Museums, Missions, and Qualified Board Members

The cash-strapped [U.S.] National Academy sold two paintings to cover its operating expenses. That’s a no-no in the museum world. If they sold a painting every time they ran into difficulty, they’d have no collection left.

More significantly, it’s completely antithetical to their missions. Museums are established to collect paintings (and other valuable objects), document them, store them, conduct research on them, and preserve them for the public and for future generations.

To call attention to this breach of trust, the Association of Art Museums censured the National Academy and the New York legislature is further responding with proposed legislation to make such acts illegal.

But how did the National Academy get into this place? Bad governance—and a focus on issues other than the greater good of the organization. This emphasizes, once again, the crucial role of the board in governing an organization—not only by thinking of the greater good over ideology or personal need, but by taking an active and informed role in the running of the organization.

More seriously, as one former treasurer of the organization reports here, Boards also need to recruit qualified members.

View a New York Times article describing the challenges at


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