Today’s New York Times reports that a spanking new museum, Go Fish, is reaping criticism. Some residents think that the 14 million dollar institution in Georgia is a boondoogle; an out-of-scale extravagance for a poor state during a recession. Others defend the museum, explaining that it was built to lure tourism and lucrative fishing competitions (which had previously ignored Georgia)… and it is working.
This new museum reveals some of the underbelly tensions in the museum world. Many museum directors spend time trying to convince state purse-string holders that their institutions significantly contribute to luring tourism dollars. Aquariums, like sports arenas, have long been considered economic assets, and some cities have built them for the express purpose of drawing visitors to the area. So is Go Fish any different? Would people be complaining if it was a sports arena?
But perhaps Go Fish does cross that shifting line in the sand of inappropriateness. Maybe it is more like the Creation Museum, founded on ideology rather than a collection or an educational mission. Would it make a difference if this museum emerged from a fish-related collection? Or if it was dedicated to exploring environmental issues in Georgia’s waterways? Here’s one more test: would you work there if offered a job?