Meltdown at the Museums Association?

September 22 2013

Image of Meltdown at the Museums Association?

Picture: Museums Association (detail from the MA's '2020' vision document)

The Grumpy Art Historian, who is no fan of the Museums Association, highlights yet another disastrous blog post by the MA's Head of Policy and Communications, Maurice Davies. Following his post on 'Stupid Curators', discussed here on AHN, Davies sought to extricate himself from allegations that he was yet again dissing the profession he is paid to represent. But it seems, from the comments (most of which are from MA members) that he has only made matters worse. Here's the choicest of them:

It seems you are becoming the Quentin Letts of the museum world. You seem to take glee in writing comment that you know will explode the sector. And then you relish your second helping of glee as the negative responses come in. And you can do that as you have power in the organisation that pays you. You are safe. Most of those responding are not and are scared of losing jobs, status or both. Until you come out from your protected place please stop looking down on everyone else as little stupid people (or curators). [...] I am only sorry that the MA thinks it suitable to have someone as influential and senior in the organisation kicking others in the sector on a regular basis, instead of supporting or helping them. 

Another zinger;

This same rubbish is also reflected in how the MA has behaved recently. For example, purposely writing out curatorial and preservation impacts from “Museums 2020” (as stated by Mark Taylor) and airbrushing the benefits of curators out of “Collections for the Future” and only valuing collections that are used (to only mention a couple of examples)! This is where the problems are. Great museums need good curators and it is about time the MA realised this and did something to reverse the damaging trend of decreasing curator numbers rather than “cheap sensationalism”. Best practice models, advocacy and the accreditation scheme should all include and make clear the vital need museums have for curatorial skills. However we have nothing on this from the MA. Why? 

The MA really needs to get back to being a body which sticks up for the museum sector in its relations with central and local government. At a time of cuts, this is more important than ever. All this daft agitating for change within museums, be it exhibition policy or the need for curators to think about integrating human rights in their displays, needs to stop. If people in government know the MA has a fractious membership, and doesn't command the respect of the whole sector, then they won't listen to it as much as they should. Possibly there is a conflict here between some of those who work part-time for the MA and also for their own Museum Consultancy, which offers, for example:

Organisational development and change. Our focus is on achieving organisational change through helping you rethink what you do and why, staff development and nurturing better working relationships.

Policy development. We have been at the forefront of shaping policy in the museum sector over the last decade and can offer insight into sector developments, advice on influencing funders and decision-makers and help your museum think creatively about its future role.

Rethinking collections. We have developed some of the most influential recent initiatives relating to museum collections and can help you to use your collections in new ways, as well as helping with practical tasks such as collections reviews.

See earlier AHN for more MA daftness here and here

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