Today the world faces a metaphysical crisis, and I believe museums have an essential role in providing leadership in times of crisis by providing leadership to audiences. I am in the minority in this view; most people do not share my point of view and instead believe that museums should “stay out of politics” or “should maintain a neutral point of view.”
We are watching as a sovereign country is being attacked by an aggressor in the name of “peacekeeping,” stopping genocide. When in fact, the aggressor is the one promoting genocide. Instead, Ukraine, the country being attacked, is on a path toward democracy and joining NATO, creating a metaphysical threat to Russia. Museums must support artists, audiences, and communities in supporting democracy and the sovereign rights of countries against an authoritarian aggressor of Putin. We must stand firm against a possible alliance of China and Russia in defending the sovereign rights of nations, artists, and journalists.
This is more than authoritarian aggression; this is a battle for the future. Museums and I must stand in support of democracy and free speech and speak out publically against Putin and countries that support this egregious attack against a sovereign county and the future of democracy.
Mark Walhimer is managing partner of Museum Planning, LLC a museum planning and exhibition design studio, and the author of Museums 101 (2015) and Designing Museum Experiences (2021), both published by Rowman & Littlefield