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The Ethical Museum: Reflections on Cultural Mission and Civic Responsibility in a Changing Landscape

Oak Room and via Zoom
November 9, 2023
06:00 PM to 07:00 PM
November 9, 2023 | Daniel H. Weiss explores the evolving civic role of the art museum while facing longstanding challenges and an increasingly polarized environment.

The American art museum has experienced sustained levels of growth and increasing popularity across generations, yet it is today at a crossroads, facing unprecedented challenges to its historic mission, cultural identity, and sense of purpose. Notwithstanding recent progress in expanding collections, generating new programs, and serving increasingly diverse audiences, new approaches are required to face longstanding challenges and sustain recent progress in an increasingly polarized environment.

This lecture will explore the context for the current environment and the evolving civic role of the art museum, considering the need to balance historic mission with the expectation for greater transparency and new thinking on such issues as cultural property rights, sustainable funding and problematic donors, diversifying collections and programs, responding to activism and protests, uses of AI and digital platforms, and especially the need for higher levels of public trust. To achieve these objectives the museum must continue to evolve while placing greater emphasis on the ethical components of its civic mission.

Daniel H. WeissDaniel Weiss is Homewood Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University and President Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he served from 2015-2023. Previously Weiss was the 14th President of Haverford College, the 16th President of Lafayette College, and the James B. Knapp Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, where he also served as professor and chair of the History of Art Department.

Weiss has written or edited seven books and numerous articles on the art of the Middle Ages, higher education, the Vietnam War, museums, and other topics. His most recent books include Why the Museum Matters (2022) and In That Time: Michael O’Donnell and the Tragic Era of Vietnam (2019). His work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies at Harvard University, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations, Weiss is Vice Chair of the Board of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Vice Chair of the Library of America, a member of University Council at Yale, and a trustee of the Wallace Foundation and the Posse Foundation.

Daniel Weiss holds a PhD in the History of Art from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

From the cover of Weiss' latest book, "Why the Museum Matters." Credit: Daniel Weiss.