Friday, March 27, 2009

Assumptions about Museums

Over at the Center for the Future of Museums blog, long-held assumptions about what museums are and do are being raised and questioned including:

-- Everything currently in the collections will stay in the collections
-- Everything that fits the collections plan will go into the collections
-- Growth is good, necessary and inevitable
-- Museums as organizations tied to a particular place
-- Museums will always be tax-exempt non-profit organizations

It's a pretty thorough post in terms of laying out what the assumptions are that we need to rethink, but what it doesn't offer is any discussion of what questioning those assumptions will mean in real life to museums and those who work in them.

For example, what will happen to our current collections skills and practices if museums move away from having permanent collections in the traditional sense? What will happen to museum funding if museums move away from the idea of incessant growth? Funders tend to want to pay for increases, be it in participation in programming or number of programming, funders verify the success of what they pay for by numbers that go up. And what will happen to all the museums that are currently accredited if the criteria for accreditation suddenly and radically changes as the entire concept of what a museum is alters?

I'm certainly not against scenario exercises or questioning assumptions, but I'd love to hear some more in-depth thoughts on how the scenario for museums will change as we question these assumptions.

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