tmadowntown:

TUCSON MUSEUM OF ART PROUDLY ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF
SOVEREIGN SKY
An Award-winning painting by artist P.A. Nisbet
Tucson, Arizona – December 12, 2013 – The Tucson Museum of Art is excited to announce a newly acquired painting, P.A. Nisbet’s Sovereign Sky (36 x 64 inches, oil on linen), Obtained through the generosity of the Museum’s Western Art Patrons, Medicine Man Gallery, and P. A. Nisbet, Soveriegn Sky is a significant work by Nisbet, a contemporary painter of the idyllic landscape of the American West. The painting won the 2012 Artists’ Choice Award at the Quest for the West at the Eiteljorg Museum, chosen by attending artists. Born in North Carolina, P. A. Nisbet always had the desire to be an artist. After service in the U.S. Navy as a young man, Nisbet had a successful career in commercial art. Since 1980, he permanently settled in the Southwest surrounded by the land he loves. Nisbet follows in the footsteps of painters of the 19th century known for romantic landscapes, particularly J.M. W. Turner, Fredrick Church, Thomas Moran, John Kensett, and others. Like his predecessors, Nisbet’s work does not concentrate on exact geography and location but a spiritual connections with nature and place.  In Sovereign Sky, the eye is drawn to the center of the painting where the intersection of the cloudburst and luminous sun create a warm glow radiating outward. The surrounding darker clouds and mountains on the horizon offset the brightness of the sun. Looking closely, the observer will notice that the violet and blue tones counteract the yellow and orange, balancing cool and warm colors. This helps achieve the perception of distance as well as suggest a sense of transcendence. The Tucson Museum of Art’s Western Art Patrons support organization raised money by taking exclusive trips and hosting events related to art of the American West. These funds were designated for the purchase of this painting for the collection. Sovereign Sky is currently on display at in the John K. Goodman Pavilion of Western Art at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.

tmadowntown:

TUCSON MUSEUM OF ART PROUDLY ANNOUNCES
THE ACQUISITION OF

SOVEREIGN SKY

An Award-winning painting by artist P.A. Nisbet

Tucson, Arizona – December 12, 2013 – The Tucson Museum of Art is excited to announce a newly acquired painting, P.A. Nisbet’s Sovereign Sky (36 x 64 inches, oil on linen), Obtained through the generosity of the Museum’s Western Art Patrons, Medicine Man Gallery, and P. A. Nisbet, Soveriegn Sky is a significant work by Nisbet, a contemporary painter of the idyllic landscape of the American West. The painting won the 2012 Artists’ Choice Award at the Quest for the West at the Eiteljorg Museum, chosen by attending artists.
Born in North Carolina, P. A. Nisbet always had the desire to be an artist. After service in the U.S. Navy as a young man, Nisbet had a successful career in commercial art. Since 1980, he permanently settled in the Southwest surrounded by the land he loves. Nisbet follows in the footsteps of painters of the 19th century known for romantic landscapes, particularly J.M. W. Turner, Fredrick Church, Thomas Moran, John Kensett, and others. Like his predecessors, Nisbet’s work does not concentrate on exact geography and location but a spiritual connections with nature and place.
In Sovereign Sky, the eye is drawn to the center of the painting where the intersection of the cloudburst and luminous sun create a warm glow radiating outward. The surrounding darker clouds and mountains on the horizon offset the brightness of the sun. Looking closely, the observer will notice that the violet and blue tones counteract the yellow and orange, balancing cool and warm colors. This helps achieve the perception of distance as well as suggest a sense of transcendence.
The Tucson Museum of Art’s Western Art Patrons support organization raised money by taking exclusive trips and hosting events related to art of the American West. These funds were designated for the purchase of this painting for the collection. Sovereign Sky is currently on display at in the John K. Goodman Pavilion of Western Art at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.

Today in Tucson: The Edible Art Gala. 
My mother actually called me this morning, asking if I could perhaps mention the Edible Art Gala on my blog, and I was more than happy to oblige. Sadly, I’m in Tempe today, but if anyone’s in Tucson, they should definitely go check it out at Tucson Arts Brigade. The Gala supports TAB/TMAP, a city-wide after-school mural arts program. 
SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 20146pm - Midnight (or later)Maker House283 N. Stone Avenue$15 Pre-Sale, $20 Door

Today in Tucson: The Edible Art Gala. 

My mother actually called me this morning, asking if I could perhaps mention the Edible Art Gala on my blog, and I was more than happy to oblige. Sadly, I’m in Tempe today, but if anyone’s in Tucson, they should definitely go check it out at Tucson Arts Brigade. The Gala supports TAB/TMAP, a city-wide after-school mural arts program. 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2014
6pm - Midnight (or later)
Maker House
283 N. Stone Avenue
$15 Pre-Sale, $20 Door

theatlantic:

Ph.D. Programs Have a Dirty Secret: Student Debt

College debt. Law school debt. Medical school debt. These are all topics that have been hashed over ad nauseam in the past few years. 

But when was the last time you heard anything about Ph.D. debt? 

Unless you’re an academic, my guess is you haven’t. Doctoral programs still have a reputation for giving their students a (mostly) free ride by providing living stipends and teaching opportunities along with tuition breaks. And most of the time, the rep holds true.
But not always.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

theatlantic:

Ph.D. Programs Have a Dirty Secret: Student Debt

College debt. Law school debt. Medical school debt. These are all topics that have been hashed over ad nauseam in the past few years. 

But when was the last time you heard anything about Ph.D. debt? 

Unless you’re an academic, my guess is you haven’t. Doctoral programs still have a reputation for giving their students a (mostly) free ride by providing living stipends and teaching opportunities along with tuition breaks. And most of the time, the rep holds true.

But not always.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

brooklynmuseum:

Since we closed our card catalogs down a few years ago, we decided to offer the cards up to artists in hopes of giving them a second life. We are now going to begin to showcase the work of several artists who have used these cards in their own artistic practice.
Today we showcase the work of Trish Mayo who superimposed lantern slide images from the Museum Archives onto the cards. Ancient Egypt is one of our collection strengths and this year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Wilbour Library of Egyptology. More on that as we have events celebrating this great Library collection!

Posted by Deirdre Lawrence. 

brooklynmuseum:

Since we closed our card catalogs down a few years ago, we decided to offer the cards up to artists in hopes of giving them a second life. We are now going to begin to showcase the work of several artists who have used these cards in their own artistic practice.

Today we showcase the work of Trish Mayo who superimposed lantern slide images from the Museum Archives onto the cards. Ancient Egypt is one of our collection strengths and this year we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Wilbour Library of Egyptology. More on that as we have events celebrating this great Library collection!

Posted by Deirdre Lawrence. 

Tombstones vs. Text Panels: Why don’t museums tell everything?

This is a perfectly fair problem/complaint. You’re completely right - sometimes museuns are scant with the information they place on their text panels. You’re talking about extended text panels, the kinds of labels that explain something in depth about the piece. What you’re running into that you don’t care for is casually called a tombstone, the bare bones information: title, date, artist, materials used, etc. 

There are a few reaons for these. One: there are a few theories about how audience and object interact with each other (for folks who are fond of constructionist theory), but the more common reasons are: The piece has information being conveyed elsewhere, and/or visitors only spend an average of 7 seconds looking at the labels to begin with. 

We have seven seconds.

So what that tells us is that the majority of people aren’t going to read beyond title, artist, date anyways. After having written the labels for an exhibition (extended labels with information, but still short and faily concise, on avg. about 60 words), I can tell you there’s a lot of work going into the labels that do have information. Draft after draft and pages of ideas, in my case an interview with the artist, and a fair amount of background research — all with the knowledge that many people wouldn’t bother to read what I wrote anyways. I took this as a challenge to not be boring, but you can’t be all things for all people. 

The goal is certainly to try, however. And in the case of permanent collections in museums which do not have more than tombstone labels, it’s often because there’s a lot of opportuity for extended programming with the pieces. They’re part of the museum, they might rarely rotate, and they’ve usually been there for long enough that they already have extensive research on the pieces. Or they might someday have that research. Mr. Durston complained there was no information, but refused to pick up an audio guide, which is generally where that excessive information goes first. Nowadays, museums are utilizing audio guides, tours/docents, mobile apps for smart phones, QR codes, and pamphlets/fliers that have the extended information that you can pick up and sometimes take with you if you want to know even more. 

I’m in complete agreement with you! I love extended labels, I want to read more about things, to be beguiled by the books which have even more information, to calmly contemplate what is being presented to me. But again, we are the odd ones out. Most people have about 7 seconds of attention per piece, if that, and then move on. We have a fair amount of opportunities to approach in different ways with all the same information — there’s an app for that now. We can create youtube videos and interactive computers, audio tours, in-person tours, etc. Some people are simply not visual/textual learners. To attract these people, we need alternatives. 

Part of my problem with my museum studies course tackling this article is that 1.) Mr. Durston is complaining about things that are problems and all their solutions, and 2.) It’s clearly written to be divisive and riling, but to do little else. I’m sure he’s completely aware of the fact that he wouldn’t read every extended label, and I’m just as sure he realizes that his being interested in extensive amounts of information makes him a bit of an outlier, not the norm as my class suspects. In other words, no, I don’t think he’s ignorant, or someone who hates culture. I think he’s writing an article to make money and be controversial in his language while he does so. 

He’s got a point — objects should relate to people, the relation of objects to objects and objects to civilizations can be illustrated to great effect, extended labels can be wonderful (or unread), context and connectivity can be extremely helpful, adults want alternatives to formal lecturing as activities, etc. This is the same point you have, that you want context and the story behind things. I think that’s a huge goal in any given museum. But the solution isn’t approached by simply writing more extended labels, it has to be much bigger than that, and yes, it even extends to the gift shop. 

I think we’re fundamentally in agreement, I just think the explanations of “Why isn’t there more information?” is lacking and a fault of the museos for not explaining it.

Tombstones vs. Text Panels: Why don’t museums tell everything?

This is a perfectly fair problem/complaint. You’re completely right - sometimes museuns are scant with the information they place on their text panels. You’re talking about extended text panels, the kinds of labels that explain something in depth about the piece. What you’re running into that you don’t care for is casually called a tombstone, the bare bones information: title, date, artist, materials used, etc.

There are a few reaons for these. One: there are a few theories about how audience and object interact with each other (for folks who are fond of constructionist theory), but the more common reasons are: The piece has information being conveyed elsewhere, and/or visitors only spend an average of 7 seconds looking at the labels to begin with.

We have seven seconds.

So what that tells us is that the majority of people aren’t going to read beyond title, artist, date anyways. After having written the labels for an exhibition (extended labels with information, but still short and faily concise, on avg. about 60 words), I can tell you there’s a lot of work going into the labels that do have information. Draft after draft and pages of ideas, in my case an interview with the artist, and a fair amount of background research — all with the knowledge that many people wouldn’t bother to read what I wrote anyways. I took this as a challenge to not be boring, but you can’t be all things for all people.

The goal is certainly to try, however. And in the case of permanent collections in museums which do not have more than tombstone labels, it’s often because there’s a lot of opportuity for extended programming with the pieces. They’re part of the museum, they might rarely rotate, and they’ve usually been there for long enough that they already have extensive research on the pieces. Or they might someday have that research. Mr. Durston complained there was no information, but refused to pick up an audio guide, which is generally where that excessive information goes first. Nowadays, museums are utilizing audio guides, tours/docents, mobile apps for smart phones, QR codes, and pamphlets/fliers that have the extended information that you can pick up and sometimes take with you if you want to know even more.

I’m in complete agreement with you! I love extended labels, I want to read more about things, to be beguiled by the books which have even more information, to calmly contemplate what is being presented to me. But again, we are the odd ones out. Most people have about 7 seconds of attention per piece, if that, and then move on. We have a fair amount of opportunities to approach in different ways with all the same information — there’s an app for that now. We can create youtube videos and interactive computers, audio tours, in-person tours, etc. Some people are simply not visual/textual learners. To attract these people, we need alternatives.

Part of my problem with my museum studies course tackling this article is that 1.) Mr. Durston is complaining about things that are problems and all their solutions, and 2.) It’s clearly written to be divisive and riling, but to do little else. I’m sure he’s completely aware of the fact that he wouldn’t read every extended label, and I’m just as sure he realizes that his being interested in extensive amounts of information makes him a bit of an outlier, not the norm as my class suspects. In other words, no, I don’t think he’s ignorant, or someone who hates culture. I think he’s writing an article to make money and be controversial in his language while he does so.

He’s got a point — objects should relate to people, the relation of objects to objects and objects to civilizations can be illustrated to great effect, extended labels can be wonderful (or unread), context and connectivity can be extremely helpful, adults want alternatives to formal lecturing as activities, etc. This is the same point you have, that you want context and the story behind things. I think that’s a huge goal in any given museum. But the solution isn’t approached by simply writing more extended labels, it has to be much bigger than that, and yes, it even extends to the gift shop.

I think we’re fundamentally in agreement, I just think the explanations of “Why isn’t there more information?” is lacking and a fault of the museos for not explaining it.

For a TL;DR of my I hate “Why I hate museums” the article reminded me a bit about the MoMA visitor comment submitted by a very earnest child: “You have no dinosaurs. How can you call yourself a museum?” 

preservearchives:

Tape is Evil …

Archivists and conservators both know all too well. Numerous methods of tape manufacture and composition lead to an infinite ways to degrade items, yet the worst is that classic, yellow, creeping, oozing, oily, incredibly sticky mess.

Full treatment can be lengthy and difficult. So what can NARA do when a record needs to be accessed right away,  but there are a number of pages firmly stuck together? Cellulose powder to the rescue! Once the pages are carefully separated and the tape carriers are removed, cellulose powder (AKA Ashless powder) can be used to remove the adhesive. The loose fibers that make up cellulose powder are soft and stick to the adhesive once in contact with it. With careful handling, the powder picks up the adhesive, allowing removal of the adhesive layer from the page. Although this treatment does not reverse the damage to the page from the degraded tape, the pages are free and usable!

(via todaysdocument)

installator:

“#onthisday in 1939 [August 16], the British Museum collection was evacuated due to WWII. Many of the objects were stored in tube tunnels around the disused Aldwych station.” (British Museum)

installator:

#onthisday in 1939 [August 16], the British Museum collection was evacuated due to WWII. Many of the objects were stored in tube tunnels around the disused Aldwych station.” (British Museum)

artnet:

Art Fairs In LA
As the East Coast freezes over, many artists, collectors, and art lovers find solace in sunny Los Angeles where a number of excellent art fairs are taking place. The entertainment capital of the world will cement itself as an art capital this winter by encapsulating an international clientele and a collection of the world’s most unique and sought-after masterpieces.

artnet:

Art Fairs In LA

As the East Coast freezes over, many artists, collectors, and art lovers find solace in sunny Los Angeles where a number of excellent art fairs are taking place. 
The entertainment capital of the world will cement itself as an art capital this winter by encapsulating an international clientele and a collection of the world’s most unique and sought-after masterpieces.

I Hate “Why I hate Museums”. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I’m completely willing to admit that, because my mother did not finish college, she might have found museums to be the best place to take her young Latina daughter to educate her. I’m a museum studies major, it’s fairly obvious I like museums. Love them, even. 
It’s not surprising people who work in museums love museums. Neither is it surprising to me that lots of people dislike them, as CNN’s James Durston laments in “Why I Hate Museums.” More power to Mr. Durston. But I have some problems with his argument, or at least some gut reactions that remind me deeply of my mother. If I was going to complain I was bored, she would wisely tell me one or two different things: 1.) Only boring people are bored, or 2.) You’re bored? Go clean your room. 
Which isn’t to say Mr. Durston is a boring man — I’m sure he’s quite interesting, well-traveled, and has been to more museums than he cares to count. But I’m also reticent to listen to a critic who hates where he goes advise me on where to go. And conversely, I’m sure we can all recognize there’s no point in trying to convince a food critic to love a desert he hates. 
But that’s not what I think the problem is. Plenty of people dislike museums, and while I disagree — we’re all allowed to dislike or misunderstand different fixtures of society. Some of us love the Superbowl. Some people can’t tell a touchdown from a third down and others can’t tell a Manet from a Monet. That doesn’t make these people unintelligent, it’s just not their area of specialty. But my problem with Mr. Durston’s article isn’t that he dislikes museums — he’s entitled to — my problem is that the article is meant to be provocative and little else. I suppose that’s what opinion articles are for, but view it from my perspective: What does Mr. Durston like? Enjoy? Not medieval ceramics, not algae, not beer chalices, not bowls, plates, Islamic art, Napoleon’s personal effects, George Washington’s home; the Sex museum is boring, the Beer museum isn’t “intoxicating” enough. 
But he seems to think children have fun at museums. 
I thought this was the most interesting part of this article. Children have fun, don’t they? He states:

Kids do seem to have a good time when pushing buttons, pulling levers and magnetizing soap bubbles (right up until they stop having a great time and turn into wailing bundles of hair and tears only a little more bored than the parents).

Which having interned at a Children’s museum as an educator, I would have to say is more the nature of children than the nature of museums. Perhaps Mr. Durston should take a leaf out of their book, if he’s not enjoying things. Maybe he’s bored because he’s not having fun. Which isn’t to say museums don’t have problems in accessibility, I certainly think they do — but the complaints of the article seem easily fixable, even nonsensical at points:
There’s not enough information on the labels — but he refuses to listen to audio guides. If you refuse the solutions to obtaining more information, what is a museum worker to do? 
Children have fun interacting with exhibits — but museums are stiff, dry, and academic. Too adult and too childish at the same time. 
"Free" museums require public taxes to pay for them. This is silly — of course government funded museums are funded by taxes. The government doesn’t magic money out of thin air - or at least it shouldn’t be doing so. The reasons for our national debt aside, it seems ridiculous to complain that museums must be paid for with actual money as opposed to…some strange nebulous alternative. Museums as he mentions, are one of the few public institutions that earns money, generating $7 for every $1 they spend. So is a minute percentage of public taxpayer dollars the issue, or is the issue that Mr. Durston just really hates museums? Does he believe they run themselves or that we all have a Daddy Warbucks taking us in as the redheaded orphan of government funding? The Smithsonian is a government opened museum — so it’s not surprising or out of line for 65% of it to be funded by the public. 
I’m frankly, unsure what the problem is with those things. If you refuse the solutions, we can’t fix the problem. If you have problems with museums receiving money in order to be free, you’re going to have to expect to spend a lot more on entry fees. People complain about the amount of funding the Smithsonian receives, but in the same breath forget to count just how many museums the Smithsonian is composed of — Nineteen museums, nine research centers, and over 140 affiliate museums. Is it any wonder they might have a bigger need for funding than a singular museum? 
Mr. Durston complains he can’t eat snacks in the galleries but also laments the cafes we do offer. He says museums aren’t engaging, but then complains that gift shops, well, exist. And for those of us who do study museums, for better or for worse, we recognize that gift shops make our museums accessible, portable, and gift-able. You can continue learning at home with books or postcards. You can present the experience you engaged in to others as a gift, an accessory, a conversation piece. Artists can sell their wares, we can pick up science kits for nieces and nephews, and all in all, museum gift shops do precisely what Mr. Durston wants from his entire museum experience. 
Still, this isn’t enough. And he’s not wrong, museums do need to engage. But we can’t be all things to all people, especially when those people contradict themselves in the same article. The education director at the Phoenix Art Museum (where my Museum studies class is being held) suggests this attitude means I shouldn’t go into education. And while that’s not my goal, I’ve done other education internships — I don’t think it’s detrimental to admit you can’t win everyone. 
The question this article raises for me isn’t “Do people dislike museums?” I know they do. And it’s not “what’s wrong with them?” because all the contradictions aside, I understand where the complaints are coming from. My question is how to we process this kind of feedback? How are we failing to make our missions clear when visitors bemoan that: “Nothing subverts a museum’s mission like a shiny, digitally printed banner broadcasting $4.95 replica Davids.” 
I don’t think we’re just failing to be accessible, I think we’re failing to make museums comprehensible. I don’t think it’s just museums, either — as the issues seem to extend to basic maths and civics (Government institutions are paid for by taxes because it can’t be absolutely free), public manners (libraries don’t allow for snacking either), etc. 
My question is also: If kids are enjoying museums, but Mr. Durston is not, where has his joy gone? Why the ennui when other people are enjoying themselves? Should museums be trying to please everyone, or just the people who might be open to being museum-goers? 
I think it’s an honest question. Perhaps my youth or perspective in this field is getting in the way of how I respond to such complaints. Perhaps in equal response to Mr. Durston’s ennui I have hubris — I’ve taken even the most reluctant friends to museums and still had them enjoy the experience even if we both disliked what we saw. 
Is the problem entirely fixable issues in museums or in this instance, is part of the problem simply that it’s not this CNN reporters cup of tea? I take no offense if it isn’t — but I don’t think we should radically change or alter museums based on the experiences of people who hate the concept of museums. 
I’m not the only one puzzled by the article: 

Mr. Durston, as you know, many pieces have information about them displayed or you can listen to audio give you even more detail but I’m disturbed that this isn’t even enough for you as you state. (Then, if something did go beyond this you are disappointed that they have a gift shop afterwards.) Heck, I don’t even want all the information for each piece because I’m the kind of person that would read or listen to every damn one. I’d lose my mind. I can appreciate like items in the same exhibit without feeling the need for minutiae. I’ve also attended many museum exhibits that reenact certain periods, tell stories, show movies, have other related displays and so on. I believe that museums have come VERY far in the 40 plus years I’ve attended them. Museums are educational but they are also about preservation and finding the right blend is important. I’d like to think that this diatribe is a somewhat altruistic attempt at getting museums to increase their patronage but please stop trying to make it all about you and your particular attention span.
— Chrissy Carr 

I’m the last person to say that museums are perfect at what they do. They aren’t, but no industry is. Still, perhaps part of the problem isn’t just what we’re doing, but explaining why we’re doing it that way, and what has to happen for it to change, especially in an age of instant gratification expected. Perhaps then we’d be able to have a better dialogue about the purpose of museum gift shops, of audio guides, or why labels are often so sparse. Even just explaining that museums include zoos, have films, video games, cartoons, oral histories, etc… It’s the least we (the museos) could do to justify our own careers and institutions. 
What do you think?

I Hate “Why I hate Museums”. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I’m completely willing to admit that, because my mother did not finish college, she might have found museums to be the best place to take her young Latina daughter to educate her. I’m a museum studies major, it’s fairly obvious I like museums. Love them, even. 

It’s not surprising people who work in museums love museums. Neither is it surprising to me that lots of people dislike them, as CNN’s James Durston laments in “Why I Hate Museums.” More power to Mr. Durston. But I have some problems with his argument, or at least some gut reactions that remind me deeply of my mother. If I was going to complain I was bored, she would wisely tell me one or two different things: 1.) Only boring people are bored, or 2.) You’re bored? Go clean your room. 

Which isn’t to say Mr. Durston is a boring man — I’m sure he’s quite interesting, well-traveled, and has been to more museums than he cares to count. But I’m also reticent to listen to a critic who hates where he goes advise me on where to go. And conversely, I’m sure we can all recognize there’s no point in trying to convince a food critic to love a desert he hates. 

But that’s not what I think the problem is. Plenty of people dislike museums, and while I disagree — we’re all allowed to dislike or misunderstand different fixtures of society. Some of us love the Superbowl. Some people can’t tell a touchdown from a third down and others can’t tell a Manet from a Monet. That doesn’t make these people unintelligent, it’s just not their area of specialty. But my problem with Mr. Durston’s article isn’t that he dislikes museums — he’s entitled to — my problem is that the article is meant to be provocative and little else. I suppose that’s what opinion articles are for, but view it from my perspective: What does Mr. Durston like? Enjoy? Not medieval ceramics, not algae, not beer chalices, not bowls, plates, Islamic art, Napoleon’s personal effects, George Washington’s home; the Sex museum is boring, the Beer museum isn’t “intoxicating” enough. 

But he seems to think children have fun at museums. 

I thought this was the most interesting part of this article. Children have fun, don’t they? He states:

Kids do seem to have a good time when pushing buttons, pulling levers and magnetizing soap bubbles (right up until they stop having a great time and turn into wailing bundles of hair and tears only a little more bored than the parents).

Which having interned at a Children’s museum as an educator, I would have to say is more the nature of children than the nature of museums. Perhaps Mr. Durston should take a leaf out of their book, if he’s not enjoying things. Maybe he’s bored because he’s not having fun. Which isn’t to say museums don’t have problems in accessibility, I certainly think they do — but the complaints of the article seem easily fixable, even nonsensical at points:

  • There’s not enough information on the labels — but he refuses to listen to audio guides. If you refuse the solutions to obtaining more information, what is a museum worker to do? 
  • Children have fun interacting with exhibits — but museums are stiff, dry, and academic. Too adult and too childish at the same time. 
  • "Free" museums require public taxes to pay for them. This is silly — of course government funded museums are funded by taxes. The government doesn’t magic money out of thin air - or at least it shouldn’t be doing so. The reasons for our national debt aside, it seems ridiculous to complain that museums must be paid for with actual money as opposed to…some strange nebulous alternative. Museums as he mentions, are one of the few public institutions that earns money, generating $7 for every $1 they spend. So is a minute percentage of public taxpayer dollars the issue, or is the issue that Mr. Durston just really hates museums? Does he believe they run themselves or that we all have a Daddy Warbucks taking us in as the redheaded orphan of government funding? The Smithsonian is a government opened museum — so it’s not surprising or out of line for 65% of it to be funded by the public. 

I’m frankly, unsure what the problem is with those things. If you refuse the solutions, we can’t fix the problem. If you have problems with museums receiving money in order to be free, you’re going to have to expect to spend a lot more on entry fees. People complain about the amount of funding the Smithsonian receives, but in the same breath forget to count just how many museums the Smithsonian is composed of — Nineteen museums, nine research centers, and over 140 affiliate museums. Is it any wonder they might have a bigger need for funding than a singular museum? 

Mr. Durston complains he can’t eat snacks in the galleries but also laments the cafes we do offer. He says museums aren’t engaging, but then complains that gift shops, well, exist. And for those of us who do study museums, for better or for worse, we recognize that gift shops make our museums accessible, portable, and gift-able. You can continue learning at home with books or postcards. You can present the experience you engaged in to others as a gift, an accessory, a conversation piece. Artists can sell their wares, we can pick up science kits for nieces and nephews, and all in all, museum gift shops do precisely what Mr. Durston wants from his entire museum experience. 

Still, this isn’t enough. And he’s not wrong, museums do need to engage. But we can’t be all things to all people, especially when those people contradict themselves in the same article. The education director at the Phoenix Art Museum (where my Museum studies class is being held) suggests this attitude means I shouldn’t go into education. And while that’s not my goal, I’ve done other education internships — I don’t think it’s detrimental to admit you can’t win everyone. 

The question this article raises for me isn’t “Do people dislike museums?” I know they do. And it’s not “what’s wrong with them?” because all the contradictions aside, I understand where the complaints are coming from. My question is how to we process this kind of feedback? How are we failing to make our missions clear when visitors bemoan that: “Nothing subverts a museum’s mission like a shiny, digitally printed banner broadcasting $4.95 replica Davids.” 

I don’t think we’re just failing to be accessible, I think we’re failing to make museums comprehensible. I don’t think it’s just museums, either — as the issues seem to extend to basic maths and civics (Government institutions are paid for by taxes because it can’t be absolutely free), public manners (libraries don’t allow for snacking either), etc. 

My question is also: If kids are enjoying museums, but Mr. Durston is not, where has his joy gone? Why the ennui when other people are enjoying themselves? Should museums be trying to please everyone, or just the people who might be open to being museum-goers? 

I think it’s an honest question. Perhaps my youth or perspective in this field is getting in the way of how I respond to such complaints. Perhaps in equal response to Mr. Durston’s ennui I have hubris — I’ve taken even the most reluctant friends to museums and still had them enjoy the experience even if we both disliked what we saw. 

Is the problem entirely fixable issues in museums or in this instance, is part of the problem simply that it’s not this CNN reporters cup of tea? I take no offense if it isn’t — but I don’t think we should radically change or alter museums based on the experiences of people who hate the concept of museums. 

I’m not the only one puzzled by the article: 

Mr. Durston, as you know, many pieces have information about them displayed or you can listen to audio give you even more detail but I’m disturbed that this isn’t even enough for you as you state. (Then, if something did go beyond this you are disappointed that they have a gift shop afterwards.) Heck, I don’t even want all the information for each piece because I’m the kind of person that would read or listen to every damn one. I’d lose my mind. I can appreciate like items in the same exhibit without feeling the need for minutiae. I’ve also attended many museum exhibits that reenact certain periods, tell stories, show movies, have other related displays and so on. I believe that museums have come VERY far in the 40 plus years I’ve attended them. Museums are educational but they are also about preservation and finding the right blend is important. I’d like to think that this diatribe is a somewhat altruistic attempt at getting museums to increase their patronage but please stop trying to make it all about you and your particular attention span.

— Chrissy Carr 

I’m the last person to say that museums are perfect at what they do. They aren’t, but no industry is. Still, perhaps part of the problem isn’t just what we’re doing, but explaining why we’re doing it that way, and what has to happen for it to change, especially in an age of instant gratification expected. Perhaps then we’d be able to have a better dialogue about the purpose of museum gift shops, of audio guides, or why labels are often so sparse. Even just explaining that museums include zoos, have films, video games, cartoons, oral histories, etc… It’s the least we (the museos) could do to justify our own careers and institutions. 

What do you think?