Pinkert '84 redefines museum management
Pinkert '84, job interviews tend to result in epiphanies.
The first such experience occurred during his second year
at Kellogg, when a potential employer asked him what excited
him about selling bleach.
time I stopped laughing, I realized I wasn't going that route,"
Pinkert says. "I realized the content of what I was working
on mattered a great deal to me."
found the perfect combination of content and commerce in the
field of museum administration. As vice president of programming
at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, and now as a
self-employed consultant, Pinkert has been part of a revolution
in an industry that only recently began to adopt management
concepts, from marketing to mergers and acquisitions.
are the most powerful educational tool in the world," Pinkert
says. And, he adds, "they are a management frontier."
fascination with museums began at an early age. "My summer
camp was in the backyard of the Museum of Science and Industry.
They were too cheap to have a rain shelter, so every rainy
summer day of my youth was spent in the museum."
jobs working for the U.S. Foreign Service in Seoul and in
university administration at Brandeis University, Pinkert
decided to enroll at Kellogg hoping to advance to a leadership
position. As a student, Pinkert first returned to the Museum
of Science and Industry for a class project addressing the
significant financial and management hurdles the institution
Pinkert accepted a job in the executive offices of Long Island
University. His primary charge involved helping the new university
president remedy the institution's perpetual financial woes.
Their "LIU Plan" retooled the school's curriculum, emphasizing
work-study and freshman retention. The plan was a success
-- after 20 years in the red, LIU returned to viability and
a renewed sense of mission.
late-'80s, Pinkert returned to his native Chicago and interviewed
for an administrative job at a local university. During the
interview, conversation turned to the fact that the Museum
of Science and Industry had a new president.
ended an interview so quickly," Pinkert says. "I got down
on the payphone and called the new president with a proposition
for overhauling the operation of the museum."
months later, he was brought on board. Pinkert worked with
the museum's trustees and staff to develop "MSI 2000," a long-term
strategic plan designed to reinvest in the museum and make
it relevant to the science and technology of the 21st century.
During his 11 years at MSI, Pinkert used all the skills he
picked up at Kellogg. His duties included everything from
analyzing the impact of admission fees and marketing research
to figuring out how to squeeze a Boeing 727 through the museum
doors. He also helped develop alliances with companies like
Lego, BP, Amoco, Abbot Labs and Universal Studios that resulted
in 17 new permanent and more than 35 temporary exhibits. Pinkert
spent several years negotiating a deal with Titanic Ventures
to try bringing the recent blockbuster Titanic exhibit to
MSI. However, it was actually a fellow Kellogg alum, Joe Shacter
87, who sealed the deal to lure the doomed liner to
one of the best things about the museum industry is being
able to see the results of your work immediately.
a kid standing there with his mouth open, saying, 'Oh my God!'
or 'Dad, look at that!' is a fantastic reward."
MSI 2000 plan drew to a close, Pinkert decided to leave the
museum in 1999. He relocated to the Washington, D.C., area,
where he works as a self-employed museum consultant, helping
struggling museums break the "perpetual cycle of poverty."
Current clients include Discovery Communications, the Capital
Children's Museum and the Historical Society of Washington.
The Society is building an innovative, state-of the-art museum
that Pinkert claims "breaks all the rules for history museums
-- something that makes it the perfect assignment for me."
this article was being written, Pinkert was moving on to a
new challenge. The Archivist of the United States has invited
him to assume the task of developing the education and exhibition
experiences for the upcoming renovation of the National Archives
who cares about content, I don't suppose that I can top the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution," says Pinkert.
so lucky to have an opportunity to put my management training
to this high purpose. There are still days when I can't believe
that people pay me to have so much fun."