The recent news that the Corcoran in Washington, DC, will be mostly dissolved and its parts distributed to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and George Washington University (GWU) is generating lots of discussion on whether this is a good thing or not, and who should take the credit or blame. For those unfamiliar with the Corcoran, it’s an unusual museum because it’s a combination of art gallery and art college. Students use the art collection for study and inspiration, and the art gallery exhibits student and faculty artworks along with historic American paintings and sculpture, connecting past and present. It’s a great approach for providing a rich environment for the study and appreciation of art for both students and the public. Other museums have followed similar paths to create deeper places of learning, including the Henry Ford Museum with its charter school, the Academy of Natural Sciences in its merger with Drexel University, and the American Museum of Natural History offering a Masters of Arts in Teaching. Yes, museums and historic sites can offer more than just an hour-long tour or a morning field trip.
The Corcoran was created in the Gilded Age, the era of the first major public museums. Unlike its contemporaries such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran seems to have gone asleep in the mid-twentieth century and like Rip Van Winkle, it couldn’t wake up. It made attempts to move out of its slumber, including Continue reading