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AAM Collaborates in U.S. Program Co-opting Museums as Agents of Foreign Policy

Should museums participate in a program that exploits their expertise to promote U.S. government foreign policy objectives?
Jason Kaufman of The Art Newspaper alerts us to a highly disturbing crossing of lines between disinterested scholarship and political agendas:
According to the American Association of Museums’ description of its new Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA) program, it specifically “targets regions and communities that would benefit most from a better connection with, and understanding of, American people and culture.” It was established in partnership with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which has provided funding.
The Request for Proposals suggests specific “project concepts” for five “pre-qualified” foreign museums, along with the foreign policy objectives that the projects should promote, in each instance. In Kazakhstan, for example, that means encouraging “the development of a Kazakhstani national identity that embraces the multi-ethnic, multi-religious character of the country’s population that existed for many centuries….The [Shymkent] Museum [of Natural History] is planning to arrange an expo-bus that will travel in the southern region of Kazakhstan, a traditionally Muslim-concentrated area.”
Maybe Borat dreamed this up, “for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan.”
MCCA grants will be offered in amounts between $50,000 and $100,000. Final proposals are due Aug. 1.
Let’s hope there are no takers. Cultural ties can assuredly improve relations between countries, but not when they are conceived as an instrument of political propaganda. AAM has done a disservice to its members by signing up for this dubious government-curated enterprise.
I invite your comments on this.

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