Museum Consultants

Mark Walhimer Museum Planning 1 Comment

Consultant: “A person who provides expert advice professionally”

Most museums now outsource their exhibition development and design.  Most  larger exhibitions are designed by a group of interactive museum consultants assembled to develop, design and project manage the exhibition.  Many museums with exhibition staff augment their staff with consultants.  Museum consultants are usually an individual or a small organization (2-15 employees).  The IRS considers consultants to be Independent Contractors and not employees of the museum.  It is often written into contractual agreements that consultants are not employees.

Museum consultants can be divided into three categories:

Museum Research:
Consultants hired to research the possibility of opening and funding a new museum, these consultant generally are hired by the Board of Directors and report to a sub committee of the Board of Directors.

  • Audience and Market Research Consultant
  • Architect
  • Museum Planner
  • Feasibility Consultant
  • Strategic Planning Consultant
  • Business and Strategy Planning Consultant
  • Fund Raising Consultant
  • Bridge Loan Consultant
  • Lobbyist

Exhibition Development and Design:

Once it has been determined that the museum is feasible and viable in a market, a Project Manager, Exhibition Design Firm or Museum Planning Firm is hired.  Often the consultants are organized under one consultant, in a similar fashion as an Architect.  Lighting Designer, A/V Consultant, Curator, Acoustician, etc., are sub-contractors to the lead on the project.  Museum exhibitions can also be created as a design/build project, a fabricator is hired and designs and builds to pre determined budget.  Design/Build is not considered a consultant per IRS guidelines as the product of the contract is the exhibition.

  • Project Manager
  • Museum Planner
  • Exhibition Designer
  • Interactive Exhibit Consultant
  • Exhibit Developer
  • Curator
  • Lighting Designer
  • Museum Store Consultant
  • Museum Restaurant Consultant
  • 35mm and 70mm Theater Consultants
  • Acoustician
  • Website Consultant
  • Design Detailer
  • A/V Consultant

Museum Support:

Other consultants are often hired by museum staff to assist with the on going business of operating the museum:

  • Museum Registrar
  • Social Media Consultant
  • Exhibition Evaluator
  • Marketing Consultant
  • Conservator
  • Appraiser
  • Art Handler

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