American Association of Museums President/CEO Dr. Ford Bell Details How ‘Museums Matter’ at San Diego Cultural Arts Leadership Symposium
SAN DIEGO. Feb. 26, 2009 — Dr. Ford Bell, president and CEO of the American Association of Museums, addressed more than 200 museums and nonprofit professionals on February 13 at the second annual Robert F. Smith, Jr. Cultural Arts Leadership Symposium, a program presented by the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership (BPCP), a collaborative of 24 San Diego cultural institutions.
Dr. Bell’s timely message, “Museums Matter — The Opportunities and Challenges of Cultural Institutions in the 21st Century,” was poignant in a time of budget woes and stimulus packages — that museums are an essential part of successful communities.
Dr. Bell stressed that museums are widely recognized as cultural education institutions, when in fact they are economic engines. Museums generate more than $14.5 billion in economic activity across the country; employ more than 500,000 Americans; and the 850 million museum visits in the United States every year are more than professional sporting events and theme parks combined.
“There is more evidence that museums are economic engines for communities,” said Bell. “Cities seeking to lure new business regularly include museums among the highlights of their communities, contributing civic atmosphere and overall quality of life, and all of us (here) can testify that museums are sources of civic pride, helping make citizens proud to be Atlantans, Minneapolitans or San Diegans.
“That civic pride is a major factor in the bond between museums and the public, and it is that bond, as much as anything, that will ensure that museums survive this economic downturn, and thrive when it passes. I think that museums boast one thing that is increasingly rare in modern society, and that is authenticity. We collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts and objects and specimens which are the real thing ─ increasingly hard to find in the first decade of the 21st century.”