Artistic Director and Chief Curator Beth McLaughlin’s Statement for Under New Management: The Commodification of the Permanent Collection

The heart and soul of collecting institutions are the objects under their care. These venerated items have been carefully selected, preserved, exhibited, and stored—in some cases for centuries, or even millennia. In recent years, institutional collections have made headlines, largely due to deaccessioning practices and representation inequities; while at the same time, museums have come under fire for overly opaque and outmoded operations. As a result, the role of cultural organizations within modern society is undergoing seismic shifts.

As the field thusly evolves, Fuller Craft Museum considers its own collection and the 800+ works in its care. Developed by a team of guest and Fuller Craft Museum curators, the exhibition Under New Management: The Commodification of the Permanent Collection asks audiences to consider multiple lines of inquiry: What makes something precious or collectable? Who gets to assign value or worth? How do perceptions change when these items are presented as museum objects versus household commodities?

By its very nature, craft is integral to our everyday lives as functional objects that sustain us. So, what happens when these items become part of a museum collection, thereby treated as sanctified entities, stripped of practical utility? And what if the artworks are then reframed as retail products with the intent to (conceptually) reactivate their functionality? Unlike traditional museum exhibitions, Under New Management may leave visitors with more questions than answers, and that’s ok. After all, museums and their collections are meant to ignite our curiosity, challenge long-held norms, and stimulate new ways of looking at the world around us.

– Beth McLaughlin, Artistic Director and Chief Curator, Fuller Craft Museum