The Washington area rivals Silicon Valley in ideas for a particular kind of start-up — the museum start-up. It’s the dream of folks with a notion they can’t shake, that they’re sure will catch fire and attract legions of visitors.
They want to add to the existing mix of Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and the Spy Museum. Right now there are efforts underway to build: a Bible Museum, a National LGBT Museum, a National Museum of the American People, an Armenian Genocide Museum of America. There are new, futuristic efforts, like the Museum of Science Fiction, and ones that are decades old, like the National Women’s History Museum, the idea for which took root in the mid-’90s, when female lawmakers tried to get a statue of suffragettes moved from the Capitol basement to the Rotunda. There’s the National Museum of the American Latino, the Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C., and others, in various stages of planning and execution.
What does it take to turn an idea for a museum into bricks-and-mortar reality? What’s the alchemy that allows some start-up museums to break ground, while others never reach escape velocity?
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With all the startups underway in the area, which ones seem to have a shot at opening their doors within the typical museum-goer’s lifetime? Since Washington loves to pick winners, we asked Martha Morris, assistant director of museum studies for the George Washington University and co-author of “Planning Successful Museum Building Projects,” to handicap their chances, with comments, on a scale of 1 to 5.
Click here to see the results.