Leadership Confidential

It’s amusing to me that the appointment of the accomplished Whitney Donhauser as the new Director of the Museum of the City of New York is controversial in some quarters. Please.

Whitney spent 23 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, serving in development, administration, external affairs, and for ten years as the senior advisor to the President. Whitney is smart, insightful, prepared, and was, apparently, the best candidate for the job, in the estimation of the City Museum’s Board of Trustees. Yes, despite the fact that she has no direct management or curatorial experience.

It’s okay, really. Maybe it’s even an important move by the Museum of the City of New York. Today museums need some fresh thinking and good people—the best person for a job isn’t always the one with the most predictably aligned resume. Excellent nontraditional candidates like Whitney or Ann Pasternak, the arts advocate and entrepreneur named as Director of the Brooklyn Museum last year, may have the kind of intelligence we need to preserve and advance our centuries-old cultural institutions in a very new era. With an understanding that today’s museum work starts in the building but is beamed everywhere on the planet with the help of digital genius, we should be celebrating leadership that comes from anywhere in the building, or even outside.

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