Colloquium of interest to COR Community…
“Art and Audience: Complex Identities in U.S. Art Museums”
Professor Pamela Tolbert
Cornell University, School of Industrial & Labor Relations
Friday, June 8, 2018
10:30 am – 12:00 pm
SB1 5200 (Porter Colloquia Room & Executive Terrace)
Organizational studies have yielded conflicting answers to the question of whether having a focused organizational identity or a complex, category-spanning one leads to more favorable reactions by external audiences. This study seeks to reconcile apparently divergent findings in work addressing this question by focusing on the social roles and relative importance of different audience segments. We examine a number of hypotheses about the consequences of having a complex identity using longitudinal data from U.S. art museums. Our analysis is predicated on a conceptual distinction among three key audience segments for museums: elite professional critics, art connoisseurs, and casual consumers. We argue that these segments vary in their preferences for museums with complex identities (e.g., art and science) or focused ones (art only), and in their influence on museums with different types of identity. Our findings are consistent with these arguments. In concluding, we discuss the implications of the arguments and findings for future work on the organizational consequences of different types of identity.