Museums plan to sell collections to survive

Museums in The Netherlands have received some bad news–national funding for arts and culture will drop from 900 million euros to 700 million in 2013. Now museums and other institutions are scrambling to figure out how to survive.

The Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam has come up with a controversial plan. They’re going to sell off their African and American collections in order to raise money.

While this has caused an understandable uproar, it makes sense in some ways. The Wereldmuseum’s main collections are in Asian and Pacific art, such as the Korwar figurines from New Guinea pictured above courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. These will not be sold. Other museums in the country are known for African and American art, so the Dutch and the tourists won’t be left without. It’s also a major opportunity for museums that still have decent funding for new acquisitions, assuming there are any.

There are still plenty of downsides. The Wereldmuseum and any other institution that tries this tactic will lose some of the diversity of their collections. It makes it harder for them to participate in the exchanges of artwork that help create bonds between different museums and the creation of major exhibitions. The sale will probably also see some of artifacts leave the country or go into private hands, and out of sight of the general public.

For the Wereldmuseum in particular it means losing some of its unique character. The collection is partially made up of objects brought back by Dutch traders, who in past centuries were one of the major economic powers on the high seas and traded to all corners of the globe. At the moment the collection reflects that. To secure its future, the Wereldmuseum will have to discard some of its past.

It may even undermine its own name. Wereldmuseum translates to “World Museum”.

British Airways scrapping first class on new planes

It’s official, we’re in trouble.

British Airways has decided to remove first-class seating on four of its new flights, The Guardian newspaper has reported. The carrier is also considering removing the service from other flights.

The move comes after a fall in demand for first-class seating, brought on by the economic downturn, which apparently is even affecting people who will pay three to ten times more for a ticket just so they get to wear special British Airways pajamas and dine on lobster. Another problem is increased competition from business class, which offers many of the same amenities such as early boarding and seats that convert into miniature beds. In these hard economic times, even millionaires are willing to go without jammies and lobster if they at least get premium seating and don’t have to go to the bathroom with the middling classes.

British Airways needs to find ways to cut costs. Demand for both first and business class has fallen sharply, and it has just reported a 401 million pound ($638 million) loss even though it is still adding routes. A new direct flight from Heathrow to Las Vegas will not have first class seating.

Existing flights will keep their first-class seating at the moment because company officials state that the cost of tearing out the section and replacing it with business class or coach seating would be too expensive. This could have a good effect on the more proletarian passengers–because with more empty seats in the posh section, there would be a greater chance of getting upgraded. The potential bonanza may not last long, however, because BA might follow the lead of other carriers like KLM and Delta and scrap first class on transatlantic routes altogether.