The National Bureau of Economic Research organized a project to explore the economic issues facing the major art museums of the United States. For this purpose NBER defined economics broadly to include not only the financial situation of the museums but also the management and growth of museum collections, the museums' relationship with the public, and the role of the government in supporting art museums.
This volume brings together nontechnical essays on these issues by economists associated with the NBER and personal statements by leaders of America's major national art museums and related foundations. It can be read not only by economists but also by museum officials and trustees. Museum directors generally come to their responsibilities with a background in art history and curatorial work but without experience in thinking about the management and public policy aspects of museum administration. Trustees who serve on museum boards generally have a background in business or law but have not previously tried to apply their experience to the unusual economic problems of museums. The background papers, the panelists' remarks, and the summary of the discussion will help them to approach their responsibilities with a better understanding of the problems and possibilities of the museum.