One of the pleasures of my job—and there are many—is that I get to visit a lot of museums.
Sometimes I visit as an accreditation reviewer, assessing all parts of a museum’s operations and governance. Other times it’s through the Museum Assessment Program, visiting to help a museum address a very specific area of practice, like their public dimension or collections stewardship. Sometimes it’s to meet with fellow directors or the heads of professional associations to address shared concerns, shape museum standards, or tackle matters of public policy. And sometimes it’s just because I can imagine few better ways to spend a couple of hours in a strange city.
Over the past few months I’ve visited museums for all of the reasons mentioned. Some were smaller museums still struggling with their identity, some world-famous museums with massive collections and financial endowments to match. All struggled with the same problems we face every day.
Here’s the best part—I always come back to our Museum and see it afresh. Seeing other museums helps me better appreciate the unique qualities of the Museum of Art and Archaeology. There are no shortcuts in museums, after all. What makes a museum great isn’t size but a commitment to the highest standards and, even if one is meeting those standards, a constant effort to improve. Our Museum staff does that every day, and it pays dividends. Through Muse our research reaches a global museum audience, and we’re in the midst of a federally-funded project to migrate our collections databases to a new system which will allow anyone, anywhere access to any of the works in our collection at any time. Our educational programs touch the lives not only of mid-Missouri's children, but through research articles on museum education also touches the lives of kids everywhere. Our scholarly programs like the Capitoline Initiative have global reach, addressing worldwide issues of cultural heritage in troubled times when these concerns have become more pressing.
In addition to ongoing tours, lectures, and family programs, over the next few months the Museum will partner with the Smithsonian Institution to present National Museum Day (September 24), and with the Archaeological Institute of America to present International Archaeology Day (October 15). As always, we offer these programs working closely with other entities across campus, including the Textile and Apparel Management Program, the Museum of Anthropology, and many more.
But one familiar face will be absent; Jeff Wilcox, who has been part of the Museum for more than forty years, has retired and will be deeply missed. Linda Endersby (PhD, MIT), will take his place as our new Registrar. Linda comes to us from the Michigan Historical Museum, where she served as director, but her roots here are deep. She previously served as director of the Missouri State Museum in the state capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo., and her family has remained here in Columbia. She’ll be re-establishing her ties with the Missouri Association of Museums and Archives (she’s a former president), and will serve on the national program committee of the American Association of Museums meeting in St. Louis, Mo., in 2017.
Yes, it’s nice to visit some of the world’s greatest museums, like New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s even better when their director already knows of our programs and wishes to emulate them.
I’ll see you at the Museum!
Alex W. Barker