Monday, March 10, 2008

This is why we have public institutions

The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is now hosting the big Darwin and Evolution exhibition that has been a hit wherever it has played. One hears everywhere it's a superb example of what museums do -- great artifacts thoughtfully and artfully designed, much to see and think about, a huge historical subject made tangible.

The ROM's exhibit is going ahead without any corporate sponsorship. As a rule, the ROM would not open a diaper station without thirteen sponsors' logos all over it. But it could not find a single corporation willing to associate itself with... with evolution.

This is why we need public institutions that can make public choices. In an era when so little happens without corporate sponsorship, consider how much our world has already been dulled down and homogenized. Fortunately, some public institutions can still scrape together enough pennies to do the right thing once in a while.

If you have not already made the connection yourself, this is also why Ottawa should keep its fingers off the content of films to which it gives tax subsidies. If museums had to ask the politicians for permission for every new exhibit, we would never have seen the Darwin at the ROM. If museums, films, art, etc., are worth having, they are worth having without the strings.

Side note: from time to time this blog used to note good coverage of museums and museums policy in the Globe & Mail -- and the byline would always be Val Ross's, the late Val Ross's. Good to see Kate Taylor picking up that beat.
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