Friday, October 09, 2009

Marketing history: more awards for The Beaver

[This post has been updated] The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine won a National Newstand Award for the effectiveness of its February 2008 special issue on Quebec's 400th anniversary. (Wait til you see the Olympics issue this winter)

My column in the current Beaver considers museums -- how the big national ones are all free in Washington and in London, but not in Canada. In the Guardian Online the other day, Ian Jack gloried in London's free museums, and even claimed them as a uniquely British accomplishment. (Forced to admit to the Smithsonian, he got a bit snarky about it: "The shining exception is the Smithsonian in Washington; but don't fall down the stairs into the expensive hands of American medicine.") His copy of The Beaver must not have arrived when he wrote, for Canada doesn't enter into his comparisons.

Jack notes a recent British experiment with fees was regarded as "a catastrophe" and rescinded forthwith. He suggests the origins of the British free-museum policy:
lies most probably in the British Museum's parliamentary foundation in the Enlightenment as a collection freely accessible "to all studious and curious persons … native and foreign born" in an age when other European assemblies of art and antiquities were kept imprisoned by kings and princes for their own pleasure. Many more public museums and 250 years later, the result is that free admission has become entwined with the idea of public ownership. According to Andrew Macdonald, acting director of The Art Fund: "People think, 'How can it be mine, if you're charging me to see it?'"
Take that attitude to your favourite Canadian museum or historic site (federal or provincial) and see how far it gets you!
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