Last month, at the When Critics Speak panel for Nuit Blanche, I got on a bit of a jag, as I so often do, about economic barriers to gallery and museum access in Canada.
But I also appreciated the response of audience member Kim Simon, well-respected curator at Gallery TPW, who shouted out that many of the major museums and galleries are hard up for cash, which is why they have to charge what I consider to be such high admission fees.
In discussing the matter with Kim, I came to the conclusion that both things may be true, that:
(a) Many major public galleries and museums in Canada have implemented significant (sometimes internationally unusual) economic barriers to public access in the form of high admission fees and eliminated free hours
(b) Many major public galleries and museums in Canada genuinely feel strapped for cash
I haven't any solutions to this conundrum, but to me the fact remains that it is in the mandate of many public galleries and museums to provide public access to their permanent (ie. public-owned) collections, and that they need to figure out how to restore levels of access to international norms—no matter how strapped they may be feeling.
In continuation of the discussion on this theme, I have a small charticle out in the current November/December issue of This Magazine. It's called "Admission Impossible" and lists data to the effect that Canada's museums are among the most expensive, least accessible in the world.
Since writing the piece, I've become more aware of some more nuanced barriers to public access in cultural institutions--things like daytime-centric hours of operation and codes of behaviour--that are explored at length by more expert sources like Nina K. Simon and Simon Brault.
However, I do believe economic access is still at a substandard level in Canada's major museums and galleries, a fact that is particularly surprising given admission fees only tend to make up a small (5-15%) portion of museum revenues.
What other things do you think are true about museum management in Canada? Both for good and for bad? Feel free to post. Also feel free to read the rest of the This article here.
(Image from This Magazine)
Monday, November 15, 2010
Posted by Leah Sandals at 2:50 PM