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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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David and Goliath: The Struggle Between a Small Museum and Its Large Parent Organization
Brigid Nuta, College Park Aviation Museum, USA
Anne Smallman, College Park Aviation Museum, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

This demonstration will show the final result of a two-year effort to create a website for the College Park Aviation Museum. The College Park Aviation Museum is owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a quasi-governmental entity overseeing planning in Montgomery and Prince George.s County, Maryland, and parks and recreation in Prince George.s County.

The College Park Aviation Museum is under the Natural and Historical Resources Division, which is under the Department of Parks and Recreation. Because the oversight of historic sites and museums is clearly different from that of community centers and parks, there is often a disconnect between the Natural and Historical Resources Division and the rest of the Parks and Recreation Department. One of those differences was the website.

The College Park Aviation Museum is a small museum that educates 40,000 visitors a year. Although small, it is the most visible of the eight historic sites operated by the Natural and Historical Resources Division. It attracts national and international attention because of its significant history as the world.s oldest continuously operating airport and site of the Wright Brothers. military aviation school.

As 2003.s Centennial of Flight approached, museum staff wanted a website to serve as an educational and marketing tool for the museum. Faced with opposition, museum staff Brigid Nuta and Anne Smallman spent two years convincing their supervisors (at the site level, the division level, the department level and organization-wide) that a website was necessary. They also dealt with the practical issues of collaborating with a larger, bureaucratic organization (without the same mission) and fitting the museum website into the context of the Parks and Recreation department website.

Due to the nature of collaborating with a bureaucracy, one conflict was the level of control that would be allowed to the museum staff. The negotiation required to arrive at this sharing of control is an important element of the demonstration. Museum staff desired significant, educational content with frequent updates and interactive components. The Public Affairs department (controlling design and maintenance of the website) wanted the site blend with the website of the Parks and Recreation Department and to be attractive. Another interesting collaborative issue has proven to be the ongoing maintenance of the site . responsibility is now shared by the museum staff (content), Public Affairs (design and maintenance) and Computer Resources (server space and maintenance). An example of the struggle for control is the fact that the .contact. link on the bottom of each page is directed to the Public Affairs office, not the museum itself.

This demonstration will show the final product (www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com) and offer guidance to sites that are eager to proceed with a web project, but whose superintendents are doubtful. The presenters will share their experiences as .accidental techies. developing the site from scratch, and collaborating (and clashing) with other departments of a larger bureaucracy. The demonstration will also illustrate the challenges of integrating a museum web experience into the more prosaic website of a larger parent organization.