Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Dr. James R. Sanders
Dr. George Mallinson
Dr. Patrick Jenlink
This study reports the findings of a longitudinal case study of the director of one community museum over an eight-month period utilizing ethnographic research methods. A significant gap exists in research-based museum literature about the administrative functions of museums. To help address this lack of information, this study was conducted to determine the role of the chief administrator of a community museum by describing the daily activities and behaviors of the director while interacting with the people, places, and things of the museum. Unique in American society, museums represent our "collective memory" by preserving, conserving, researching, and interpreting living and non-living natural and human artifacts. Museums are now expected to respond to specific societal needs, in addition to educating, entertaining, and preserving. This requires effective leadership. Determining the role of the museum director can provide insight into the nature of that leadership.
The subject of this study was Mildred I. Hadwin, Director of the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson, Michigan. The Ella Sharp Museum, established in 1965, is a privately-funded non-profit community museum emphasizing art and history. Its facilities include a restored Victorian-era home and accompanying outbuildings, a restored one-room school house and log cabin, a modem gallery complex with art and history display areas, welcome center, art studios, gift shop, restaurant, collections storage and exhibit preparation facilities, and offices. Participant-observation, formal and informal interviewing, and document analysis were used to better understand the director's role in the operation of the museum.
The study resulted in a "picture" of the director of one community museum. A description of the day-to-day and seasonal activities of the director illuminates what the role of the director actually entails; the work of the director occurred as she interacted with and was influenced by the many people, places, and things of the museum.
The study concludes that the nature of a community museum requires that the director play a multi-faceted role in its operation. Special human relations and communication skills are needed to elicit "ownership" on the part of staff, volunteers, and other constituents in the goals of the museum. Volunteers play an important role in the operation of the museum; a "family" organizational structure exists in this community museum; the museum profession and its standards influence the operation of this museum.
Jenness, Mark Richard, "The Museum Director's Chair: An Ethnography" (1990). Dissertations. 2061.