What the What is Happening in New Jersey?

When a mayor says that interns should run a city museum, it’s safe to say that we’re living in confusing times. To Trenton’s Mayor Tony Mack, running a museum is so uncomplicated that he was quoted as saying that interns should run the museum. Sure, the economy’s partially to blame for staff cuts, but when banks are bailed out, nobody thinks to put financial interns to work by running an unprofitable branch. Museums must seem like easy things to run because in the current climate, they’ve become disposable.

From an article about the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie written by Anne Levin earlier this week in the local newspaper:

“We feel very strongly that we need a good quality director at Ellarslie, and we are going to continue to push for that,” Robert Cunningham, president of the museum’s board, said this past Monday. “I don’t think they [City of Trenton officials] understand that.”

The Trenton Museum at Ellarslie never had a large staff or collection. The museum’s exhibitions have focused on ceramics and decorative art, a bit too stuffy for my tastes. Housed in an Italianite villa, the museum is only the latest edition of the building which formerly housed a  “restaurant, ice cream parlor and monkey house.”

A creative and experienced director, curator, and fundraising staff would be able to reinvigorate this building and its history in order to reach a wider public. Regardless of what’s been seen in the past by city officials as dispensable programming and exhibitions, there’s always ways to create a new market for what the museum can offer to the public. Unfortunately, the staff won’t be given a chance any time soon. The current director’s last day is tomorrow, September 16th, as a result of city-wide layoffs.

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