Funding Culture: Museum Sponsorship in the Climate Crisis (in progress)
From anti-Sackler activism in museums around the world to creative interventions against oil sponsorship of European cultural institutions, corporate funding of culture is under more scrutiny than ever. While it’s easy to dismiss the tensions of cultural sponsorship as an inevitable byproduct of the colonial, neoliberal, and hegemonic apparatus that is the contemporary, capital “M” Museum, current funding structures in museums and heritage remain at odds with the critical, decolonial, and climate-informed directions in which museology has been moving. Combining findings from my doctoral work on oil-sponsored museums in Canada with my latest research on fundraising in the museum profession and interventions into the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) partnerships with the mining industry, Funding Culture makes a case for the theoretical and professional consideration of cultural funding as a fundamental practice of museum work. This book first counters reactionary responses from media and institutions to the rise of museum protests by situating museums within a rich history of concern for social welfare and anti-sponsor activism. Subsequent chapters illustrate the stakes of cultural sponsorship from the extractive sector by summarizing controversial cases like the Glenbow Museum’s Shell-sponsored The Spirit Sings (1988) exhibition and a recent, activist-led counter-tour of the ROM’s Teck-sponsored earth sciences gallery. The book concludes by highlighting recent findings from surveys and interviews with professionals working in museum finance and fundraising, looking ahead to potential policy-based solutions and future research areas for advancing a comprehensively equitable museum and heritage sector.