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Columbia Missourian

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

By Tom Warhover
June 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

Chartbeat.com 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 ColumbiaMissourian.com, 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:

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.