An International Program of Art Loans in Exchange for Expertise
The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is embarking on a new model of cultural exchange designed to foster international collaboration and communication among institutions around the globe. Through DMX the Dallas Museum of Art Exchange Program–the Museum will share expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, and new media in exchange for loaned works of art from other museums and cultural agencies worldwide.
The DMA is in the midst of securing primary partnerships with a number of countries, including African nations, India, China, and Russia. On December 3, 2012, the DMA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Director General for Cultural Heritage and Museums O. Murat Süslü, marking the first DMX initiative.
The problems of illegal excavation and the illicit import of cultural property require the consideration of new models of cooperation among institutions. As with traditional loans of artwork, a substantial benefit to partnering countries is to provide new audiences for collections of cultural significance and to cultivate awareness of their importance among our constituents and colleagues. In addition, staff members from the DMA will support cultural heritage professionals in partnering countries by offering assistance in displaying, documenting, and caring for collections and exhibitions, providing web-based access to interpretive resources, and engaging public audiences through unique programs.
In exchange, the DMA will request the loan of significant works of cultural heritage, mutually agreed upon by both parties. As appropriate, the DMA will offer select services related to conserving, documenting, and publishing the relevant loaned artworks. After the loan period, objects will be returned to their country of origin with lasting benefits to both parties.
Challenges Faced by Today’s Museums
On June 4, 2008, the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued the New Report on Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art. AAMD determined that it should refine the 2004 guidelines to affirm more clearly and tangibly their members’ commitment to helping protect and preserve archaeological resources worldwide, and to strengthen the principles and standards used in making decisions regarding the acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art.
The results reflected in the 2008 guidelines include the following:
- The adoption of November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as an important threshold date when considering an acquisition
- Research protocols that are even more rigorous than those included in the previous guidelines
- The establishment of a searchable Object Registry, which ensures an even higher level of public transparency for members’ acquisitions|
Initiated by Maxwell L. Anderson—now the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art—the registry provides a centralized location for member museums to list archaeological materials and ancient art acquired after June 2008 that do not have complete, recent ownership history.
The DMA and Cultural Heritage
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the DMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country, distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing diverse world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum welcomes approximately half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations.
The facility and collection are managed by a staff of over two hundred professionals, many of whom are highly respected for their expertise in educational programming and outreach, collection and exhibitions management, conservation, and museum technology and media. The DMA has received numerous awards and accolades for its work in these areas, and the DMA staff is committed to helping other institutions succeed through the sharing of this expertise.
Below are the DMA’s areas of expertise that are a hallmark of the DMX program:
Educational Programming and Outreach
The DMA’s award-winning education program has a history of providing innovative public activities, groundbreaking experiences like the Center for Creative Connections, and deep engagement with works of art. The Center for Creative Connections, which grew out of visitor research conducted in 2003, established a new institutional precedent of an interactive learning environment for multi-aged visitors. The Center focuses on the creative processes of the artist and of visitors who engage with works of art. The DMA’s educational efforts have received numerous prestigious grants, including a significant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fund the DMA’s Connect: Teachers, Technology, and Art project. This project builds on the Museum’s long tradition of serving teachers in the Dallas and greater North Texas community by developing a model for converting, producing, and delivering dynamic web-based teaching units for classroom use.
Collections and Exhibitions Management
The DMA’s collections staff oversees the cataloguing, inventory, crating, shipping, and insurance for more than 22,000 works of art in the collection, as well as objects on loan, and is knowledgeable in shipping and customs requirements for countries all over the world. The DMA was among the first art museums to be approved by the U.S. government’s Transportation Safety Administration as a certified cargo screening facility. The DMA is a recognized leader in the development and management of exhibitions.
The DMA’s conservators have decades of experience and specialized expertise in studying, analyzing, treating, and preserving a broad range of art and artifacts dating from antiquity to the present day and from diverse regions of the world. In addition to caring for the DMA’s collection, conservation staff has treated works from prestigious museums and private collections. Funded by grants from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and private donors, a new Paintings Conservation Laboratory will debut in late 2013. The lab will be equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation on par with some of the largest and best-known museums in the world.
Museum Technology and Media
The DMA’s technology and media staff actively create innovative technology-based experiences for visitors, both at the Museum and online. The DMA encourages staff to be bold and experimental as they produce, collect, archive, manage, and use digital content for the benefit of the Museum’s audiences. In 2007 the DMA received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to advance a sustainable technology model to build digital resources and connect visitors with art and creativity. In 2010 and 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded two separate Access to Artistic Excellence grants in support of technology initiatives at the DMA. The Dallas Museum of Art-Exhibition Catalogs Online (DMA-ECO) will provide an economical and environmentally friendly method to access thousands of document pages and artist exhibition citations never before available.
In the coming months and years, the DMA looks forward to establishing substantive partnerships with international organizations that will mutually benefit both parties and the communities they serve.