Will be starting a master certificate in museum studies in January 2017. I also have a bachelor degree in history and well as an associate degree in multimedia.
I have a crazy idea of starting a new museum. Located in the heart of the theatre district in New York City, the Broadway Hall of Fame and museum will honor and celebrate theatre on Broadway. I have always thought there was a need for such a museum and by taking these courses maybe bring this idea to reality. I have already made a marketing plan and will continue working on the idea (creating a press release, background materials, etc.). My questions are: Should I try and contact the New York City counsel of the arts? Should I obtain the endorsement of other theaters first? Would it be better if I finish the certification before I start reaching–out to the theatre community? etc.
------------------------------Thomas McGovern JrFounder and Museum DirectorThe Broadway Hall of Fame and museum
There are about 2 chartered or incorporated theatre museums in NYC. I would suggest making sure that what you proposed is very different from what is already there; I do believe that neither has a hall of fame. If you do go through with this idea, your museum will have to incorporate with NYSED. You can find the required rules and regulations for museums at www.counsel.nysed.gov/charters and www.nysm.nysed.gov/chartering. The second website will also provide you with my contact information if you have any specific questions about the process.
You may also want to look at the business, exhibition, and educational models used by the GRAMMY Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. The GRAMMY Museum, for instance, doesn't maintain its own collections, but borrows from other institutions and private lenders for its exhibitions. They still have curators, however, and work towar5ds best Museum practices in terms of care and handling, loan agreements, etc.
Let me clarify a few things. There was a Theatre Museum in the N-S passageway of the building at 1515 Broadway, formerly known as the Minskoff building after the builder and sometimes Broadway producer, Jerry Minskoff. It had many costumes on display and was quite beautiful but did not garner much public attention. This was at a time when Broadway was sort of on the skids selling about 8 million tickets a year or less (now 13 million). With Jerry out of the picture, and some funding from various sources like the American Theatre Wing (think Tony Awards) and the League of American Theatres (now Broadway League), it disappeared and the space on the ground floor of 1515 Bway is no longer visible to the public. The site was on the west side of the passageway – the east side has the entrance to the Minskoff Theatre where The Lion King is presently playing.
As for the Hall of Fame at the Gershwin, it is not a museum but a place, through pictures and plaques, to honor those famous in the theatre and, to a large part, known mostly to the theatre community. Last I looked, that installation was on the second floor of the Gershwin theatre where Wicked has been ensconced since Oz.
Lastly, the Museum of the City of New York, one of my current clients, has an amazing Theatre Collection – including many set models – that is in storage now as the Museum has spent over $100 million over the past ten years upgrading the facility and moving in a more social/political direction. It's amazing new installation opens to the public on November 16, New York at Its Core, three galleries (likely to become permanent) on the first floor. I recently talked with Sarah Henry, the chief curator, who indicated that some of the theatre collection would indeed resurface in the near future.
Having given you all this background, yours is truly lovely idea. Museums are a huge draw in NY as is Broadway. The timing couldn't be better. But funding is always the issue. You need really deep pockets to get this off the ground. And space in Times Square is at a premium.
I was the director of research for the Broadway League for 20 years and now run Audience Research & Analysis, so can you see, I am very to the industry and its people. I might also mentioned that John Vollmer is curator par-excellence; we worked briefly on a Theatre Museum in Toronto, that, as you might surmise, didn't come to fruition because of lack of funding. (Yes, Toronto has and is major theatre city in North America, with some of the finest new and restored theatres.)
Finally, Broadway is not a non-profit industry. That's why we call it the commercial theatre. So I would set my sites more on commercial backers, perhaps with from government or institutional seed money. When MoMA expanded in 2004, we conducted an economic impact study which resulted in then Mayor Giuliani awarding the museum $65 million (10% of budget) from the City's capital budget. That initial contribution served as an imprimatur helping the museum go on to raise the balance of the $650 needed for the project privately.
Glad to continue the conversation.
The NY Public Library has a branch at Lincoln Center dedicated to the performing arts. The Library includes a museum (and collections) that produces exhibitions on the performing arts, which includes theater. You could contact Barbara Cohen stratyner there for more information and advice.
Thank you. Someone has suggested an online museum. I do have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sallymurphy51/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Any further suggesting would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
I might start with something a little less ambitious. As others have noted, there are a number of places engaged with collecting and exhibiting Broadway materials. There is certainly room for a more dramatic museum in the heart of Broadway, but getting all the pieces together for that is a huge, and expensive, project.
I have worked with a major NYC theater on a similar idea. The concepts we came up with were very exciting, but the associated budgets were daunting, even without the cost of rent in a high traffic NYC location.
What might be ways to break off a smaller piece of this? Is there a historic theater that you could work with on a history exhibit in their lobby? Could you do an online museum of Off-Broadway? An costume exhibit somewhere (always popular)?
Sorry I haven't gotten replied sooner. Your concept of a online museum in intriguing. Any suggesting on how to go about starting one? I have a small Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sallymurphy51/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
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