Warehouse 13 Mission: Pt 1. What is a Mission Statement?

Any successful museum and related institution needs a mission statement; the goal of which is to broadly define the nature of the institution.  A good mission statement will generally describe the museum generally: a sweeping overview of its collections, and its primary goals of their use.  However, their goal is not to enumerate every aspect of the institutional psyche – that is for the collection plan to completely flush out.  The most important thing about a mission statement is that it is short – one should consider it as the so-called ‘elevator pitch’ of the institution.  As such, mission statements are generally small paragraphs – approximately 3-4 sentences in my experience. [1]  Here are a few examples from places I have worked: [2]

Milwaukee Public Museum [3]

“The Milwaukee Public Museum, one of the largest in the United States, is a museum of human and natural history providing a dynamic and stimulating environment for learning, with something to excite and challenge visitors with a diversity of interests.” [4]

Wright Museum of Art [5]

“As a teaching museum, the mission of the Wright Museum of Art advances the educational goals of Beloit College.  Our principal purpose is to provide the college and local community with diverse opportunities to appreciate, interact with, and understand the visual arts through exhibitions, collections, and programming. The Wright promotes experiential learning through an engagement with art that is both visual and tactile. It also endeavors to promote a critical reading of art as it shapes our cultural and intellectual history.” [6]

Logan Museum of Anthropology [7]

“The Logan Museum of Anthropology is a teaching museum that engages the Beloit College community in learning about the world’s cultures, anthropology, and museology. Through our collections and programs we foster the integration of knowledge and experience to enrich liberal learning.” [8]

Medford Historical Society [9]

“Their purpose was to collect and preserve the history of this historic city, to correct the myths that had grown up over the years, to build a historical library, to collect the artifacts of local history, and to celebrate historical anniversaries.” [10]

*           *           *

Notice how each of these institutions has their own mission statement, tailored to the program.  None is carbon-copied, but each have similarities of the others.  First, notice how each are quite short – only the Wright Museum’s mission is considered ‘long,’ and even then it is only four sentences.  Additionally, each provide a list of so-called ‘action words’ (doing words) instead of invoking a passive.  These involve the basic tenants of  museum work: collecting, preserving, and exhibiting artifacts, but others crop in as well. Both Beloit museums stress teaching as a core aspect of their identity – important as academic museums whose primary goals are to provide professional training for future museum careers.  Furthermore, the Wright Museum stresses art in various forms and contexts – highlighting both its breadth of collection and need to differentiate from the Logan, whose focus is anthropological.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Public Museum takes careful note of their importance as an institutional by stressing its size and the importance of its collections, not to mention its broad collective scope of both “human and natural history” (emphasis mine).  In this manner, the Milwaukee Public Museums sets itself apart as an icon of museums, placing it on par with such well-known competitors such as the Field Museum in Chicago.

Turning mission statements on its head, the Medford Historical Society instead stresses the research-oriented goals of the institution and a very specific goal for their use – “to celebrate historical anniversaries.”  Medford makes no mention of exhibits in their mission, although they do have many displays on view.  Yet, the mission is to reflect the prime purposes of the institution, and currently the volunteer-run organization is more focused on matters of researching local history, especially debunking local myths, over that of exhibitions.  This is reflected in their mission, which currently emphasizes collection, preservation, and constructing an archive.

Clearly, mission and modus operandi should match.  If there is ever a point where they deviate, then one or the other should be updated.  The mission especially should be evaluated periodically.  These are the things that I must keep in mind as I construct my own facsimile of a mission statement for Warehouse 13.  On several instances, characters quip of their primary duties as: “snag, bag, and tag.”[11]  However, in practice there is so much more that the Warehouse is in charge of that their mission needs to be flushed out.  Tune in soon for my rendition!


[1] Often, they will be incorporated with other tidbits of information, especially on an “About” page on a website.  Of all the information that could be provided, only the initial summary serves as the mission statement.

[2] (in collections)

[3] I worked as a history intern between June and August of 2011 for my undergraduate minor in museum studies

[4] MPM. “About MPM.” MPM: The Milwaukee Public Museum. © 2013 Last Accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.mpm.edu/join-support/about-mpm

[5] I worked as a Gallery Ambassador from May 2010 to May 2012, with a semester off (Spring 2011) for study abroad

[6] Wright Museum of Art. “Mission and History.” Wright Museum of Art, as subsidiary of Beloit College.  © 2013 Beloit College.  Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.beloit.edu/wright/about/mission/

[7] Between 2008 and 2012, I volunteered at the Logan Museum on several occasions.  This included sorting and cleaning lithics as well as leading educational activities.  I also volunteered to conduct an exhibit in the fall of 2010

[8] Logan Museum of Anthropology. “Mission”. Logan Museum of Anthropology, as subsidiary of Beloit College.  © 2013 Beloit College. Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.beloit.edu/logan/about/mission/

[9] I am currently interning here as part of my museum studies graduate certificate program at Tufts University

[10] This was somewhat harder to find.  It is not labeled specifically, but when you read the home page, it explains what the goals of the founders were, which is pretty analogous to now.  The same wording is provided in the “About MHS” page.  It is worth noting that the website is being updated.

Medford Historical Society.“The Medford Historical Society.”  Last accessed July 18, 2013. http://www.medfordhistorical.org/

[11] For example, the pilot episode wherein Arty introduces Pete and Myka to the Warehouse.

Alexander, Jace (director). “Warehouse 13: Pilot.” Episode written by: Brent Mote, Jane Espenson, and David Simkins. First aired: July 7, 2009.

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