The ALPLM revisited

In the early years of this blog, the ALPLM was a goldmine for public history commentary, starting with the living roadshow that is Richard Norton Smith and ending with the supernatural disappearance of the enigmatic Mysterioso.

Before being banished to oblivion, Dr. Strange issued a dire warning:
Any pretense that you’re hiring the best person necessarily [for directorship of the ALPLM], that you’re conducting a search or that you’re really trying to hire quality and that’s all that matters is absolute nonsense.
And so the mysterious one cast his fateful prophecy upon unwilling ears. Our mouths were stopped at the very end of 2010 when the Illini announced that "After conducting an in-depth interview process of several nationally-renowned historians and museum professionals, [Eileen] Mackevich was the unanimous recommendation [for executive director]."

A national search, a local pick. In some unknown dimension, the Mysterioso was laughing maniacally.

Today, almost 18 months after her appointment, look at the Linked-In page of ALPLM Director Eileen Mackevich. (Never mind capitalization and punctuation, look at the order of the info presented and what it says about professional identity.)
Environmental services! Is that like pest control?

Please, folks. Think of me not as a museum and library director but rather as an environmental consultant (or rat catcher) trying to help out some friends in the humanities.

Mackevich was preceded by an interim director named Sunny Fischer. Unless I am mistaken, Sunny has expunged any connection with the ALPLM from her history, See here and here.

Sunny says you didn't see nothin' sucker. ALPLM? What are you talking about?

I've lost the link, but one of the newspaper accounts announcing Mackevich's appointment gave a motivation for the hire: that she would be a fund raiser. For me, this was a red flag, given the make-up of the ALPLM's board. This subject is worth revisiting.

Let me tell you what the board should look like.

Schema: Donor, donor, donor, (etc.); wheeler-dealer with loads of donor friends; celebrity capable of attracting scads of donors; politician capable of getting tax breaks and keeping the mayor and his city inspectors off your back.

Example: Annenberg, Gates, Buffett, Murdoch, Trump, Kate Middleton (or Snookie), Richard Daley. And guess what: one donation does not get these folks a seat on the board. They are there for multiple and continuous donating or they are kicked off.

My friends, that is the deal. Accept no substitute.

If we look at the ALPLM board, it is backwards in a way that spells small town provincial amateurs. I know. I ran arts organizations in a provincial city.

Take a look ALPLM board. Their lawyer is on the board, in exchange for pro bono services. They wasted a seat to score a few thousand in savings on expenses! Ditto their accountant and insurer.Then, there are the relatives of politicians, always a terrible sign. Okay, then you have a couple of local CEOs. I suppose these are supposed to be the rich guys with their totally immense, utterly awesome life savings of $5-10 million. Memo to Illinois: ditch these jokers and get some real plutocrats on your board.

This is a loser, deadbeat board that has exported its own job (contribute scads of cash or have your friends donate early and often) to the executive director. The director has other work to do - that's why there are boards.

Scroll to the middle of the board page. Notice this: "Eileen Mackevich, ex officio, non-voting." She cannot replace the deadwood dragging the museum down under the weight of their patronage. She is a guest in their wise councils. This environmental whatever consultant, as she styles herself, may not be able to do much for her little outpost of the humanities.

Anyway, if you've read this far down, you deserve a treat. This is a newspaper article about the mess that is the ALPLM. Superb reporting. Long piece but worth every moment of your attention.