In 2009, a piece of news about Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) drew my attention. It said that this nonprofit museum suffered decreasing investment and donation since the worldwide financial crisis in 2008; indeed, it lost about 18% money. It is no doubt that the great power of financial crisis damages the development of nonprofit museums, which rely on the endowments and donations from the individuals, institutions, government, etc. There may be some negative expectation on the future of nonprofit museums because of the poor economic condition. However, as we can see today, MoMA still exists in midtown Manhattan, holds unique and attractive events, and becomes one of the must-be places in New York City (NYC). Except for MoMA, similar situation happened to other NYC nonprofit museums after global economy slowdown. Nonprofit museums finally survived and do not lose their significant role in NYC. After finding this fact, what efforts these nonprofit museums did, do, or are doing to survive in NYC, and what nonprofit museums bring about to NYC came to my mind. Actually, this paper will discuss why and how nonprofit museums in NYC can keep operating even if under the effect of global financial crisis. Through collecting the statistics from the official websites of the local government, the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) for museums, and the museums, the reason for nonprofit museums going through the financial problems lies in the characteristic of nonprofit museums – public service, and capital fund processed by the government and NGOs. The documents released by Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) show that the connection between government and museums is two-way benefit: nonprofit museums obtain the money to maintain operation from the government, and government promotes the cultural education and tourism programs. This pattern encourages and supports museums in several objectives by the fund from federal government. NYC is an important travel destination. Moreover, many museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), which collect thousands of precious arts, encourage people all over the world to find the track of history. According to other research about museums, “Museums emerged as institutions charged not only with collecting and preserving the patrimony, but also with founding and maintaining a civic space where a public might come to perform and recognize itself as a ‘people’” (as cited in Rosenstein, 2010, para.2). Therefore, nonprofit museums in NYC play a significant role in the cultural education and earning income from tourism for the city budget through getting financial support and sharing resources from the local government and NGOs.
The primary reason is that non-profit museums in NYC have a great influence on cultural education. From the angle of the nature of non-profit museum, its traditional duty is public service, including education, research, collection, etc. According to the definition from American Association of Museums (AAM), “[Museums] are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve” (“Code”, 2000, para.3). Moreover, non-profit museums are tax-exempt from Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which allows them to avoid paying federal taxes on the majority of their income. In return, they act as educational, charitable or religious organizations that benefit the world in some way. To be clearer, nonprofit museums have the obligation of spreading culture to the masses. Especially in NYC, museums confront an increasing amount of tourists from all over the world, so one important responsibility for museums is to express spirit of America. AAM also introduced the words from John Cotton Dana, the museum leader in early twentieth-century. He pointed out that the function of museum is not only serving the public but also promoting enlightenment (as cited in “Code”, 2000, para.6). Nowadays,...
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