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

Full Text:



Alexander, E. P. (1995). Museum masters: Their museums and their influence. AltaMira Press.

Alexander, E. P., Alexander, M., & Decker, J. (2017). Museums in motion: An introduction to the history and function of museums. Rowman & Littlefield.

American Alliance of Museums. (2017). Mission and planning standards. American Alliance of Museums. Retrieved from

Anderson, G. (2019). Mission matters: Relevance and museums in the 21st century. Rowman & Littlefield.

Baron, A., Rayson, P., & Archer, D. (2009). Word frequency and key word statistics in corpus linguistics. Anglistik, 20(1), 41-67.

Bart, C. K. (1997a). Industrial firms and the power of mission. Industrial Marketing Management, 26(4), 371-383.

Bart, C. K. (1997b). Sex, lies, and mission statements. Business Horizons, 40(6), 9-18.

Bartkus, B., Glassman, M., & McAfee, B. (2000). Mission statements: Are they smoke and mirrors? Business Horizons, 43(6), 23-28.

Bolden, R., & Moscarola, J. (2000). Bridging the quantitative-qualitative divide: The lexical approach to textual data analysis. Social Science Computer Review, 18(4), 450-460.

Bradburne, J. M. (1998). Dinosaurs and white elephants: The science center in the twenty-first century. Public Understanding of Science, 7, 237-253.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4), 589-597.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2021). Can I use TA? Should I use TA? Should I not use TA? Comparing reflexive thematic analysis and other pattern-based qualitative analytic approaches. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 21(1), 1-11.

Brown, K., & Mairesse, F. (2018). The definition of the museum through its social role. Curator: The Museum Journal, 61(4), 525-539.

Cain, V., & Rader, K. A. (2017). Science communication and museums’ changing roles. In K. H. Jamieson, D. M. Kahan & D. A. Scheufele (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the science of science communication (pp. 1-14). Oxford University Press.

Campbell, A., & Yeung, S. (1991). Creating a sense of mission. Long Range Planning, 24(4), 10-20.

Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC). (2021). Our members. Canadian Association of Science Centres. Retrieved from

Coll, S. D., & Coll, R. K. (2019). Enhancing science learning through learning experiences outside school: How to learn better during visits to museums, science centers, and science fieldtrips. Brill Sense.

Cortés, J. D. (2021). Journal titles and mission statements: Lexical structure, diversity, and readability in business, management and accounting research. Journal of Information Science, 1–15. Retrieved from

David, F. R. (2011). Strategic management: Concepts and cases. Pearson.

David, F. R., & David, F. R. (2003). It’s time to redraft your mission statement. The Journal of Business Strategy, 24(1), 11-14

Davies, S. (1994). A sense of purpose: Rethinking museum values and strategies. In G. Kavanagh (Ed.), Museum provision and professionalism (pp. 31-38). Routledge.

Desvallées, A., & Mairesse, F. (Eds.). (2009). Key concepts of museology. Armand Colin.

DuBay, W. H. (2004). The principles of readability (ED490073). ERIC. Retrieved from

Falk, J., Poston, C., & Koke, J. (2020). Conference: Science Museum Futures. Retrieved from

Falk, J. Poston, C., Koke, J., & Vita, E. (2022). Science Museum futures. Institute for Learning Innovation, Scientific Report, 27 p.

Filippoupoliti, A., & Koliopoulos, D. (2014). Informal and non-formal education: An outline of history of science in museums. Science & Education, 23, 781-791.

Fitzgerald, C., & Cunningham, J. A. (2016). Inside the university technology transfer office: Mission statement analysis. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 41, 1235-1246.

Fleming, D. (2015). The essence of the museum – Mission, values, vision. In C. McCarthy (Ed.), The international handbooks of museum studies: Museum practice (pp. 3-25). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Friedman, A. J. (2010). The evolution of the science museum. Physics Today, 63(10), 45-51.

Gray, C., & McCall, V. (2020). The role of today's museum. Taylor & Francis.

Ham, S. H. (2016). Interpretation: Making a difference on purpose. Fulcrum Publishing.

International Council of Museums (ICOM). (2007). International Council of Museums. Retrieved from

International Council of Museums. (2019). The Extraordinary General Conference postpones the vote on a new museum definition. Retrieved from

International Council of Museums. (2022). On the way to a new museum definition. We are doing it together. Retrieved from

International Council of Museums Canada. (2019). ICOM museum definition consultation 2: Keywords and concepts. Retrieved from

Jacobi, D., & Meunier, A. (1999). Au service du projet éducatif de l’exposition : L’interprétation. La Lettre de l’Ocim, 61, 3-7.

Janousek, I. (2000). The ‘context museum’: Integrating science and culture. Museum International, 52(4), 21-24.

Johns, T. L., & Wheat, T. E. (1984). Newspaper readability: Two crucial factors. Journal of Reading, 27(5), 432-434.

Kelly, L. (2020). Why is newspaper readability important? Readable. Retrieved from

King, N. (2012). Doing template analysis. In G. Symon & C. Cassell (Eds.), Qualitative organizational research: Core methods and current challenges (pp. 426–450). Sage.

King, N., & Brooks, J. (2018). Thematic analysis in organisational research. In C. Cassell, A. L. Cunliffe & G. Grandy (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative business and management research methods: Methods and challenges (pp. 219-236). SAGE.

Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content analysis-An introduction to its methodology. Sage.

Latham, K. F., & Simmons, J. E. (2014). Foundations of museum studies: Evolving systems of knowledge. Libraries Unlimited.

Maczek, E., & Meunier, A. (2020). Des musées inclusifs. Engagements, démarches, réflexions. Presses Universitaires de Dijon.

Marples, A. (2019). Creating and keeping a national treasure: The changing uses of Hans Sloane’s collection in the eighteenth century. In T. Burrows & C. Johnston (Eds.), Collecting the past: British collectors and their collections from the 18th to the 20th Centuries (pp. 8-24). Routledge.

Meunier, A., Belleville, B., & Grant, O. (2018). Penser avec ses mains ou la philosophie du tinkering. La Lettre de l’Ocim, 177, 29-35.

Mullane, J. V. (2002). The mission statement is a strategic tool: When used properly. Management Decision, 40(5/6), 448-455.

Museums Act (S.C. c. 3.). (1990). Retrieved from

Paulus, O. (2010). Museums as serigraphs or unique masterpieces: Do American art museums display differentiation in their mission statements? International Journal of Arts Management, 13(1), 12-27.

Pearce, J. A. (1982). The company mission as a strategic tool. Sloan Management Review, 23(3), 15-24.

Pedretti, E., & Iannini, A. M. N. (2020). Towards fourth-generation science museums: Changing goals, changing roles. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 20, 700-714.

Piercy, N. F., & Morgan, N. A. (1994). Mission analysis: An operational approach. Journal of General Management, 19(3), 1-19.

Rosenberg, D. (2014). Stop, words. Representations, 127(1), 83-92.

Sattari, S., Pitt, L. F., & Caruana, A. (2011). How readable are mission statements? An exploratory study. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 16(4), 282-292.

Schiele, B. (2014). Science museums and centres: evolution and contemporary trends. In M. Bucchi & B. Trench (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. Routledge.

Sheets-Pyenson, S. (1988). Cathedrals of science: The development of colonial national history museums during the late nineteenth century. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Starr, K. (2012). The eight-word mission statement. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from

The Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. (2017). Standards for community museums in Ontario. Retrieved from

Tweedie, F. J., & Baayen, R. H. (1998). How variable may a constant be? Measures of lexical richness in perspective. Computers and the Humanities, 32(5), 323-352.

Want, J. H. (1986). Corporate mission. Management Review, 75, 46-50.

Wasike, B. (2018). Preaching to the choir? An analysis of newspaper readability vis-à-vis public literacy. Journalism, 19(11), 1570-1587.

Wells, M., Butler, B. H., & Koke, J. (2013). Interpretive planning for museums: Integrating visitor perspectives in decision making. Left Coast Press.


View Counter: Abstract | 259 | times, and PDF | 110 | times

Re S M ICT E | ISSN: 1792-3999 (electronic), 1791-261X (print) | Laboratory of Didactics of Sciences, Mathematics and ICT, Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education - University of Patras.

Pasithee | Library & Information Center | University of Patras