Managing Training and Development at the National Gallery of Art: A New Learning Management System Increases the Scope and Accuracy of Data Sharing, and Provides Opportunities to Develop Employee Training in New Ways

By Lowe, K. M. | The Public Manager, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Managing Training and Development at the National Gallery of Art: A New Learning Management System Increases the Scope and Accuracy of Data Sharing, and Provides Opportunities to Develop Employee Training in New Ways


Lowe, K. M., The Public Manager


With nearly 130,000 items, the National Gallery of Art has one of the finest collections of American and European art from the late middle ages to the present. More than 4 million people visit the gallery each year, making it the sixth most popular art museum in the world.

The gallery is funded using public and private support. Federal funds ensure the operation and maintenance of the buildings as well as the protection and care of the collections. Donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations are responsible for every work of art the museum owns and for its primary activities such as acquisition and conservation, scholarly and scientific research, exhibitions, and educational outreach programs.

In addition to the numerous displays presented each year, the gallery's programs include lectures, concerts, films, and school tours. Daily activities consist of curation, education, programming, restoration, research, and administration. Preserving the museum's collections involves maintaining effective security, environmental control, building maintenance, and conservation programs.

These activities and more are the responsibility of a dedicated staff of approximately 1,000 employees. The gallery has a wide variety of personnel with myriad training needs: accounting, administration, facilities management, fundraising, information systems, library science, and other technical areas, plus salespeople, security guards, and visitor services aides. In addition to regular employees, the museum has many volunteers and interns.

Maintaining a skilled workforce is a vital component for the museum to meet its mandate of maintaining its collections for future generations. Ensuring that personnel are trained to carry out their necessary duties falls to the National Gallery Training Office.

Training Challenges

Over the years, the gallery's training office used a variety of processes and systems to manage staff training. In 2002, the office purchased commercial training management software to automate the administrative processes and functions of managing, tracking, and reporting training information.

In 2009, the vendor was purchased by another company, so the software was no longer in production and technical support would no longer be provided. Additionally, the software had become incompatible with other gallery systems and could not support procedures for posting courses, scheduling classes, and tracking training attendance, according to Judy Frank, the gallery training officer.

At that time, the training office began the process of replacing the outdated and unsupported software with a more current and comprehensive learning management system (LMS). "An LMS that integrates the registration process with the data collecting function would eliminate redundancy of information and provide opportunities to grow and develop training in new ways, such as offering e-learning," says Frank. "A new system also would expand the scope and accuracy of data through increased data sharing and the opportunities for increased reporting capability."

Mendi Cogle Wingfield, employee development and training specialist, agrees. "The gallery utilizes the expertise of several training administrators or subject matter experts [SME] to manage training for their respective subject areas. We needed a system that would suit this decentralized management approach, allowing several SMEs to control their training processes from an administrative perspective, while maintaining certain levels of functionality and quality control solely for training office staff."

Training staff developed a general list of needs and requirements for the new LMS:

* integrated, centralized database for managing training information

* robust reporting functionalities

* centralized location for training materials

* e-learning functionality and Sharable Content Object Reference Model compliance

* multiple administrator capability

* ease of use for both administrators and end users

* operation within the gallery's information technology (IT) environment. …

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