Dallas Museum of Art’s Anne Bergeron Co-Authors Book on Making Museums “Magnetic"

  • DALLAS, Texas
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  • June 17, 2013

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Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement (The AAM Press, May 2013)

For museums to attract the human, social, reputational, and financial capital necessary to thrive rather than just survive, they must become “magnetic.” Dallas Museum of Art Associate Director of External Affairs Anne Bergeron has co-authored an insightful new book on community engagement, Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement (The AAM Press, May 2013), which debuted at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums in May. 

Bergeron, with fellow museum thought leader and co-author Beth Tuttle, offers an accessible guide for readers that is the result of three years of research to identify the “secret sauce” driving the success of a group of high-performing U.S. museums.

Magnetic explores the transformative power of investing in personal relationships, forging emotional connections, and creating meaningful experiences. It explains how doing so can radically increase performance while enriching and strengthening an institution’s internal and external communities. The authors offer a framework for museums and other organizations in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors to become “magnetic” through a commitment to serve, engage, and empower others.

Magnetic features six high-performing museums identified by the authors through an analysis of quantitative performance metrics of a decade’s worth of data (2000 to 2010) from hundreds of U.S. institutions. It also combines first-hand case-study observations with insights gleaned from a wide-ranging synthesis of learning from literature on leadership development and management excellence, trends in corporate talent management and customer service, and the best thinking on social innovation and nonprofit mission impact.

The featured museums are Children’s Museum Pittsburgh; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.; Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Fishers, IN.; The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA; Natural Science Center of Greensboro, NC (now Greensboro Science Center); and Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK. The study found that these museums have become much more than simply keepers of cultural heritage or places of informal learning—they also have become vital players in the social, civic, and economic vibrancy of their communities.

For example, the Philbrook underwent a remarkable transformation from a “sleeping beauty” into a vital community asset that provides expanded educational activities, partners with over twenty local organizations, and next month opens a new satellite facility in a revitalized area of downtown Tulsa that will showcase its signature collection of Native American art. Randall Suffolk, director of the Philbrook, and Nicole Small, Chief Executive Officer of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, will join the co-authors in a panel discussion about the book on Thursday, July 11, at 7:30 p.m., moderated by the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director, Maxwell L. Anderson.

Bergeron and Tuttle, president and CEO of the Cultural Data Project, both have deep experience as professionals and consultants in the arts and cultural sectors, which drew them to study museums. But they believe that the lessons on becoming “magnetic” are applicable to all mission-driven organizations and businesses whose success relies on forging powerful and lasting relationships with their customers and communities.

The authors identify a set of six straightforward practices that make organizations magnetic:

Building Core Alignment - Embracing 360 Engagement - Empowering Others - Widening the Circle and Inviting the Outside In - Becoming Essential - Building Trust through High Performance

“Very simply, the focus of Magnetic is people engagement, and the key to ‘magnetism which allows organizations to thrive, even in tough times,’” said Bergeron, “is activating each of these practices simultaneously. And they can be effectively applied to diverse business models, as we learned from our case study museums.”

“The organizations we studied experienced superior business results by turning up the emotional heat, tapping into the power of creating meaning, and purposefully becoming more relevant to their communities,” said Tuttle. “Because all organizations need people to accomplish their goals, we believe that every for-profit or nonprofit business can learn lessons from these magnetic museums.”

Moving beyond social media and participatory audience and customer engagement techniques, Magnetic delves deeply into the emotional drivers that inspire loyalty, ignite passionate belief, and empower action among leaders, staffs, boards, audiences, customers, and community influencers. With an entertaining, story-driven narrative style, Bergeron and Tuttle engage readers with practical insights, tips, and action steps that all organizations can embrace to deliver “triple bottom-line” dividends in the areas of people, performance, and proceeds.

Magnetic: The Art and Science of Engagement, published by The AAM Press, is available through the American Alliance of Museums Bookstore at http://www.aam-us.org/resources/bookstore, ISBN 978-1-933253-83-1, 6 x 9.5 in., 224 pages, color illustrations, soft cover, $34.95 retail, $29.95 Alliance member discount.


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