits from sales fund the group homes for the employees.

Two of our goals for the re-envisioning the Astor House experience is to broaden the museum’s appeal to a wider audience, contextualize the Astor House story into a national narrative, and create an economic engine that will sustain the museum for years to come. We’d like to get some of your feedback and reactions to some of our proposed ideas from activities to interpretive themes. We’d like to invite you to take this survey and share your thoughts. And, if you’re willing, perhaps serve on a focus group we’ll conduct in a few weeks. To take the survey click here. We greatly appreciate your help!

 –Nathan Richie, Director