Municipal museums were the creation of specific groups of people in the second half of the nineteenth century; the museums in turn helped to shape these groups, give them characteristics and status. Little attention has been paid to the exact social composition of museum staff and donors; it is assumed that those in charge of the museum were middle class, part of the new urban elite that reshaped the Victorian city. However this assumption can lead to the simplification that the whole museums project was about the promotion of capitalism and manufacturing, or of ‘middle-class values’, or of professionalisation; whereas in fact the specific characteristics of museum interest groups in different places can be shown to have produced very different museums. The interests of local government might be at odds with those of commercial donors, or of the nascent curatorial profession. Moreover, there were significant changes between the founding of municipal museums, and 1914; generally, large local benefactors, concerned about civic prestige and philanthropy, and the local amateur scientific community were prominent early on, while later, an increasingly structured curating profession developed. This of course has implications for the way in which museums interacted with society. Museums were used by groups to enhance their own standing or drive forward their own concerns; access to control of the museum was thus an important and desirable asset which was struggled over; negotiation and co-operation among producer groups might be necessary in order to protect and promote the museum.