Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"How does a museum decide to dissolve?"

The NYT's Robin Pogrebin has a piece asking whether the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, which shut down in 2010, "holds any lessons" for the Detroit Institute.

I think the situations are so different that there aren't many useful lessons to be learned.  But I do think Fresno is relevant to the larger deaccessioning debate, to the following extent:  if we let them fail -- that is, if we prevent them from selling one work (or a handful of works) to keep from going under -- then the result might be that all the works end up being sold.  As Pogrebin's story reminds us, that's what happened in Fresno:  the entire collection was sold to pay creditors.

I was also struck by the matter-of-fact statement that "nonprofit museums" are "founded in the public trust."  I don't even know what that is supposed to mean.  We hear all the time that museums hold work in the public trust.  But now we're told they were "founded in" the public trust.  I did a Google search for the phrase and got fewer then 10 hits.  But if the Times says it, it must be a fact.