Nowadays public heritage institutions like museums are increasingly asked to contribute self-generated income to their budget. For this reason, many museums aim to involve themselves in new activities and commercial operations that allow them both to achieve the traditional objectives of museums and to generate additional incomes. However, in many cases the public and non-profit character of these institutions does not allow them to become involved in commercial operations and often they lack entrepreneurial competence.
The maritime heritage institutions involved in MarMuCommerce aim to bridge this gap. They build on the experience gathered during the implementation of the project “eMarCon”, which was funded by the eContent Programme. As a main result of eMarCon a web-based tool was developed that allows European museums to jointly arrange virtual exhibitions via the Internet. Marketing actions revealed legal and business deficits of the public museum partners to commercialise the software product. As a consequence, the partners decided to set up a new project, which looks beyond the mere marketing of a software product and provides solutions to the problems that hamper public heritage institutions to become involved in commercial operations.
The main result of MarMuCommerce is a joint business model that allows museums and other heritage institutions to become involved in commercial operations and thus improve their market opportunities. This enables them to attract more visitors to the region and to generate own funding. The expected outcomes for the public heritage institutions involved include: capacity building; willingness and confidence to face and undertake changes; knowledge to create and implement a business model that bridges the gap between traditional structures and necessary entrepreneurial innovation. A complementary training and coaching programme accompanies the introduction of the new model. The final deliverable is a test run of the new business model to establish a joint exhibition utilising the “eMarCon web tool” within the framework of a new commercial environment.
To achieve these results, a balanced mix of knowledge-sharing events is being implemented, amongst them, theme-based round tables and exploratory workshops, personal meetings and brainstorming, on-site visits and exchange of experts. A substantial amount of time is spent on analysing legal set-ups and how to create options for commercial engagement without loosing the non-profit status.
At the beginning of the project, preparatory work was carried out in order to establish the structure of the project and the methods of operation. This allowed a common understanding among partners about the work to be realised. Furthermore, a cooperation agreement was signed to reinforce the common procedures. Up to now, eight workshops and one seminar were held. An analysis of current conditions of museum partners was carried out in order to integrate results obtained in the business model and training modules. Good practices, indicators and crucial stake holders were identified. Now, the consortium is working on a quality handbook defining common standards for best practice in the commercial re-orientation of museums. Results obtained from the benchmarking process performed are included in this document. Variables, indicators and potential problems related to the business model were defined. Statues, organisational structures and legal information were collected and summarised. A business model (foundation of a SCE) including legal framework has been proposed and partners, together with legal consultants, are examining its feasibility. Partners have to analyse the possibility of modifying their individual statutes or creating a parallel entity to their institutions allowing their participation in commercial operations. Going beyond the project scope, the experience obtained has been utilised to set-up the statutes and business plan for the creation of a foundation supporting the future maritime museum in Taranto, Italy. Training and coaching programmes are in the final stage of definition finalised with collaboration from all project components. The advisory board is analysing these programmes. It’s planned that pilot training sessions will take place at the museum in Gdańsk. Activities setting up the exhibition like definition of structure and content, identification of attractiveness factors, definition of a storyboard and a main character were carried out. The first version of the storyboard containing text and multimedia files will be available in the next semester. Partners decided to change the tool in order to create the joint exhibition and they are working in its adaptation. Therefore, the consortium is working on the definition of the new product or service to be commercialised testing the business model. Generally, the involvement of the partners has been good. Moreover, the exchange of experiences in the organisation of exhibitions the communication activities of some heritage partners go beyond the project scope. The MarMuCommerce project has been presented in several international events like the Conference “Maritime Heritage 2005” in Barcelona. Till now, three press conferences have been organised, three newsletters have been edited, one TV broadcasting has been produced and one article has been published. Project and partner information as well as newsletters can be found under www.marmucommerce.com.