The roles of Canadian science museums: Making sense of mission statements



Although the last quarter of the 20th century was a period of rapid expansion for science museums, both in terms of the number of institutions and of visitors, the first decades of the 21th century have been to a large extent characterized by a rethinking of the institution. Will science museums maintain their purposes and roles? The time has come for science museum professionals to reflect upon their current practices, reassess how they wish to rebuild as well as re-envision their relationships with the communities they strive to serve, and redraft their missions to ensure that they remain relevant today and in the future. A mission statement is part of a museum’s organisational culture that describes the raison d’être of the institution. Science museum mission statements (SMMSs) guide museum staff and influence their activities, and also send a message to visitors and the general public about the museum’s purpose. In order to explore the role of Canadian science museums our research aimed to put a light on the following question: What are the roles of Canadian science museums according to their mission statements? Our dataset enabled us to study of 80 SMMSs and analyze them by the following sub-questions: How readily available are SMMSs? What are the lexical features of SMMSs? What does a thematic analysis of SMMSs reveal? Using lexical and thematic analysis, we determined the common characteristics of the public portrayal of science museums’ institutional identities as suggested by their mission statements, also providing insight into their roles. Although, as museums change as do the public’s expectations, so too will their mission statements as they attempt to capture changing roles and purposes to maintain their public relevance. The following questions: Who do we serve? Why do we exist? remain relevant for science museums.


Canadian science museums, mission statements, museum mission statements, roles, science centres, science museums

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