Revolution at the Museum

By 2015, supermanagers at the helm

Alexandra Korey
July 3, 2014

Cristina Acidini, the current director of Florentine state museums, will soon have to give up the direction of the Uffizi, Accademia and Bargello. The announcement came on July 17, 2014, as part of an Italy-wide reorganization of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Mibact).

 

 

This is one of the first concrete decisions made by the ministry after new legislation passed earlier this summer for the promotion of tourism and culture. In part, the decisions respond to a spending review in progress since 2012 that calls for cuts in ministries through structural reconsideration. The change is being called nothing short of a “revolution” by culture minister Dario Franceschini, who has signed off on the reform with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at his side.

 

 

In the new reform, the 20 most important museums (including the archaeological area of Pompeii, the Colosseum and Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence, Brera in Milan and the Accademia in Venice) will have separate directorships managed by what is being called “super managers,” museum professionals chosen by public tender, possibly even open to international applications. Franceschini assures the public that these figures, while they may come from outside politics, will hail from appropriate backgrounds and not be pure business people.

 

 

The clearly laid-out points being addressed by Franceschini’s reform recognise the major problems in the state museums: a conceptual lack of integration between culture and tourism, too many levels of management, slowness due to operative cuts, a lack of autonomy, and slowness in innovation.

 

 

The goal of the reform is to detach the management of culture from politics and bureaucracy, and to create an integrated vision of culture and tourism. The new super managers at strategically large museums throughout the country will have the power to make large, practical changes, including canceling the contract of suppliers and changing ticket prices. They will have permission to increase revenue through marketing, such as using the gallery’s treasures to create merchandising. Middle management will be cut and the new directorship will be subject to review by a panel of experts.

 

 

The target is not only the 20 major museums: the entire structure of state museums is set to change in a way that will affect the hundreds of smaller museums that characterize the country. Regional “poli museali” (superintendencies) will be created to favour exchange and collaboration. Two new transversal management positions will address contemporary art and architecture, and research, study and education, while 37 other managerial positions will be cut.

 

 

Another change in Florence and Rome, one that has been positively received, is the creation of two “Poli Bibliotecari,” library conglomerates, in which the two cities’ national libraries will share scientific and technological resources with other libraries in the same city, resulting in a better distribution of funds and services.

 

 

The reform is explained as such by Franceschini:

 

“We have a tremendous gold mine in our cultural, archaeological and landscape heritage, but also in our store of talent and professional skills that revolve around the tourism and cultural sector, resources that can help our country’s economy grow and create a clear vocation for our country… This reform can help us transform globalization into opportunity, because Italy is watched and studied by everyone… everyone abroad can’t understand how it is possible that we’re sitting on a gold mine and we are unable to use it.”

 

 

Acidini, a highly respected scholar, refuses to comment on the matter. There is, however, uproar from the superintendencies across the country: over 100 of them have already signed an open letter to the ministry in protest.

 

 

To judge the impact and correctness of the actions proposed, we will have to see its specific application and wait years for the results to show themselves statistically. One thing is for certain: the current managerial structure of Italy’s cultural system is objectively bogged down, for reasons that go much beyond the management of a single person. Its resolution is extremely complex. If the supermanager truly is able to execute the powers theoretically given by this legislation, their proper application should result in an increased profit for Italy’s cultural institutions, hopefully combined with an improved visitor experience.

 

 

(Sources: Mibact, Ansa, Il Sole 24 ore, Corriere Fiorentino, Corriere di Roma, Il Manifesto)

 

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