Tuesday, May 26, 2020

"Selling to Survive"

Saturday's CBS This Morning had a segment on the changes to the AAMD deaccessioning guidelines.

It's about four minutes long and worth watching in its entirety.

Couple things worth mentioning.

There's no mention of the public trust. The new rationale for the general rule, offered by AAMD president Brent Benjamin, is that "the idea is that you don’t benefit today’s visitors at the expense of tomorrow’s, and you don’t benefit tomorrow’s visitors at the expense of today." But it should be obvious that that doesn't really make any sense if you think about it. First of all, almost every dollar a museum spends today, on programming, on engaging with today's visitors, and so on, is in some sense benefiting today's visitors at the expense of tomorrow's. You could always just put that money in the bank and save it for the future, to benefit tomorrow's visitors. There's no way museums can sensibly do this sort of intergenerational calculation for every decision they make.

More to the point, how in the world does it benefit today's visitors or tomorrow's visitors if a museum is forced to close its doors? Doesn't Benjamin's principle argue in favor of selling whenever a museum faces a financial crisis (i.e. not just in a pandemic)?

Maybe they should have stuck with the public trust.

I also really liked Baltimore Museum of Art director (and aggressive deaccessioner) Christopher Bedford's statement of what should really matter to museums: "Serving our publics. Being vital, being relevant, keeping our doors open."

I think that's exactly right, and not just till April 10, 2022.