Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rose Art Museum of the West

The Claremont Colleges like to call themselves the Harvard of the West. Claremont has something in common with Brandeis, too: Selling a museum to help with the bills. The difference is that Claremont got away with it, and no one noticed.
In April 2008 — nine months before Brandeis sparked a national uproar with talk of shuttering its Rose Art Museum and selling the collection — Claremont quietly sold the collection of its Kenneth G. Fiske Museum of Musical Instruments, consisting of 1200 instruments from the 17th to 20th centuries. The buyer was the new Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), just opened in Phoenix. The Fiske Museum's collection was actually that of collector Curtis Janssen, who willed that his musical instruments go on display at a college west of the Mississippi. Claremont was interested and opened a display in 1954. Kenneth Fiske was a Claremont music professor who became curator of the collection (and promoted it with appearances on the Tonight Show). There's no question that the Phoenix museum's display is a big upgrade from Claremont's cramped installation in an auditorium building (pictured). But the Fiske collection was a major resource for Claremont, impossible to duplicate today. It forms the historical core of the MIM.
From an April 21, 2008 press release:

"'We are very excited for our collection to be acquired by MIM, the first truly global museum of its kind,' said Robert Walton, Chief Executive Officer, Claremont University Consortium. 'It is very important to Claremont Colleges that these instruments be available for the benefit and enjoyment of audiences from around the United States and beyond.'"

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