Director’s Corner – Charleston

The Anniston Museums and Gardens (AM&G) operates as a Public Trust agency as a part of the City of Anniston, AL. At the heart of a Public Trust is that an organization exists and operates for the benefit of the general public, not for any individual.

We serve as stewards of cultural and natural resources entrusted to us by the donors of collections and funds for expanding knowledge for scholarship and the general public.

This trust serves to assure the public that objects and resources placed in the care of an organization will be properly cared for and used for this highest purpose in perpetuity. I like to think William Werner and Severn Regar would be pleased to know their collections are intact, well cared for, well exhibited and educating the public continuously for 150 years.

Unfortunately, there are examples of museums around the nation that do not take this public trust as seriously as they should. Some museums are starting to look at their collections as sources of funds for operating and capital expenses. This is a serious breach of museum ethics, to monetize a collection. If allowed to continue and expand, this public trust will be shattered, as people will not donate artifacts, artwork, and specimens to museums.  In an effort to solve short-term goals, they are doing long-term damage to their status as an ethical collecting museum.

In response to this disturbing trend, a few colleagues and I formed a panel and presented a session dedicated to Ethical best practices at October’s Southeast Museum Conference (SEMC) annual conference in Charleston, SC. Discussing and sharing common challenges provided attendees with invaluable access to a professional network and solutions for museum operations.

One of my favorite aphorisms is ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ I find it particularly applicable in the work we do here at the Anniston Museums and Gardens. Imagine spending three days with over 800 people who also live this aphorism. It was a great opportunity to network, learn from our peers in the museum field, and offer guidance and support for others who are working to improve their museums.

Every attendee was open, helpful, and eager to meet and connect. The museum profession is filled with people who love to talk. Several times, it became quite deafening in the standing receptions and gathering places.

I was very honored to represent our organization to our peers in the SE region.

Article by: Alan Robison, Executive Director