The Rise of the University Museum

Shilling-Janoff-bannerAlana Shilling-Janoff at Boston Review:

But melancholy jeremiads about the decay of prominent art museums and the evils of trading ideals for profit are tiresome. There is, moreover, hope elsewhere. Another kind of museum offers the public what commercialized counterparts might—and often more cheaply and effectively. Ironically these museums are sheltered under the aegis of institutions perceived as so exclusionary that they are collectively labeled the “ivory tower,” a synecdoche that suggests an improbable wedding of spun-sugar fantasy and contemptuous anti-intellectualism.

Counter-intuitively, university art museums are proving capable of realizing the ideals that other art museums espouse in facile mission statements polished to a gleam by publicists—primarily a “commitment” to serve as cultural resources for the public and to make art education accessible. Though university museums employ their own public relations corps, their fundamental concern with education makes their ambitious missions less rhetorical, more a matter of praxis. In a certain sense, university museums are in business as surely as are their public counterparts. However, by virtue of their academic affiliations, theirs is a commerce of the mind, of making art available and comprehensible.

more here.