Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring museums, ideas, and conversation

Category: potpourri (page 3 of 6)

Museum Admission Fees

Over the summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art raised its suggested admission donation to $25. The Museum of Modern Art and our own Boston Museum of Fine Arts have followed suit.

The moves have sparked a number of articles both for and against, and this one from the Art Newspaper website is by far the best, offering a good overview of the questions and challenges that surround the question of what a museum should charge for admission.

What do you think? Do some museums charge too much? Should all museums charge more? Should they all be free?

Dealing With Your Cognitive Load

Ed Rodley, of the Museum of Science and the blog Thinking About Exhibits, has had a wonderful series of posts recently about “Dealing With Your Cognitive Load.” In a four-part series, he lays out the ways that information can come to you and how you can deal with it to make the most productive use of your time and mental energy. They’re well worth a read.

Dealing With Your Cognitive Load, Part 1

Replies to Dealing With Your Cognitive Load, Part 2

Dealing With Your Cognitive Load, Part 3

Dealing With Your Cognitive Load, Part 4

What do free muffins and museums have in common?

I ask you, faithful readers: what do you think free muffins and museums have in common?

Your answer: both have an endowment.

At the Empire Grill in Skowhegan, Maine, one customer each day is given a free muffin before noon. Sure, you think – restaurants must comp food all the time. What makes this different?

In 2007, James Sham, a performance artist, was a student at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He recognized that the diner was a community space where art students and locals were interacting, bringing together two seemingly disparate groups. He also recognized the power of an unexpected generous gesture, even a small one. So he led a fundraising campaign that eventually reached its goal of $9,000. Deposited in a savings account, that money earns $0.8 in interest each day – enough for one free muffin. He built a muffin endowment.

Most museums have endowments. Most are trying constantly to build them. Those funds are what keep the water flowing and the lights turned on. They have restricted funds for acquisitions, for education, for curatorial chairs. Some endowments are worth millions and millions of dollars.

James Sham was able to take a small, remote community, bring them together, raise the relatively tiny amount of $9,000, and he created something unique and special. Imagine what a museum could do along those lines. Could they endow one free admission each day, and celebrate the free attendee with fanfare? Could they surprise one child with a free toy from the gift shop? Could they give a free cup of coffee to their first five visitors each day?

These are objectively small things, but if they’re done right, then subjectively they can mean the world. I for one would always remember a place that placed a muffin on my plate and told me it was free, thanks to a community’s desire to make my day a little bit brighter.

The Empire Grill’s unique endowment was featured in Yankee Magazine‘s March/April 2010 issue. Sadly, the restaurant closed shortly after the magazine went to press.

The Missing Piece Documentary

August 21, 2011 is the 100 year anniversary of the famous theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris. The painting disappeared for two years, stolen by Italian artist Vincenzo Peruggia.

Joe Medeiros is a comedic writer who has been obsessed with the theft for most of his life, and to commemorate the anniversary, he’s produced a documentary trying to examine the real reasons that Peruggia took the Mona Lisa, and what he did with it during those two years.

Check out the trailer, and then check out the documentary’s website for more information. We’ll be publishing an interview with Joe in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that.

Satire and the Museum

The always-interesting blog Asking Audiences, which is the voice of Slover-Linett Strategies, has a good response to the recent Onion article that cleverly (and painfully!) characterizes art museums as “art jails.”

The Onion’s art museum joke is worth taking seriously

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