This situation has been circulating through the US muse-community news for a couple months now; for those of you unfamiliar, a local museum is looking to auction off some highly prized artworks to fund renovations, programming, and endowment for the institution.
There has been a lot of backfire from cultural professionals both within this site's hometown and through the US at large. The way I see it, the debate has boiled down to a very simple question: Which is more important - preserving the past, or engaging in the present? Both are integral to a museum's mission and purpose - without art/artifacts from the past, there is no material to engage people with at present, but to what degree does one outway the other?
For the Berkshire, they seem to be valuing their community's needs and driving larger engagement within their audiences. The nay-sayers to the sale are valuing the preservation of the art in their original home as the utmost priority. Now there are certain codes and regularities that are expected of museums so I am by no means surprised that this attempt to auction has caused an uproar. It is also no surprise that a smaller local museum feels it's only option of gaining financial resources to serve its community is to auction pieces of its collection.
It's been interesting watching this drama unfold, and I am curious how it will turn out. Are you pro-auction or pro-preservation?
“These are the works that were – a lot of them given to the museum in its founding,” Diehl says. “These are essential to the history of Pittsfield and the Berkshires. And the idea is that museums are in charge of taking care of these works. That’s what curator means – someone who takes care of the works. They were given by donors to be there for the enjoyment and the education of the people. They were not given to fund a new wing or a new program.”