Museum Management

When the crisis breaks, the Museum Director calls a meeting of the Museum Board for assistance in solving problems that have begun to arise. After his appeal, the members of the Board rise to the occasion with various suggestions. They call upon their friends and networks of professionals throughout the nation to help manage this crisis (Cato, 2003).

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Through Board members’ personal friendship with a couple of popular writers in the news and art world, the museum director arranges for Time Magazine and ArtNews to cover the installation of the Blessed Virgin of Montana. During the press reception, the director makes an impassioned speech of praise for Ima Donor, who made this possible. The stories come out a week later, just as Ima Donor makes her call to the director’s office. While the introductory story in ArtNews is about the Virgin and what she is made of, the majority of the story is about the remarkable woman who has supported the museum so generously and how perceptive she is in matters of the future of art in Montana. The writer wonders at how Ms. Donor could be so intuitive and knowledgeable about the art world so as to encourage appointing these particular artists and academicians to choose the art of the future. “The best artworks take the viewer outside his or her comfort zone and provoke discussion and debate” (Ackley, 2007, p. 1).

The Time Magazine article, along with coverage of Ima Donor in a feature box, makes mention of the native materials that make up the clothes, face and hands of the virgin, as well as the beaver hide, another product of Montana, in the first section. The bison and deer products, and cicadas that are particularly choice food of Native Americans, are also noted as being unique to this exhibit.

2. The Native American representatives are invited to the special viewing of the installation of the Blessed Virgin of Montana, attended by the artist, who is also a Native American, and the writers from Time Magazine and ArtNews, who interview them all on their approval of the second section of the diptych. The representatives of the Montana Native Americans are so flattered and are so popular at the event that their protest over the first section is only politely listened to, while their approval of the second section is carefully covered. Museum staff lead tours of the other art objects in this particular exhibit, pointing out the relation of the rest of the Montana-oriented artworks to their Native American origins (Alexander, 1979). They are reminded of Heritage Tourism, one of the main reasons that people visit museums: Visitors travel long distances to see, learn about and experience cultural or natural objects, features, landscapes, people, sites, stories and events. “Visitors want to learn, see, and do! They travel to heritage sites for a mix of edutainment [sic] experiences” (Horn, 2007, para. 5)

3. The women activists who have voiced approval of the use of daycare by the Holy Mother are asked to be part of a panel of experts on childcare, along with directors and workers from the local daycare centers, by the MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) organization. The event makes a big splash in the local papers and is well attended by parents throughout the city. The Museum Director attends and is able to put in a word about the value of museums in the development of a child’s education and appreciation of fine art. This makes the paper and pleases the governor.

4. The governor of Montana and the senator are sent copies of the newspaper covering the Childcare panel, as well as copies of Time Magazine and ArtNews, along with a them for their perspicacity in becoming leaders of a state with such , donors and artists, since this particular exhibition has now been nationally hailed as “ground-breaking” (Veverka, 2007).

5. The Catholic bishop is sent a carefully-worded statement, written by a theologian, which the museum has underwritten, tying the predominance of Catholicism in Montana’s history to this icon and how the materials it is made up of are representative of various kinds of foods and symbols found in the Bible. The Holy Virgin, created from foodstuffs, is likened to the manna found in the desert by Moses. Her child, Jesus, made of cicadas, like the locust which God sent to free the Hebrew people. The bishop delivers a sermon on these points and no boycott is mentioned.

6. The director is thrilled that CNN and talk shows are calling to interview him, but he is careful to invite the Native American artist, Ima Donor, the governor, the senator, the Catholic bishop and a representative of the women activists to join him at the big press conference he schedules, and to accompany him to the talk shows. They all feign disinterest, but show up.

7. The director ignores Rush Limbaugh. This right-wing lunatic is better off ignored, since to acknowledge him is to endorse his validity. Only a few rednecks listen to him, anyway. It is best not to bring a new contingent to his audience, so the talk show is turned down.

8. The director is flattered that the International Arts Council wants to award the museum with the Museum Hero Award in Paris, but he first offers the acceptance honors to Ima Donor and the Senator from Montana, who happily travel to Paris together to accept the award, and thus saves his job. He got the idea from a very old book on Museum Management (Goode, 1895, 20).

9. PETA is cajoled into a meeting with museum preservationists, who explain that the materials used to create the controversial piece of art is made up of insects and animals which had already died of natural causes. None were killed in order to create this masterpiece. To the contrary, the animals and insects are honored by their bodies having been chosen to remain in perpetuity in this valuable and meaningful work of art. The PETA people question the artist on how the animals and insects died and are reassured that the ladybugs, beetles and cicadas were plucked from the ground only after they had lain their eggs and were dying, while the deer and beaver skins were from animals in the zoo that had died of old age. The PETA people are handed complimentary bottles of wine or soda (their choice) and disburse (Kavanaugh, 2002. p. 9).

10. The prominent artists, who are local, are invited to a Museum Board meeting. They are reassured by the Board members, who planned the exhibition, that it was advertised as a national show, which meant that artists from all states could enter the competition. They were reminded the pieces were juried anonymously, so the judges and jurors had no idea that the winner was from another state, or indeed, even if the artist was female or male. (Kavanaugh, 1990, p. 56).

The Board members also point out that though the artist may never have won a competition in the past, her work has been steadily maturing over the years and it is obvious that her new pieces are remarkably well-done and could be considered the work of a now mature and accomplished artist. The artists are encouraged to enter their own works in the next competition so that they might have an opportunity to win it the following year. They quote Barry Scherr, saying “It is one thing to raise issues of quality or taste; it is another to make unsubstantiated or erroneous statements on those associated with a given project” (Scherr, 2007, para 3).

11. The director is receiving death threats on his home answering machine, so he changes his telephone number and sends the wife and children off to visit the grandparents for a month, until the storm blows over. The director stays with a friend for awhile and alerts the police and FBI, gives them the tape of threats. They agreed that a bodyguard and 24-hour watch over the house was in order. After a few days the police apprehend two teenagers who are “wanna-be” artists, skulking around the house with cans of gasoline and matches and find that they had also been making crank calls, capitalizing on the publicity that the exhibition brought (Lord, 2000).

As a result of these crisis-breaking maneuvers, the Director is able to keep his job and the museum becomes famous as an example of an (Edson, 1996).

List of References

Ackley, Joseph, November 7, 2007, , the Opinion.

Alexander, Edward P. 1979, Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

Cato, Paisley S., Golden, Julia and McLaren, Suzanne B.. 2003, Museum Wise: Workplace Words Defined. Washington, DC: Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Edson, Gary and Dean, David (eds.), 1996, the Handbook for Museums. London: Routledge.

Goode, George Browne, 1895, the Principles of Museum Administration. New York: Coultas and Volans.

Horn, Adrienne, 2007, Executive Coaching, Museum Management Consultants, Inc. website:

Kavanaugh, Gaynor. History Curatorship. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1990.

Kavanaugh, Gaynor. Museum Provision and Professionalism. London: Routledge, 2002.

Lord, Gail Dexter and Barry Lord. The Manual of Museum Management. London: The Stationery Office, 2000.

Scherr, Barry, 2007, Outside Museum Walls, the Opinion.

Veverka, John, 2007, Interpretive Planning & Interpretive Training, World Wide.