Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Tag: forum not temple (page 3 of 8)

State and National Parks in Trouble

Last week, I posted a roundup of great On Point episodes about museums, and last week they had one to add to the list:

National and State Parks at the Crossroads

Ranking Charities by Administrative Costs

Interesting post from the Freakonomics blog about why ranking charities by their administrative costs is a bad idea.

In short: nonprofits should be evaluated by mission, and how they’re fulfilling that mission. Obviously, careful frugality is important, but if you look solely at the numbers for overhead, you’re missing most of the picture. Those of us who are part of that overhead are doing good work, too!

Nonprofits Losting Tax Exemption

Quick post of an article that caught my eye from the recent newsletter from the Center for the Future of Museums:

275,000 Groups Lose Tax Exemptions After Failing to File Paperwork With IRS

The CFM estimates that’s about 1,000 museums. Some of those museums, of course, haven’t existed for years. You can actually see the full list here. (There are at least five or six museums in Massachusetts, for example.) Organizations were given three years to comply with the new regulations, so you can’t really argue that this was a surprise.

For some of the nonprofits that are still active, and didn’t get their paperwork together, this could be a devastating blow. They’ll be allowed to re-apply for charity status, but not all of them will make it.

Is this kind of accountability a good thing? I’m not sure the IRS is going to recoup vast amounts of taxes from this exercise, and you could argue that targeting nonprofits, who don’t always have the resources to hire tax lawyers and accountants, isn’t entirely fair. Especially since big corporations, who are in theory taxed at as much as 35%, often find all sorts of loopholes, and in the end pay less in income tax than anywhere else in the world. In fact, lost of them don’t pay taxes at all.

One of the AAM advocacy points is the argument that museums actually can be economic boosters in their neighborhoods. Cultural centers often are – see this great report from NPR about an arts center in Omaha, Nebraska, that’s bringing $100 million to its neighborhood.

No real conclusions, here, just lots of questions and things to consider – which is exactly what one hopes for from a newsletter about the future of museums.

PS – if you’re not on the mailing list for the CFM, you’re missing out. Go, run, and sign up.

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins IMLS to Launch “Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens”

I’m going to post a recent press release I received from AASLH, and then pose a few questions at the end of it. It’s a really interesting initiative that deserves some good thought.

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins IMLS to Launch Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens

For more information, visit: Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens

May 23, 2011

Houston, TX—Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth announced the launch of Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens. The national initiative will provide opportunities for millions of museum and garden visitors to learn about healthy food choices and will promote physical activity through interactive exhibits and programs.

Mrs. Obama, addressing museum conference attendees in Houston, Texas via video message, said, “Everyday, in museums, public gardens, zoos, and so many other places, you expose our children to new ideas and inspire them to stretch their imaginations. You teach them new skills and new ways of thinking. And you instill a love of learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Every day, you all make such a difference in the lives of our children. And that’s why I’m so excited to work with you on an issue that is so critical to their health and well-being.”

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

“Museums and gardens are well positioned to make a difference. Many of them have core missions that focus on creating healthy environments for children and their families,” said Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS.” They are trusted institutions with deep community connections, knowledgeable staff and the ability to provide immersive interactive experiences that can help children, parents and caregivers to make healthy changes in their lives.”

Developed in coordination with national museum and garden leaders, Let’s Move Museums & Gardens will sign up 2,000 museums and gardens and reach 200 million visitors in the next year. The initiative aims to reach out to and engage twenty million young people in one year in Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens education programs. Activities will include interactive exhibits, afterschool, summer programming and cafeterias that help educate young people on how to make healthy food choices and be physically active. In addition, Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens aims to offer healthier choices in 90% of existing facilities.

Museums and gardens that wish to become a Let’s Move! Museum or a Let’s Move! Garden, are encouraged to visit

The initiative was originally developed though a collaboration among the American Association of Museums, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the American Public Gardens Association, and has now been broadened to include, the Association of African American Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, Association of Science-Technology Centers, American Association for State and Local History, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Center for the Future of Museums.

“The American Public Gardens Association is a natural fit for this initiative because public gardens provide families with indoor and outdoor spaces where they can engage in physical activity, interact with nature, and learn about the important role of plants in a healthy lifestyle,’ said Dan Stark, Executive Director, American Public Gardens Association.” We feel privileged to be a part of this exciting initiative, and hope to inspire a generation of healthy, active, gardeners.

Janet Rice Elman, Executive Director, Association of Children’s Museums noted, “Children’s museums are places where children learn through play and exploration in environments designed just for them. The interactive learning at children’s museums motivates children to try new experiences with their families and reinforces positive behaviors and messages that can lead to lifelong healthy habits. The Association of Children’s Museums is pleased to bring its network of more than 300 museums to this important initiative.”

Ford W. Bell, President, American Association of Museums applauded First Lady Michelle Obama and IMLS Director Susan Hildreth for their leadership on this issue and encouraged museums of all types to learn more and get involved.” Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens is a terrific example of the role that museums can play in addressing societal challenges and devising strategies to shape a better tomorrow.”

Museums and gardens have great collective power to reach children and their families with important health messages. There are more than 17,500 museums in the United States and they reach an estimated 850 million people each year. Museums and gardens that wish to become a Let’s Move! Museum or a Let’s Move! Garden, are encouraged to visit

Click here to visit the IMLS Website for more information and the full Press Release.

So, a few questions:

1) Museums aren’t typically considered places where kids are encouraged to move in a way that would qualify as meaningful exercise. Should this change? The First Lady and the Director of IMLS, Susan Hildreth, both speak quite eloquently about museums as learning spaces and healthy environments, and I think few would argue with that, but how can that learning and healthfulness be applied to this specific problem?

2) There’s a lot of talk lately about museums tackling community issues. Should something like this be part of a museum’s mission? How can, say, an art museum encourage kids to pursue more exercise? Or is this initiative best suited for the “making healthy choices” part of the initiative’s mission?

3) I hate to say this, but – is this simply a way to get museums in on a popular issue? Does it come organically out of their mission, or is tacked on?

(I am ambivalent about all of those points, I hasten to say – I just think we need to keep asking these questions!)

The Newest in Remote Participation: MyFarm

Wimpole Farm, a working farm run by the UK’s National Trust in Cambridgeshire, England, is hoping to capitalize on the internet obsession with FarmVille by opening up its operations to 10,000 internet fans. They’re calling the project MyFarm.

By paying 30 pounds a year, internet users the world over can have access the world over to a wealth of information about the farm, and then, once a month, vote on a crucial decision for the farm. The website hosts discussion boards to help educate its virtual farmers about the issues the farm faces, and encourage active participation among its constituents.

It seems to me to be a very interesting experiment. Some possible concerns have been headed off at the path – on-site expert managers will of course make day to day decisions, and will not let inexperienced virtual users make any decisions that would adversely affect the health of the animals.

Will it work? Virtual farmers, obsessed with FarmVille, may be interested in their pixellated crops for different reasons than have to do with traditional farming. FarmVille offers more-or-less instantaneous gratification, few consequences, and easy growth. Real farms offer pretty much the opposite of that. So this could be a great way to teach people about the actual decisions involved in farming – or it could be a lot of dissatisfaction. As with most things, success may hinge on communication and management of expectations by the Wimpole Farm.

It will be fascinating to watch, either way! If anyone out there decides to sign up as a farmer, let us know so we can talk about it.

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