When the Crow Collection opened our doors in 1998, the permanent collection was displayed with some attention to permanence with each gallery assigned to represent a geographical region of the collection (Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia). The Mezzanine Level was a place for rotations of the permanent collection.
Things were different then — we had three staff positions (today we have 42) and 1-2 programs a month (in 2016 we offered over 600 programs). As our first months and years unfolded we quickly learned that visitors had a thirst for change and a desire to see works beyond the permanent collection.
In our first twelve years, our strategy was, for the most part, responsive and reactive: we responded to the trends and interests of the community, & we reacted to the offers of traveling exhibitions that came our way. We held some “blockbusters” by Crow Collection standards.
Our first traveling exhibition in 2000 was a major exhibition of Chinese ivories commissioned for New Spain with over 200 works borrowed from an important collection in Monterrey, Mexico. This launched our continued interest studying Asia’s place in globalism.
2001 launched a traveling exhibition: What do Objects Tell Us: a beautiful project celebrating perspectives around our collection including label copy written by the director, the educator, the curator and the conservator.
In 2003, we borrowed an exhibition of Shunzhi Porcelains from the late collector Sir Michael Butler. We held an exhibition of the Ann and Gabriel Barbier Mueller Samurai Collection: a precursor to their future museum.
In 2008, for our ten-year anniversary, we crossed Texas a few dozen times to present five exhibitions of Texas Collects Asia honoring the collecting and audacious spirit of families creating a new context for understanding art and culture from Asia.
A series of six exhibitions from the Rubin Museum in New York City offered a welcome framework and a continuation on a theme. It was just after that collaboration ended, and we experienced the success of Texas Collects, that we decided to pause and ask the question:
We acknowledged a history of community building, growth, and experimentation. We tried things and met success and failure. We created a system for studying the projects that had come and gone with multiple lenses and perspectives.
As a result of that inquiry, a process led by our curator Dr. Caron Smith, the museum developed a set of criteria by which to assess future ideas and opportunities. This list became the DNA of our strategy:
1. Scale: Gallery (how does it “fit” in our space)
2. Story (does it tell a good story)
3. Local Connection (is there a tie to Dallas)
4. Drama/Powerful (wow factor)
6. Brand Appeal (intergenerational/approachable)
7. Educational (content-rich?)
8. Scholarship (research-rich?)
9. Cultural (aspects beyond art history)
10. Urgency (will visitors want to see it before it closes)
11. Fresh (new idea?)
12. Wonder (can we see this with child’s eyes/imagination?)