Mission control

A train of thought stimulated by Talk Politics (again), itself prompted by the Policeman’s Blog on the subject of mission statments, and the general fatuity and indeed vacuity thereof.

Now I’ve recently had to devise a mission statement for the Museums Service (it being one of the requirements of the Accreditation Scheme, the sine-qua-non of grant aid funding), and I’m quite enamoured of what you might call the Ronseal school of mission statements - the succinct summary of the blindingly obvious.

Still in a sense it was a useful exercise, trying to sum up in a few words what it is that museums are actually there for. And I must admit that I was inordinately pleased with my effort, which essentially reduces all our activities to three words: “Preserving and presenting (our area’s) heritage.” I couldn’t get it any shorter than that, and if anyone can there will be a prize*.

But goodness me, aren’t most museum mission statements very, very, very wordy. Were they paying consultants by the syllable or something? Surely if you can’t sum up what you’re there for in a few words it indicates that you don’t actually know what you’re there for? Or am I just too simplistic? Certainly it seems to me that a mission statement should be easily comprehensible to your audience, not riddled with technical professional jargon. I mean not saying things like “engage families in unique learning experiences” or “collect, preserve, document, interpret and display material relating to…“. Always remember the KISS principle, dammit.**

*Free membership of the Curator’s Egg, worth £10,000.

**OK, I also added in a short paragraph explaining what I meant by ‘preserve’ and ‘present’. But I didn’t explain heritage.

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