In completing the readings for class today I was struck by how often corporations came up in the articles, from Kurin’s explanation of corporate involvement in America’s Smithsonian to Janes description of corpratistic approaches to financing museums. I was especially surprised that the Smithsonian allowed companies like MCI and TWA (RIP) to create their own exhibits within the America’s Smithsonian exhibition and have almost full control over the end result.
Kurin writes that “The bottom line was that the partners were entitled to produce exhibits in return for their $10 million sponsorship” and “even though the Smithsonian technically had veto rights over the exhibits, curators had little influence.” (pg35) He doesn’t seem thrilled about each example of the “corporate brokering” that occurred in the creation of this exhibition but he does use the word “entitled,” implying that the corporations have a right to creative control due to their sponsorship. However, in an earlier chapter, Kurin implies that turning over creative control of an exhibition on Senegalese culture to the office of the Senegalese president would by “an abdication of professional responsibility” (pg12-3). I understand that America’s Smithsonian is a unique case– most corporate sponsors aren’t given free rein to curate exhibitions alongside museum professionals; I also don’t have any experience working directly with corporate sponsors. That said, I am troubled by the idea that corporations were allowed to purchase creative control over parts of an exhibition.
What limitations should be placed on corporate involvement in exhibition planning?
What role should the subjects of an exhibition (such as one on Senegalese culture) be involved in planning an exhibition or event?