TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  "Transparency"
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  02-12-2001 on 09:39 a.m.
Mr. Koos -

It may not be entirely appropriate to welcome a salon host, but as one of those who has been hanging out here for some time now, I do so.

It is very important for there to be dialogue between people who live in distinctive worlds that touch and affect each other and we collectors welcome a chance to talk directly to another museum professional.

Things have been quiet so far and that may be largely due to the fact that well over 100 messages have been fired at this board recently about these issues and many of us may be fearful of redundancy. Perhaps if we had been given, say, six month in which to "reload," things might have been more brisk.

But your nice opening essay, tripped a couple of thoughts for me that I'll venture here.

First, I quite like your term "transparency" and your thought that, as institutions oriented toward publics, museums have a responsibility to make their objectives, decisonmaking processes, etc. as "transparent" as possible to these publics.

It is in fact a frequent source of complaint among collectors that the decison making processes of museums are not only "opaque" rather than "transparent," but that the "logics" in terms of which museum decisions are made are often (to say it as gently as I can manage) not readily detectible. "Utterly inexplicable" is the expression of more use resort.

There are no doubt lots of occasions on which museum staff and managment need to be quite discrete but I agree with what I take to be your suggestion that museums should actively strive to make their workings "transparent."

Is it your sense that this notion is "catching on" and that many museums are explicitly adopting it and self-consciously examining and revising their practices in terms of this objective? I cannot say personally that I have seen any signs of it.

Even the museum committees I know of that are explicitly labelled "advisory" are not used in this way. On rare occasion they are asked to "ratify" some decision already made but more usually are used merely as a conduit for conveying "faits accomplis" to the museum's publics, often without any associated reasoning.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:"Transparency"
Author  :  Greg Koos mailto:%20gregkoos@gte.net
Date  :  02-13-2001 on 07:21 p.m.
Dear Mr. Howe,
Thank you for replying to my essay. First, I must credit Stephen Weil for the development of the concept of "transparency." When Weil issued this challenge to museums he was asking us to take to heart the criticisms which you have raised. In essence museums which hope to survive and thrive must connect to the various communities of interest with which a museum is involved. We must also be quite above board about the nature of our relationships. Inability to do so leads to conflicts which were typified in the "Sensations" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Here the issue of greatest concern was not the content of the art but the factor that the show could be viewed as a pricing/market effort on the part of the person who loaned the pieces to the museum and also "sponsored" the exhibit. The fact that these pieces were in essence on the market placed the museum in the position of hawking the wares of a private collector and dealer. This relationship was properly exposed by Mayor Giullini. This relationship was far more scandalous than the art.

Your experience with advisory committees is sad. At our museum we make a real effort to bring the committees in to the heart of our planning and discussions. For instance a recent manufacturing exhibit planning committee contained people from both labor and management. Various disagreements voiced during the planning sessions actually were incorporated into the exhibit. In this way the museum's work was transparent to various interest group constituencies. The museum which you tried to serve lost ground with you. That is a loss on their part.

Greg Koos

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