Dr. Peter C. Keller
Bowers Museum President
It goes without saying that the past six months have been unprecedented for all of us, and the Bowers Museum is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Bowers in mid-March, except for a two week opening window in July which just showed how successful we could be with our new Inside the Walt Disney Archives exhibit if we were allowed to be open. It’s not trivial that the President of the American Alliance of Museums has predicted that fully one third of all US museums will be shutting their doors forever by the end of this year if something drastic doesn’t happen. Less than 13% of all museums have more than a one-year financial reserve to fall back on. Fortunately, the Bowers is in a much better financial position, although we are taking dramatic measures to conserve our finances and, if necessary, will be prepared to cut even further.
I am particularly impressed with how quickly our Programs Department responded to the museum’s closing, just a few days after our very successful Inside the Walt Disney Archives Opening and Gala. No longer able to produce our programs and classes live, the department shifted gears and has produced an amazing array of virtual programs, including Virtual Family Festivals. The unexpected benefit of our virtual programming is that our offerings are now available to anyone throughout the world, giving us a much wider and deeper reach. Family Festivals have been attended by as many as 3,000 viewers which is significantly more than would have attended in person. I think it’s impressive that our Programs Department has produced 30 programs just for the month of October. The exhibits Department has taken this opportunity to convert the projection area of the East West Bank Gallery into a truly spectacular display of a portion of our Miao Silver collection. About twenty years ago, the Board of Governors pledged to develop two collections that we could become known for: The Pacific Islands and Chinese Minority cultures. Now, thanks in no small part of Anne Shih, we have almost 500 examples of fine Miao silver and it is possibly the finest such collection. In gratitude for Anne’s generosity, we have named the gallery “The Anne Shih Collection.” Be sure to see it next time you’re in the museum.
In early September, Orange County moved to a safer tier and the Bowers was permitted to reopen its doors as long as we followed strict safety guidelines. We have also received the great news that the Disney Archives has granted us an extension of their exhibit through the end of February 2021. Given the continued uncertainty of COVID-19 we have postponed the Gold and Jade exhibit from Taiwan until December 12 and the much-anticipated Guo Pei exhibit until 2022. We are also developing exhibits from our own collections, such as Quilts and the watercolors from the recently donated Ann Cullin Collection which contains pieces from many of the great California artists of the early to mid-20th Century. Next September we will be proud to be presenting an amazing exhibition Masks based on the incredible photography of world-famous photojournalist, Chris Rainier.
Peter C. Keller, Ph.D