an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

AAM&#146s New Name: Marketing Gambit Disguised as “Coming Together”


Toddler’s safety gate? No, it’s the rebranded AAM’s new logo.

From the information released today, it appears that last week’s mysterious morphing of the American Association of Museums into the American Alliance of Museums is a membership drive and marketing campaign dressed up in new clothing (topped off with a jazzy new logo).

AAM’s webpage that explains the change is titled: We’ve Given AAM Another Look.
You Should, Too
. What they mean by this is that your museum should consider joining the organization at one of various levels of tiered membership, allowing you to access different amounts of “benefits and rewards for your museum, your staff and you.”


All the talk of uniting “to make a broader impact” and “to play a more central role in advancing the cause of museums” is not supported with any specifics about what kinds of “impact” the association (oops, “alliance”) now seeks or what causes the new AAM will champion. Probably more of the same, backed by more members and more membership monies, if this rebranding succeeds in galvanizing the field.

Here are the causes
that AAM currently champions, most of which relate to federal funding for arts-related programs and maintaining the current level of
tax deductions for charitable contributions.

Ford Bell, AAM’s president, explained the changes this way:

Some may ask, after 106 years of supporting and building the museum community, why would we change our name and brand? Simply, our new name signals our resolve to unite the museum field so that we can speak with one strong voice. We are no longer the trade association for museums, but rather the cause of museums [emphasis added].

Moreover, our new brand goes far beyond mere cosmetics. Our brand as the American Alliance of Museums is emblematic of our commitment to advancing the cause of museums—as well as supporting those who work in museums, donate to them, or simply love them—and the communities served by America’s museums.

In place of what was once a very stringent (some said onerous) accreditation process, there will now be a Continuum of Excellence, providing “multiple entry points and customized assistance for all museums to reach higher levels of recognition,” leading up to “the streamlined, online accreditation process [that] will take about 50% less time to complete.”


There’s one other change—a new tagline, which was sent to my inbox in an e-mail today from AAM’s press spokesperson, but which I could not find on the alliance’s revamped (and glitchy) website:

Champion Museums, Nurture Excellence

Was there an old tagline? (If so, it must have been forgettable.)

If, like me, you’re left cold by promotional window dressing and turquoise graphics, you can learn tomorrow from AAM why you should be more enthusiastic. According to the alliance’s Twitter feed, AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums will publish “a guest post from Ford Bell…going into even more depth about the changes.”

More on the clumsy rollout of the new AAM, here.

an ArtsJournal blog