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Dr. Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, visited Drayton Hall and spoke with our site advisory council about the future of museums. The AAM provides advocacy for over 21,000 cultural institutions, from small individual house museums to large art museums and zoos. Dr. Bell and his wife Amy went on a house tour led by Drayton Hall executive director George McDaniel. “I’ve enjoyed knowing Ford for the past several years and appreciate his writing and leadership,” said McDaniel. “He has proven to be a real leader in the museum field. Ford is a thinker and a doer and is striving to connect museums to the American public as a critical resource for today and tomorrow.”
“The visit to Drayton Hall reminded me, once again, of the power of place and of the power of story,” said Dr. Bell. “The house is unfurnished, and the ravages of time, and a little vandalism, are evident. It is not lushly furnished with objects from the period, objects that might have nothing to do with Drayton Hall’s story, nor with the stories of its family. Instead, the visitor encounters a haunting framework for many stories about the Drayton family and the slaves who lived in that place with them, stories that stretch across more than two centuries. Drayton Hall allows the visitor to create his or her own vision of life on a place, and in an era far removed from our own. Although Drayton Hall is empty and silent, the sights, sounds, smells, and daily tragedies, more than two centuries gone, come alive in the imagination of the visitor at Drayton Hall.”
Speaking to Drayton Hall’s site advisory council, Dr. Bell stated that the primary role of the organization is to provide a unified voice regarding the role of museums in society. The AAM has intensified its efforts to communicate the value of museums to increase federal funding. Museums are educational institutions but are often recognized as amenities. Dr. Bell recommended that members of our site advisory council read the AAM’s recent report “Building the Future of Education—Museums and the Learning Ecosystem,” which describes how museums impact the future of education. He noted that there is very little state funding available, and most museums depend on the generosity of individual donors and corporations. In closing, Dr. Bell thanked the members of our council for their great work.