Making Museums Matter / Edition 1

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In this volume of 29 essays, Weil's overarching concern is that museums be able to “earn their keep”—that they make themselves matter—in an environment of potentially shrinking resources. Also included in this collection are reflections on the special qualities of art museums, an investigation into the relationship of current copyright law to the visual arts, a detailed consideration of how the museums and legal system of the United States have coped with the problem of Nazi-era art, and a series of delightfully provocative training exercises for those anticipating entry into the museum field.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An outstanding selection of informed and informative essays about the difference that museums make, their role in preserving and showcasing history and art to the public, cost-related problems plaguing museums today, and a great deal more. Enthusiastically recommended as a most thoughtful and authoritative treatise on these notable and noble institutions."—Midwest Book Review

“Mr. Weil’s work will assist us all to understand that even our most enlightened assumptions require daily visits if they are to be fresh. And, it seems clear to me after experiencing this collection, such visits must not be paid alone, but in groups of colleagues from across every museum stratum.”—Curator:  The Museum Journal

“…Must-read for museum professionals, supporters, and funding sources, and [it] will certainly be relevant to anyone interested in the future of museums.”—Science

In his third book for the Smithsonian Institution, where he is with the Center for Education and Museum Studies, Weil argues that museums are not and should not be mysteries, but rationally organized institutions directed toward articulable purposes. He explains how museums can be examined in their entirety and assessed for their overall quality in a demonstrably objective way. An index, apparently, is not required. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588340009
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2002
  • Series: Museum Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 473,489
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen E. Weil is the emeritus senior scholar in the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Museum Studies. He served as deputy director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, from 1974 to 1995 and was previously administrator of the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is the author of Rethinking the Museum and Other Meditations (1990) and Beauty and the Beasts (1983), both published by Smithsonian Institution Press, as well as coauthor of several scholarly treatises on art and the law.

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Table of Contents

1 Organization-wide Quality: A Theory of Museums and Immodest Proposal 3
2 (F)FeTMu 24
3 From Being about Something to Being for Somebody: The Ongoing Transformation of the American Museum 28
4 Fantasy Islands 53
5 Museums: Can and Do They Make a Difference? 55
6 New Words, Familiar Music: The Museum as Social Enterprise 75
7 Transformed from a Cemetery of Bric-a-brac 81
8 The Distinctive Numerator 93
9 A Parable of Rocks and Reasons 99
10 Romance versus Realism: A Reflection on the Nature of Museums 102
11 Museum Publishing: Some Revolutions in Progress 109
12 If Content Is Out, Aesthetics Must Be In 126
13 The Museum at the End of Time 136
14 Collecting Then, Collecting Today: What's the Difference? 141
15 Twenty-One Ways to Buy Art 151
16 Courtly Ghosts and Aristocratic Artifacts 159
17 Reduced to Art 170
18 John Cotton Dana's New Museum 188
19 The Museum and the Public 195
20 The American Legal Response to the Problem of Holocaust Art 214
21 Fair Use and the Visual Arts: Please Leave Some Room for Robin Hood 239
22 Cloning and Copyright 253
23 Fair Use and Museum Use: How Close Is the Overlap? 263
24 Not Money, Control 270
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 5, 2012


    Coming off of recent museum conferences and in light of today's economy a very interesting read! All museums regardless of location are struggling with decreased funding and unfortunately in many instances a decrease in public attendance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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