Friday, March 23, 2012
Who knew that local governments were in the business of museum acquisitions? Not necessarily a great idea, if Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's experience is any evidence. According to this article, in an effort to boost tourism, a prior mayor planned to open a variety of new museums: Civil War, sports history, African-American history and the Wild West. Apparently, the Civil War museum did become operational; the rest of the museums never got off the drawing board. It isn't all that odd for a city to be involved in a public-private partnership to enhance and grow local cultural institutions, but the description from the article seems to have the government really driving the creation of these museums.
Odder still (or maybe evidence of the fact that this project really was government driven), the City actually started acquiring art and artifacts before the museums were open. According to the article, "[w]hen current Mayor Linda Thompson took office in 2010, she inherited about 8,000 historical artifacts stored in two separate warehouses." At least the City was behaving like many of the start-up nonprofits with which I've worked - lots of good intentions, not a lot of money, even less organization.
Finding itself under severe budget pressure for a variety of reasons, Harrisburg is now auctioning off all this stuff. So if you are an actual museum ... not just a theoretical one... there are deals to be had!