Is it a good idea to base conservation decisions on a popularity contest?

A January 21, 2014 National Public Radio “All Things Considered” piece focused on the “L’Arte Aiuta l’Arte” (“Art Helping Art”) program of the Italian Cultural Ministry in which the proceeds from  ticket sales for performances taking place at state museums and monuments are dedicated to the restoration of Italy’s visual arts heritage. The public relations gimmick—people can vote on Facebook for the one of eight works selected by the government  which they feel is most deserving of restoration. The money raised from the performances will be used for the conservation of the contest winner. While this program may well make Italians more aware of their cultural heritage and inspire concern for its impending loss, does it not have the potential to turn cultural heritage into a popularity contest a la “American Idol” or  to induce general feelings of despair  as for every work that receives treatment there are seven works of equal importance that will not?

One thought on “Is it a good idea to base conservation decisions on a popularity contest?”

  1. I agree that popular opinion (as defined by a narrow population of individuals voting on facebook) is a dubious way to decide the relative importance of cultural heritage objects. But, assuming the contenders are all worthy and in need of treatment to begin with, I can see this having wider-reaching positive impact. Perhaps the “manufactured controversy” resulting from declaring seven losers might inspire more fundraising for conservation?

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