Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Thu, Kendall M., 1960-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum; Museum studies; Higher education; Cultural anthropology; College museums; Museums and community; Museums and scholars; Ethnology


This thesis is based on an anthropological field study of the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum (JSNM). This project examines how internal and external pressures have impacted university museums and how they are responding to this change. As public and university museums become more visitor centered, traditional methods for measuring success are being replaced with new and more holistic methods that better encapsulate the 21st century museum's distinctive impact and position within its community. By using the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum as a case study, this thesis will examine some of the complex pressures felt by university museums and their parent institutions, demonstrate how success indicators can be extrapolated using anthropological methods and museological theory, and give recommendations for university museum-specific metrics to measure their own unique success. This assessment is important because it provides an opportunity for a museum to reflect on its current position as a cultural resource, identify potential problems hampering the realization of the museum's mission, and create viable and realistic plans for change to better meet the needs of both the university and community.;The background section of this paper presents a historical overview of museum theory and practice, considers how museums have changed, and evaluates what role modern museums play in their communities. Methods used in this project follow the principles of a focused ethnography utilizing applied anthropology and participatory action research and illuminate stakeholder perceptions of museum success by learning what critical issues and pressures stakeholders are facing. Data analysis was performed to identify the museum's current position within the community, perceptions of stakeholders, and contextualize this data within broader themes affecting the success of museums in the twenty-first century. Chapter Four reviews this project's results section which discusses how science teaching agendas, museum value and impact, resource accessibility for teachers, and the museum's operational priorities impact success at the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum. Results illuminate externally directed indicators of success for the museum and the Museum's struggle to strike balance between object centered initiatives and visitor centered objectives. Evidenced by my findings at the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum, I suggest the following metrics of success put forth by museum scholar Maxwell Anderson to be utilized to gain a better understanding of the overall health of a Jurica Suchy Nature Museum, as well as other university museums: (a) Quality of experience; (b) Fulfillment of educational mandate; (c) Institutional reputation; (d) Standards of governance; (e) Scope and quality of collection; (f) Contributions to parent institution.;These metrics of success highlight the university museum's more contemporary, dual role to community and university and allow them to gauge institutional success not only by its traditional purpose of alignment with departmental curriculum but also gives value to its ability to further the university's mission and be value educational resource for non campus visitors and other disciplines. The successful university museum seeks methods of self reflection by blurring the lines of external stakeholders versus internal stakeholders, by bringing their audience inside and taking the museum outside and in so doing discovers its unique purpose and connection to its community. The successful university museum defines its mission through the creative and sustainable connections it makes with its community and by constantly striving for the best version of itself. Success at the university museums is not and should not be based on static and rudimentary metrics of success but on its ability to listen and connect to its community. This paper concludes with a list of action items proposed by the Jurica Suchy Nature Museum Staff and Board based on this research, limitations of my study, and recommendations for future research.


Advisors: Kendall Thu.||Committee members: Jennifer Kirker Priest; Mark Schuller.


116 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type