Traditionally museums are defined as “not for profit”, which gives them an increasingly different status from the other competitors designated as “market players”.
This lack of “corporate nature” associated with “type of merchandise” they “sell” (or promote) such as collections (rarely subject to valuation and trading under the “law of supply and demand”) and the responsibilities’ towards their own social purposes (aimed more at promoting the basic civic values than making the “shareholder body” richer). This leads museums, even the private but specially the public ones, to sense levels of discomfort when adopting methods and management goals according to the market.
But is the world changing? Is the definition of museum to be changed in their basic fundamentals? Will its functions and professional staff performance be measured for market intervention, by the profitability of collections, creation of capital gains, capturing customers, revenue generation and the distribution of dividends, or, rather than by permanent and not for profit organization providing inter-generational contact, at the service of society and aiming for individual development and promoting citizenship?
Moreover, whatever the forecast of the future and whatever the ideological framework of the present, does that place exists in museums today? Either public or private is there a place for private entrepreneurship? Is there a room for philanthropy and for government subsidization?
How can we define fields of action and setup ethical, political and economic boundaries, for each one of these potential sources of funding for museums?
Luís Raposo, Portugal
ICOM: COMMERCIAL ENTREPRENEURISM, PHILANTROPY AND GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY IN MUSEUMS
Director of the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia, Lisbon. Professor at the Faculty of Letters, Department of History, University of Lisbon. President of the Portuguese National Committee of ICOM. Member of the Directive Board of ICOM Europe.
Collaborator in the installation of museums and scientific commissar of temporary national and international exhibitions. Director of field archaeological research projects. Professor in academic and professional courses, promoted by public and private entities. Director of post-graduate scholarship studies granted by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. Invited member in academic pos-graduate juries (Master and PhD degrees), in Portugal and abroad. Member of several archaeological and museological associations in Portugal and abroad.
Author of a vast bibliography about Ancient Prehistory subjects, published in scientific magazines and books.