Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Slavery Museums in the News

The US National Slavery Museum may still be raising funds to complete its building and open to the public, but in the meantime a museum focusing on the history of slavery in the US has opened on a much smaller scale in a former slave market in Charleston, SC. The opening of this museum follows closely on the heels of the late August opening of the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool, UK. Meanwhile, "A Slave Ship Speaks," the traveling exhibition of the Henrietta Marie continues to make the rounds, as it has for over a decade. The museum world certainly has come a long way from the 1994 when "the re-enactment of an 18th-century slave auction at Colonial Williamsburg, developed in response to criticism that interpretive programs there sanitised slavery, brought angry protests from the Virginia NAACP charging that the auction was a sideshow used as entertainment." (source) Today, Colonial Williamsburg does address slavery, though only through its dramatizations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Money for Museums in 2006?

According to a report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy (as reported by Bloomberg), "overall, private support for arts institutions, including libraries, museums and public broadcasting, rose 17.5 percent from 2005 [to 2006] to $2.5 billion." My guess for which arts institution was right up there at the top was wrong; it was Houston's MFA. The report goes on to talk about how overall private support of educational institutions went up only 11.3% to a grand total of $17.6 billion. What I wonder, though, is how many history, natural history and science museums have been benefitting from these increases?

Or, perhaps more importantly to some, where exactly is the money going to within these organizations? Venerable museums such as the Getty and the Smithsonian have had their fair share of media attention in the recent past stemming from the reported executive over-compensation for (and excessive expenses incurred by) Barry Munitz and Lawrence Small. But now, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dan Prives of Where Most Needed has stated that one of the biggest failings of the recent Nonprofit Panel 33 Principles of nonprofit ethics is its refusal to address the issue of executive over-compensation. Mr. Prives feels that this is because the principles were drawn up by executive directors and CEOs.

Indeed, the question of compensation is one that is often at the forefront of the minds of those who work in museums. Whether it is a museum studies student, wondering whether she will be able to earn an actual living in the museum world, or a mid-level professional, reminding herself that she is in the museum world for the love and not the money, compensation is the often the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the exhibit.

The vast majority of museums in this nation are small institutions. I wonder: do they face the same sorts of compensation discrepancies between executive directors and the rest of their staff that seem to be coming to light in some of the largest museums? Is executive over-compensation a real concern for the museum community as a whole, or just for a select--albeit highly visible--few?

Welcome to the All-New OG Blog!

As Orinda Group continues to grow and develop, so does our approach to blogging. The official OG Blog will now be hosted here on blogspot/blogger, with an RSS feed on the main OG Blog page on the Orinda Group website. The main purpose for this change is to encourage dialog; with the old OG Blog, there was no real comment function, so the process was a bit more cumbersome. We also intend to start blogging more frequently... For access to old OG Blog posts, you can visit the OG Blog archive, or for even older posts you can visit the original archive.

For those of you who have not visited the OG Blog or the Orinda Group website, Orinda Group is a museum consulting firm and the OG Blog is where we review exhibitions, ponder recent events in museum news and now we will also be looking at some of the events in the greater worlds of philanthropy and technology--especially as they pertain to museums.

Although the posts will all be written by Orinda Group principals, it should be noted that these are largely opinion pieces and therefore are not necessarily the "official" positions taken by the company as a whole.

Welcome, enjoy and we look forward to your participation in future discussions!

-- Allyson