A survey of museum finances in 1950–51 showed that at that date no two museums in New Zealand were financed in the same way. This position has changed slightly since then, the larger museums being financed more by local body contributions based upon a fixed rate on the rateable value of properties in the local bodies concerned. The actual rate levied by local bodies where this system is in operation depends largely upon their distance from the museum concerned. Such a rating system applies at present in the cases of Canterbury and Otago. The Auckland War Memorial Museum, constituted as a combination of the Auckland Museum and the Auckland Institute, is financed very largely by fixed contributions levied from surrounding local bodies.
Wanganui, Taranaki, and Southland Museums are financed mainly by direct contributions from their local city councils. Napier Museum is administered by the Hawke's Bay and East Coast Art Society and is run as a combined art gallery and museum. The Nelson Institute Museum is run in conjunction with the library. Cawthron Museum is financed by the Cawthron Institute, and the other smaller museums are either run by a society or by a single local body.
In the case of the larger museums mentioned above the controlling bodies consist of boards of trustees, trust boards, or councils appointed or elected by interested local bodies, by the Government, associated scientific societies, or members of contributory societies. Where the museum concerned is financed under an Act of Parliament, as are the Auckland, Dominion, Canterbury, and Otago Museums, the composition of the governing body is also defined under the relevant Act.