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12 An enigma

While fact--checking at the end of January, I revisited the ROM website to search for some specific item in the Board Policy. I could have done this by reading through my printout of the document, downloaded last November, but scanning the file on-line was much quicker.

I was surprised to see some significant changes. Some were predictable, given the Director’s dedication to the arts, but some undermined the curatorial sector, and one raised a red flag. However, I was glad to see that the mandate had remained unchanged.

Carefully reading through the new Board Policy, I highlighted the important changes.

Following the Mandate heading was Vision. This had previously read that the ROM was:

“To be recognized globally as an essential destination for making sense of the changing natural and cultural worlds.”

This now read:

“To become a distinctly 21st century museum…within the intersecting worlds of art, culture, and nature.” (my italics)

Under the next heading of Values

“upholding rigorous inquiry, sound research and scholarship” had been deleted.

And under the heading of Strategic Objectives

“bring curatorial and other expertise out onto the floor to connect visitors with the knowledge generation behind the scenes at the ROM” had also been deleted.

Among the many Strategic Objectives was the new one that:

“The ROM must think and act in fundamentally new ways. The Revolutionary strategies reflect major shifts in mindset for the ROM and opportunities to break new ground in the museum field on 21st century frontiers.”

A second new objective was to “Launch the ROM Next Level Ideation Lab.” whatever that means, but I’m just a simple scientist.

With current curatorial numbers at such low levels, an unexpected new objective was to “Strengthen and secure our curatorial capacity and enhance access to and stewardship of our collections.” Perhaps the hiring of art curators was in mind.

Another oddity, given the present working conditions, was to “Create a positive, collaborative and safe work environment…”

Under the heading, Board Responsibilities, the sentence that formerly read:

“Set strategic priorities including broad curatorial and operational priorities…”

now had “programmatic” instead of “curatorial.”

The red flag

Perhaps the most remarkable and potentially alarming change was in the four-page section headed DIRECTOR & CEO RESPONSIBILITIES & LIMITATIONS. Before addressing this, I should point out that the Director is also the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the ROM.

Previously, it had stated that: “The Director & CEO’s financial authority is as follows: Commitments for capital expenditures up to but not exceeding $50,000 per project…”

This now read, “The Director & CEO will make prudent decisions concerning the Museum’s financial resources. The Director & CEO’s financial authority is as described in the Board of Trustees Financial Control policy.”

At this point, I downloaded the brief Financial Control document. No mention was made of any spending limitations.

Imagine what the Director might do with unlimited funding. Perhaps some monumental

architectural feature to mark the ROM’s revolutionary shift in mindset as we “break new ground in the museum field on 21st century frontiers.”

These significant changes in Board Policy left no doubt in my mind that the Director had so impressed the Trustees with his focus on art and the diminution of the curatorial sector that the ROM was destined for permanent change.

However, on checking the Board Policy in early April, I discovered that it had reverted back to the way it was in November. An enigma indeed, and one documented by the downloaded files.

Link to Board Policy:


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