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?

No comments: