Railway Preservation News

When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad
Page 1 of 1

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:19 am ]
Post subject:  When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Today's Washington Post features yet another battle of our current U.S. President versus those that find disagreement with him:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc ... story.html

Synopsis: the Trump White House, in a practice apparently commonly executed in the past by other Presidents, asked to borrow a van Gogh painting for display in the White House living quarters. The curator of the museum asked, a virulent opponent of the current president, replied--and made a political statement itself being declared a "work of art" by some--by offering instead a "used" gold-plated toilet, apparently a real work of art in their inventory. Predictable reactions ensue.

Now, disregard any feelings you may have about the current occupant of the White House, or even the practice of "borrowing" art for the White House. The first thing that popped into my now-shaking head was "That museum just placed a big honkin' target on its tax-exempt status....." And, as a result, that curator's job could (should?) be in jeopardy, no matter how much donations may rise from like-thinking donors.

At some point or another, museums or operations are going to confront such politics whether they like it or not. Examples I remember from real life include:

*Using a museum artifact as a Secret Service-approved vehicle for the President or President-elect;
*The use of a museum facility for a campaign dinner or event;
*The use of a museum or excursion train for campaign/political purposes ("Train to Victory!", etc.)
*The appointment of a politician to a Museum board, if only for symbolic purposes.

As toxicly polarized as the American (and even Western) political environment has become, there will eventually be "clashes" between political perceptions and museum policy. If you are a for-profit railroad, it's solely at the discretion of the operation's executive decision makers. If you re a non-profit claiming tax exemption, however, the decision is tougher.

I can quite easily envision the curator or booking coordinator of a museum or excursion operator personally saying or thinking of, say, a state representative or governor, "You voted against public transit subsidies/Amtrak, and now you want to use our museum dedicated to public transit/railroads?!? Screw you and the luxury limo you want to ride in on!" Or, even worse, "I'm not giving that warmonger/anti-immigrant/tax-and-spend/pro-abortion so-and-so the time of day!" Worse, I can see a volunteer underling unilaterally making such a decision without running it before the museum's board

On the other hand, our politics has become so divisive and toxic of late that perhaps avoiding political participation of any ilk might be wise, lest it gives half your potential audience an excuse to hate you, if only for the most specious of reasons. It's not like you get the opportunity to show your fairness on a nightly basis for years, as Johnny Carson and Jay Leno did.

And we don't get the handy (if dubious) excuse the art museums get of saying "All art is political! Our decision is an artistic statement itself!!"

Have you adopted a way to handle matters political before they come and seek you out?

Author:  PCook [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Sounds all too familiar. I have had people contact me very recently on behalf of preservation organizations asking for my help with a problem, and they merge their request with political comments. I don't have time for people who make that kind of thing an issue in voluntary participation in a hobby, and don't have to put up with it. I politely inform them that I am not interested in their politics and do not care to participate in activities where personal politics matter or are discussed.


Author:  RCD [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Ironically thanks to Trump they might be able to do that.
https://www.google.com/amp/www.nydailyn ... -1.3136449

Author:  Lima Superpower [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Personally, I wouldn't hang a van Gogh in an outhouse!. :) Not my idea of fine art.

Author:  wesp [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

At National Capital Trolley Museum we have hosted fundraisers by elected officials (as paid rentals) and have invited elected officials to special events. We have a former Maryland state delegate on our board. She is very helpful with making contacts in the community.


Author:  Alan Walker [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Our museum hosts events for private groups and public entities. We do participate in public advocacy groups that are directly related to our mission statement of encouraging public transportation in the City of Tucson and the State of Arizona.

That said, we do not take "positions" on issues and if we have an opinion, we do not publically discuss those. We do maintain working relations with local government representatives, which has been very helpful over the years. We regularly participate in local events sponsored by other organizations on request. The City has been particularly helpful in many forms, including donating retired transit coaches for preservation and addressing real estate concerns.

Author:  JDParkes [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Sadly it's just part of the febrile atmosphere from an economic "bloc" of people who're suddenly on the back foot having been, for decades, on an ascendancy without learning the first rule of political thought:

The Pendulum Always Swings, the more you rage and the more ridiculous you look, the less you will find support and the less people will bother listening to you.

And I wouldn't worry about donations suddenly flooding into this museum. It's been shown often enough that pandering to the people who claim to be 'woke' is not in anyone's financial interests. This was shown most recently over in the private enterprise of Marvel Comics, which just canned a slew of comics aimed at pandering to people who never have the dime to 'waste' on such things, with all the buzzwords and political statements to lure them in, just like this curator's statement.

Railroading in the US, as we have discussed and seen elsewhere is not doing all that well politically. It's too fragmented at present and does need to work on it's political lobbying and advocacy. Some have mooted various state-based advocacy groups but they're mired in lack of funding and organisation.

It's one of the few times I would advocate for hedging your bets, if one party approaches you to rent out your space, offer the same deal to the other. At the end of the day, you're an event space.

Gladhanding with local and state politicians and getting them on side seems to be a rather key thing that is sometimes forgotten or avoided by railroads who often have enough internal political issues as is.

Author:  jayrod [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Please don't forget that the IRS has rules when it comes to nonprofits and politics. You may not attempt to influence legislation substantially and you may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates. If someone requests something that could by tied to anything political, better check the rules first. Citing the IRS makes it easier to decline requests as you do not want to take a chance at jeopardizing your status. Best course is to know the rules before politicians invade.

Author:  cood101 [ Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: When Politics Invades Your Museum/Railroad

Political entities will continue to grow in their power. That's just a fact of the world today. Not so much in the power to actually get things done for themselves or others, but I think we can all see the writing on the wall in terms of what polarization/intense backlash/craziness has done in regards to personal motivations. I wouldn't worry about Trump/Obama/<Insert Political Figure Here> would do in repsonse to actions like this,or at least what they as a person can do.

I would focus worry instead on those who find themselves incapable of personal, intelligent thought on such matters. Per the example, it's not Trump that should concern the museum, it's the leauge of affiliated "non-afilliate" people who take everything at one's beck and call, and crusade against what they feel is a personal attack. Those who feel keen on letting it be known that the support/lack thereof of <person> carries the implicit support/non-support of themselves alongside.

Trump will have little to do with what happens next. Instead, it'll be those who feel that the museum is unworthy of consideration of any means due to the museum's positioning. The museum will find itself at the center of a controversy pushed by the people onto it's doorstep, deserving or not. If you can, refer to issues of "Pizzagate","Fake News", and "Russian Interference" to see the possible results of this shift in personal thought, charged by know-it-alls who want nothing more than complicit agreement to their ways of thought.

I hope nobody reading this ever comes into the crosshairs of current political posturing. I guarantee your museum or organization will not weather that storm, not from the leader, but the followers.

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group