For this week’s discussion, I decided to look into the governance of the Seattle Museum of art.
In the mission statement for the Museum, it is stated that “Through art, the Seattle Art Museum enriches lives and engages diverse communities.” and draws on its exhibitions to provide educational resources that can benefit the people living in the Seattle area and beyond. This statement is followed by a list of annual reports that detail the various exhibitions and events held from that year. The museum itself seems to be headed and organized by a board of trustees, many of whom are members of staff that range from the director and chief conservator to financial officer and legal counsel. Following this, there is a statement from the museum that emphasizes its use of financial transparency by making the institution’s official annual audit statements available for the public to view.

Would you also agree with the practice of financial transparency for most museums?

Seattle Museum of Art and its “Hammering Man” sculpture near the front entrance

3 Thoughts to “Governance of the Seattle Museum of Art”

  1. Rose Thao

    Thank you for sharing the governance information of the Seattle Museum of Art. To answer your question, I agree with the practice of financial transparency to tge public as it is a way for the public to see how the museum uses their funds to maintain the facility and give back to the community.

  2. Korovin Ellis

    I feel like financial transparency is most important for a museum in dealing with private or corporate investors to show that donations or other contributions are not exerting influence over how the museum operates. This is particularly important if contributors have a presence on the board of trustees.

  3. Angela Linn

    Michelle, I would encourage you to take a closer look at the SAM’s governance page. Your statement “The museum itself seems to be headed and organized by a board of trustees, many of whom are members of staff…” if true, would be a major violation of governance codes of ethics – you can’t have a check and balance (the role of the governing body and the staff) if they are one and the same. If you look again, the Board of Trustees are listed in a PDF here: and there are around 65 (!!!) people on that board, which is crazy big, but if the names are any indication, appears quite culturally diverse.

    To respond to your question, all nonprofits are required to make their financial statements available to the public so it’s great that the SAM is proactive and places theirs right on their website. Financial transparency should be a non-negotiable… if you ever come across a museum who is unwilling to divulge what their operating budget is, you should be concerned!

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