Museum Merger Creates New Opportunities

Strategy: Balance Your Budget, Collaborate in New Ways, Enhance Your Product, Focus on Customer Potential, Serve Local Community

Type of attraction: Museum/Historic Site

Summary: “It is a rare occurrence in the nonprofit world when a museum seeks out another museum to entrust with its collections, to ensure those historical treasures are well cared for,” says Amy Lent, executive director of Maine Maritime Museum.

“It is a rare occurrence in the nonprofit world when a museum seeks out another museum to entrust with its collections, to ensure those historical treasures are well cared for,” says Amy Lent, executive director of Maine Maritime Museum. But, that is exactly what happened when the Portland Harbor Museum merged with the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath in 2010.

The economic downturn of the previous two years had left the Portland Harbor Museum in an unviable financial situation. At the same time, the museum housed an important collection of images and artifacts that needed to be cared for and that could help fill in the interpretation gaps at the Maine Maritime Museum.

The Portland museum board proposed a merger, and with the help of a facilitator an agreement was reached that would work for the Maine Maritime Museum, preserve the Portland museum’s collection, benefit the memberships of both organizations and create opportunities to reach new audiences. The agreement included numerous provisions such as: the Portland museum’s director joined the staff of the Maine Maritime Museum and all of the Portland museum’s members automatically became members of the Maine Maritime Museum.

The merger also created an opportunity for the Maine Maritime Museum, located in Bath – 30 miles from Portland – to reach a new audience. “We hadn’t ever done much in Portland because there was another museum there,” Lent says. “Now we can go into Portland and do programs and off-site exhibits to serve that community and open new doors of opportunity.”

“It takes a tough economic climate to make people willing to go for it,” says Lent. “People don’t like to close museums, but we have had a great response from the members of both museums. It all goes back to serving the needs of the community.”

 For more information, visit www.mainemaritimemuseum.org; contact Amy Lent, lent@maritimeme.org.