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 support, resources, and training to the small history museums of Texas. Download the Museum Services Fact Sheet.

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 Museum Services or call 512-463-5921 to receive assistance and support via email or phone. 

Q: Where can I find travelling exhibits to borrow for my museum?

A: There are many benefits to bringing travelling exhibits to your museum! Humanities Texas, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Art Bridges, the Texas Lakes Trail Region, ExhibitsUSA, Exhibit EnvoyJohnson Space Center, the Smithsonian's SITES program, and the Center for Railroad Photography and Art all offer exhibitions available for museums to borrow. Lenders may require fees, facility reports, and/or other application, programming, or reporting information.

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. We also maintain a list of consultants who you can contact to discuss contract work. Would you like to be added our our consultant list? Complete this brief form.

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 guide you can download from the Grants and Fundraising 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. The American Alliance of Museums has developed a comprehensive toolkit that we recommend utilizing, titled From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Starting a Museum. We recommend reading the entire toolkit and doing all of the included exercises as a group, being thorough, honest, and realistic. Additional resources for starting a museum can be found here.

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: History museums that are open to the public for at least 120 days per year are included in the THC’s Texas Historic Sites Atlas

Q:  How does the THC define a history museum?

A: A history museum is defined as a museum with a primary mission focusing on the preservation and interpretation of cultural history. This can include natural history but does not include art, science, children’s museums, archives or libraries. The museum must be an organized and permanent institution in the state of Texas, with a primary mission to serve as a history museum. Texas is home to over 1,000 history museums!

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 and webinars throughout the year. If you would like to host a workshop, contact Museum Services staff.