Alison's Writing Portfolio · On Design & Art · On Politics

Controversial Exhibits

Earlier this summer, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ran a story I wrote about the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and how it handled controversy that erupted over an exhibit called Holy Land. (It’s available online here, but a subscription is required to view it–which is why I didn’t post it sooner!)
The question of how arts institutions handle controversy continues to interest me, and yesterday’s Globe and Mail has a story about the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, which is facing criticism from veteran’s groups over one panel in an exhibit dealing with the 1945 firebombing of Dresden. The wall text seemed to question whether the Allies were justified in killing 600,000 during that attack. Veteran’s groups were outraged, the museum’s CEO, a defender of curatorial independence, departed under pressure,  and now the board is trying to come up with wall text that will please the offended. The question is whether the museum’s strategy of appeasement will lead to other groups demanding to edit wall texts?