DEAR READER: Museums may turn out to be the story of the summer

Saturday, June 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:20 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dear Reader, shows readers' interest in MU’s planned move of two museums off its main campus.


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At 2:45 p.m. Friday, according to the service that monitors readership of, 12 people were reading the article about opposition to the exile of the Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Art and Archeology. All day, even in those non-peak hours like mid-afternoon, the readership stayed steady and at the top of the list displayed on the newsroom wall.

According to the article, many faculty members at the MU Faculty Council meeting weren’t enamored with the plan to move these centers of culture to  “Mizzou North,” – aka the old Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. It’s 2 miles off campus, which to some students is approximately 2 million miles off their radar. (Idea: House the museums in the downtown bars?)

The controversy may prove to be the “hits” of the summer. Or “page views,” in more acceptable Web analytic language.

The background: On May 23, the MU News Bureau put out a release describing major building closures and repairs over the next two years. Pickard and Swallow halls, which house the museums, and Jesse Hall, the campus administration building, will be shuttered. The main reason given: It will be millions of dollars cheaper to renovate by doing a whole building at a time rather than piecemeal.

In other words, the story put out by the MU administration was framed in economic terms.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A constant battle over the past decade at the city’s largest employer is how to do more with less funding from the state. 

But beware a faculty that feels blindsided.

That theme was at least as large as any bricks-and-mortar questions at the meeting, according to some faculty members.

Other frames might let in more space for discussion. I get the sense that the Faculty Council intends to create them, regardless.

Some of the questions that might be asked and answered:

  • Who should the museums consider as their main audience? I could see an argument made that the parking and accessibility of the former hospital on Business Loop 70 could be great arguments for school kids on buses, for instance, but not so much for undergraduate attendance.
  • What would the university community give up to keep the museums on campus?
  • Who has a stake in the museums’ futures? In a weird way, the reaction to the announcement suggests a loyalty to these places that extends beyond their departments and even beyond MU.

The biggest barrier to understanding may start with trust.

In the article, reporter Brendan Gibbons described the scene after the meeting officially closed. Faculty Council members, he said, “could be heard comparing this decision to last year’s to close the University of Missouri Press.” 

If you recall, that also was a story that began with money, as in saving it by closing the press. The outrage that followed forced UM System President Tim Wolfe to back down.

It remains to be seen whether those apples compare to the current issue. But there’s certainly skepticism when the MU administration says the museums will be moved “for the foreseeable future.”  Does that mean two years? Forever?

Gibbons will be asking these questions and more over the summer. What questions do you have?

How much to share and when is a question for all companies, public or private. So is setting the borders for collaboration.  The controversy ensuing from this decision will make for lively reading by a lot of people in town.

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Ellis Smith June 8, 2013 | 7:22 a.m.

Over the past 143 years (since 1870) there has been a small but persistent group of alumni postulating that the collection of university buildings found immediately south of downtown Columbia is - taken in its entirety - one large museum.

That observation, although most assuredly incorrect, may not actually refer to the BUILDINGS; it could refer to perceived attitides of those who occupy those buildings.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 8, 2013 | 7:36 a.m.

Museums may be the story of the summer?

Well....I guess many folks DO need a cause celebre for justification of existence.

I'd recommend not taking that approach. It's a good bet the rest of the state will simply view such a hissy fit as another in a long line of Columbia hissy fits that make us look silly, and that won't play well with taxpayers or a legislature that appropriates money.

What's odd about all this is that the folks who will not tolerate bottom-up management of police departments are fine with bottom-up management for universities. 'Tis true that UMC is administration top-heavy and could use some rather severe pruning, but is the tail wagging the dog here?

I'm guessing the rest of the state will say....yes.

Columbia can be an island only if it does not need imported money and support. Good luck with that.

Mom always said, "Pick your battles."

I say, "Sheesh, if you're bored, go canoeing or sumpin'."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 8, 2013 | 8:10 a.m.

Who should the museums consider as their main audience? Who has a stake in the museums’ futures?

Good questions. Very good questions.

Hopefully the "who" includes me. But if UMC considers itself a reclusive bastion, then maybe not.

PS: I'm a whole lot more likely to visit with (as Warhover says) better parking and accessibility. Personally, it's been at least a decade since I've visited either one, mainly because of the hassle of getting there.

(Report Comment)

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