The New Museum The recently completed new building to house the exhibits and staff of the Central City Museum was located adjacent to the campus of a private university. The new building was financed by the generosity of local donors. The university provided the land and would cover annual operating expenses with the understanding that the museum would provide a resource for student education. The new governing board would be made up of key donors as well as selected university administrators and faculty members. The planning committee of the governing board hired two business students to interview various stakeholders about the future direction of the museum in its new relationship with the university. These interviews were conducted in person, and the interviewees seemed uniformly interested and eager to help. The major questions pertained to the future mission and goals for the museum. Some excerpts from the interviews are listed below. A major donor: I think the museum should be a major community resource. My wife and I gave money for the new building with the expectation that the museum would promote visits from the public schools in the area, and particularly serve the inner-city children who don’t have access to art exhibits. We don’t want the museum to be snobbish or elitist. The focus should definitely be local. A university administrator: The important thing is to have lively contemporary exhibits that will attract both university students and community adults and provide new insight and dialogue about current events. We can bring attention to the museum by having an occasional controversial exhibit, such as on Islamic art, and exhibits that appeal to Hispanics and African Americans. This approach would entail bringing in traveling exhibitions from major museums, which would save the administrative costs and overhead of producing our own exhibits. Head of the art history department: The key thing is that the museum will not have the artistic resources or the financial resources to serve the community at large. We have a wonderful opportunity to integrate the museum with the academic faculty and make it a teaching institution. It can be a major resource for both undergraduate and graduate students in art education and art history. We can also work with engineering students, architecture students, and liberal arts students. This is a unique opportunity that will distinguish our art history department’s teaching mission from others in the country. A faculty member in the art history department: The best use of the museum’s relationship with the university is to concentrate on training Ph.D.-level students in art history and to support scholarly research. I strongly urge the museum to focus on graduate education, which would increase the stature of the university nationally. Graduate students would be involved in the design of exhibits that would fit their research. Trying to make the museum popular on campus or in the community will waste our limited resources. Our Ph.D. graduates will be sought after by art history departments throughout the country. The reason you have been given this information from the interviews is that you have been invited to interview for the position of museum director. The previous director retired with the understanding that a new director would be hired upon the completion of fundraising and construction of the new building. You are thinking about what you would do if you took the job.
1. What mission for the Central City Museum do you personally prefer? As Director, would you try to implement your preferred mission? Explain.
2. How would you attempt to resolve the underlying conflicts among key stakeholders about the museum’s purpose and direction?
3. What actions would you take to implement the mission you decide to adopt? Be specific.