‘Non-museums’ giving bona-fide museums a bad name; Singapore National Heritage Board to step in?

According to the International Council of Museums, a museum is “is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment” (click here).

The key points are that museums are: 1) non-profit; 2) institutions that have collections of objects that they display, study, conserve…etc.

So it is with great disappointment that I read that ‘Trickeye Museum’ will soon open on Sentosa. This is “an art gallery filled with 2D paintings that give the illusion of being three dimensional”. No, not that I am disappointed that another attraction is opening to cash in on S’pore’s tourist-onslaught, but that it has decided to call itself a ‘museum’. Using ICOM’s definition of a museum, ‘Trickeye Museum’ does not qualify because it is for profit, and that the objects are hardly the stuff of academic scrutiny. If ‘Trickeye Museum’ can call itself a museum, any shop that sells ‘stuff’ can too.

So I urge National Heritage Board to consider monitoring who in Singapore can (or cannot) be allowed to register a ‘business’ with the term ‘museum’ in it. This has already been done in other aspects of naming-conventions, as companies here are restricted in the use of ‘Singapore’ in their names (by Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority). Just like how there are now many ‘Ministry of Food’, Ministry of Sounds’ etc, the flagrant use of ‘museums’ for underserving businesses may dilute the integrity and dignity of bonafide museums.   



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3 responses to “‘Non-museums’ giving bona-fide museums a bad name; Singapore National Heritage Board to step in?

  1. Trickeye Museum

    Hello. This is Trickeye Museum from South Korea.
    We would like to send you an email.
    Could you provide us your email address, please?
    Thank you.

  2. Trickeye Museum

    Hello. This is Kang Hyung Goo, the Chief-Director of Trickeye Museum from South Korea and I am also a member of the Korean Museum Association.

    Regarding the article “Non-museums; giving bona-fide museums a bad name; Singapore National
    Heritage Board to step in?” posted on your blog on 4 January; I would like to express my perspectives on the matter concerned.

    Firstly, you have stated ICOM’s definition of a museum in your article; actually the Korean Museum Association that I belong to is an affiliate member of ICOM. For your information, ICOM Korea is a national committee of ICOM and Korean Museum Association is a Corporation Aggregate of ICOM Korea. In addition, I would like to share another definition of museum with you as well. According to AAM (American Alliance of Museums)’s definition, “Museums are wonderfully diverse. They are operated by non-profits and for-profits, colleges, universities and every level of government”.

    Secondly, I think it will be good for you to rethink about the precise meaning of “Non-profit”. According to Dr. Eugene Dillenburg, a Professor of Museum Studies and Scholar of Michigan State University, “For various legal reasons, museum professional organizations only admit non-profit members. But the real world doesn’t care. There is no reason why a market enterprise can’t perform the functions of a museum as well as, if not better than, a state bureaucracy or a cash-strapped 501(c)(3). Besides, any definition of “museum” that excludes for-profit entitles such as the City Museum, the Spy Museum, or the magnificent SPAM Museum is simply not to be taken seriously. “

    The statement above implies that we need to take the Real World into consideration. Most of the museums are receiving admission fees nowadays. Like other museums, Trickeye Museum also uses the income generated from ticket sales to preserve and renew our artworks regularly and invest in various art education programs etc. Therefore, I am afraid that simply using “Non-profit” or “Profit” is not a proper way to differentiate “Museums” and “Non-Museums”.

    Thank you raising your concerns.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Kang Hyung Goo
    Chief Director of Trickeye Museum

    American Alliance of Museums.http://www.aam-us.org/about-museums.

    DillenburgEugene.“What, if Anything, Is a Museum?” http://name-aam.org/uploads/downloadables/EXH.spg_11/5%20EXH_spg11_What,%20if%20Anything,%20Is%20a%20Museum__Dillenburg.pdf

  3. Hi Mr Kang, I used ICOM’s definition of a museum because ICOM is the highest body for museums worldwide. OK, even if we do not define museums based on whether they are ‘for profit’ or ‘non-profit’, what makes your ‘museum’ a museum? One important question: “Are the artists for the artworks in your museum named?’. All ‘art museums’ ensure that their artworks are attributed to the artists; do you name the artist for each of your displayed artwork?. Like other art museums, besides info on each artwork’s artist, do your ‘curators’ write information about each artwork, so that your visitors can learn more about each display? If your answers are ‘no’ – and together with the fact that you are ‘for profit’ – I don’t understand why you are a ‘museum’ and not a ‘gallery’, or even a just an ‘attraction’?? Madame Tussaud’s is world-famous for displaying wax figures; they don’t call themselves a ‘museum’ do they? Mr Kang, I have no problem with your new attraction in Singapore; I wish your business well as I am sure visitors would love your displays. I am only concerned about the loose way the term ‘museum’ is used in Singapore (there is even a shop selling biscuits called the Cookie Museum), and I hope the authorities here may considering regulating its usage.

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