Mismanaging capital (footnote)

If supermarkets can stay open 24/7, why is are the billions of dollars’ worth of art in a typical big museum available mostly during hours when working people can’t get to see them?

Mike O’Hare’s list of constraints on public consumption of works of visual art (see below) omits my personal candidate: museum opening hours. If a supermarket can figure out how to stay open 24/7, why can’t museums at least be open until midnight three nights a weekend?

Again, Mike’s analysis is right: if museums were held accountable, internally or externally, for earning a decent return (in the form of quality-adjusted viewer-hours) on their billions of dollars’ worth of invested capital (in the form of works of art), it would be obvious that they can’t afford to be closed for such a large proportion of prime viewing hours. Current hours are convenient mostly for ladies who lunch: a worthy audience, no doubt, but not the only audience.

When the phrase “museum date” re-enters the language, we’ll know museum managers are starting to think like marketers rather than custodians.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com