The University of Iowa

In the news: Symposium explores past, present, and future of art and cultural institutions

February 5th, 2020
Joyce Tsai

Joyce Tsai (Photo: Mei-Ling Shaw)

Joyce Tsai and Jennifer Buckley, Guest opinion, The Press Citizen

A 2018 study showed that in a moment when public distrust and concern about fake news abounds, museums remain one of the few institutions that we overwhelmingly trust.

There are more museums in this country than Starbucks locations, and their economic impact is immense: the sector contributes around $50 million a year to the US economy. These figures may surprise many readers, who are accustomed to thinking of ours as a digital era. Digital media are indeed everywhere, but perhaps precisely for that reason, people are increasingly drawn to galleries, libraries, archives, and museums —institutions collectively described as the GLAM sector. These spaces house artworks, artifacts, books, and other objects but they are not merely repositories. Collections managers ensure that materials are preserved appropriately. Curators share their expertise on the objects in their care through the exhibitions they mount, but they also draw deeply from the experience of our knowledgeable public. Dedicated educators find ways of activating artworks and artifacts for learners across multiple generations. These professionals frame opportunities for the public to learn from these holdings in different ways, at times in quiet contemplation or through unexpected conversation.