chapter  2
125 Pages

Glenbow: a case study in urgent adaptation

The following case study of organizational change at Glenbow, despite its preoccupation with pragmatic thought and action, is grounded in a firm belief in a higher purpose for museums. The most useful statement of a museum’s purpose in my view is that presented by Neil Postman.1 He is a professor of communications and a non-museum person, both of which are distinct advantages in his thinking, as he can assume a certain distance from the weight of museum tradition. Postman defines a museum as an answer to the fundamental question – What does it mean to be a human being? There is probably no more elegant statement of purpose than this, but the complexities begin immediately. No museum will ever be able to give a complete answer to this question, nor can they ever be expected to. It is also futile to determine which museums convey the right answers, as they are all correct. To avoid drowning in relativism, where does that leave one with respect to the notion of higher purpose?