Museum Services FAQ


Q: What is the Museum Services Program?

A: Museum Services is a program within the History Programs Division at the Texas Historical Commission whose purpose is to provide technical assistance and training to the small history museums of Texas.

Q:  On what topics can the Museum Services Program offer assistance?

A: Staff can assist with many aspects of museum operation. Possible topics include planning, governance, public programming, collections care and management, policies and procedures, fundraising, marketing and public relations, and professional development. 

Q:  How do I request assistance from the Museum Services Program staff?

A: Email the museum services coordinator or call 512/463-6427. In most cases, staff can provide assistance via remote consultations, including communications by mail, email, phone and fax. Museum representatives can also make an appointment to meet with staff at the THC offices in Austin.

Q:  Can the Museum Services Program staff come to my museum for an on-site consultation?

A: Unfortunately, due our small staff size we are unable to travel to museums to provide an in-person on-site consultation. However, we are always available by phone and e-mail.

Q:  Is grant funding available to museums from the Texas Historical Commission?

A: As a result of the 82nd Texas Legislature’s budget reductions, the History Museum Grant program is suspended indefinitely. 

Q:  What are some other sources of grant funds for history museums?

A: Many grant programs are listed in the Grants and Funding Sources pdf you can download from the resource section of the technical assistance page.

Q:  How do we start a new museum in our community?

A: Museums can help to preserve and promote a community’s history and to support its heritage. However, museums are specialized and resource-intensive institutions.  Successful and effective museums are expensive, labor-intensive, and time-consuming ventures. We encourage your group to consider the creation of a new museum carefully and cautiously.

Put together a small steering committee to research the possibility of starting a new museum. Read Starting Right: A Basic Guide to Museum Planning by Gerald George and Cindy Sherrell-Leo (2nd edition, Alta Mira Press, 2004), available from most online booksellers, from cover to cover. At this point, you should have a pretty good idea about what a museum is and what is required to make it successful. Then review the Alberta Museums Association’s Thinking about Starting a Museum: A Discussion Guide and Workbook on Museums and Heritage Projects. As a group, sit down and discuss your answers to the outlined questions—be thorough, honest and realistic. 

If after completing the exercises above you feel that your community’s prospects and resources are sufficient enough to proceed with planning, contact the Museum Services Program. The staff can help guide you through the formal organization process.

Q:  Can we get a grant to start a museum?

A: With rare exception, there are no grants available to start a museum. The vast majority of grant programs give priority to improving and supporting existing museums over developing new ones. Funding for new museums generally must come from the community itself—city or county governments, local businesses or individual donors. 

Q:  Where can I get a list of museums in Texas and/or in my area?

A: Most history museums are included in the THC’s Texas Historic Sites Atlas

Q:  I want to donate or sell an object to a museum. How do I find an interested museum?

A: Each museum has its own unique collecting focus. They have collections policies that dictate what they will and will not collect. Whether or not they will accept your object depends on a number of criteria. Some of the criteria include whether it fits within the museum’s interpretive scope, whether it helps support the museum’s mission, the condition of the object, whether the museum has the resources to care for and store the object, and the type of restrictions placed on the donation. You’ll have to do some research to determine which museums might be interested in collecting your object. Look to their websites for information or call and talk to the staff. If you want to visit with the museum staff in person, make an appointment first.

Q:  Can I take an object of historical significance to a museum for an appraisal?  Can the THC appraise the object?

A: Most museums will not place a monetary value on objects. It is considered unethical in the museum world and can lead to potential conflict of interest problems. However, some museums may be able to help you identify an object or determine its authenticity. The THC is also unable to provide appraisals. If you are looking for a monetary value of an object, you’ll need to contact a professional appraiser. The websites of the American Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of America can help you locate an appraiser in your area. 

Q:  Should our museum consider joining any professional organizations?

A: Membership in professional organizations offers many benefits. You’ll get access to current museum news and issues, educational opportunities, networking opportunities, discounts on publications and reduced registration fees for seminars and conferences.  Look into joining one or more of the following organizations:  Texas Association of Museums, American Alliance of Museums or the American Association for State and Local History.

Q:  Does the THC offer educational and training opportunities for museum staff and volunteers?

A: Yes. The Museum Services Program staff offers training workshops throughout the year. Click here to learn about museum workshops and seminars. If you  would like to host a workshop, contact Museum Services staff.