Rose Museum Revisited

Rose Museum Revisited

Brandeis University has backed off on plans to shut down the Rose Art Museum and sell off the collection. Current plans are to reopen the facility as a “research center” and sell off some of the collection. 

What’s the difference? Museums are bound by ethical codes regarding “deaccessioning” — selling off their holdings –and do so only to to gain funds to purchase additional works. This yields a more balanced or complete collection, depending on museum curatorial needs.

People who donate art to museums do it because they want to share art; if they want to give money they give money. Brandeis thinks closing the museum and re-opening it as a “research center” will enable it to ignore the express or tacit wishes of art donors and their heirs, but lawsuits will soon disabuse them of that notion.

Culturegrrl (Lee Rosenbaum) has posted some choice new quotes on the Rose controversy, chief among them:

 … except for a few teaching art collections, most academic administrators see their museums as elegant parlors in which to entertain guests.

I actually had a university president describe my position as a butler in charge of the university’s living room. In tough times why not sell off the decorations, which is what too many university presidents consider their collections. — Donald Knaub, former director of the Meadows Museum at SMU and the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State.

 … families do not sell the children they can no longer afford to care for—at least, not in this country and not in this century.

… when museums can no longer care for their collections, they too should be put into foster care, not sold.

If the Rose has to be shut down … then its collection should be transferred to another institution—the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard, even the Institute of Contemporary Art—until that time when Brandeis feels capable of supporting it with appropriate professional care. Our sadness would be tempered by the knowledge that the “children” would be loved and well cared for. — David Ross, former director of the Whitney Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Why is Brandeis so broke, anyway? Two words: Bernie Madoff.


More links here. 


Image by Mike Licht (with apologies to Max Weber). Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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One Response to “Rose Museum Revisited”

  1. Richard Dress Says:

    I can’t believe the president would sell off the Rose collections unless he has already taken a major pay cut. I’m sure the rest of the faculty also offered to take pay cuts.

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