The Origin, Present, and Future of Regional Art Museums — Using the Woodmere Art Museum as a Case Study
Thomas, James M. (James Merle)
Committee memberThomas, James M. (James Merle)
Regional art museums
Woodmere Museum of Art
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/6567
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AbstractThis paper uses the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia as a case study to examine the origins and institutional evolution of American regional art museums, identify some of the challenges they currently face, and the important civic and cultural roles they play in their communities. The chapter “Origins” provides a basic overview of Woodmere’s founding and history and considers how, within an American context, such museums eventually evolved from private galleries to publicly engaged nonprofit organizations over the course of the twentieth century as their missions, stakeholders, and audiences evolved. Like other regional art museums that demonstrate the same model, Woodmere’s regional identity and its focus on local art deepen the ties between itself and the community it serves and creates cultural resonances that make regional art museums an irreplaceable part of the American museum industry. However, small regional art museums face important challenges as their finances are more vulnerable, and they must deal with some of the same social, institutional, and ethical issues faced by larger public-facing institutions with a smaller pool of resources. The chapter “Present Challenges” looks at the need to develop sustainable management and financial structures and inclusive strategies to understand and build on audience relationships as a way to survive and grow. The final chapter of the paper “Imagined Futures” concludes and specifically addresses the challenges and possibilities presented by the pandemic, various social justice movements, and the call for institutions to reckon with their own histories in order to form a clear path for the future of regional art museums.
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