Timothy Rub '87 Discusses the Art of Managing a Major Museum at Leaders Forum Lecture
Timothy Rub '87 wanted to lead art museums and he saw earning a management degree as an important step towards this objective. But when he told his boss at the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum of his plans, Rub was told he'd be wasting his time. "Back then there were only a handful of people in the field of museum leadership who had a degree from a business degree," Rub said. "My decision to come to SOM was one of the most unusual choices I've ever made. It baffled almost everyone I knew. And it's been one of the most valuable decisions I've ever made."
Rub, who spoke at Yale SOM on November 2 as part of the Leaders Forum lecture series, was trained as an art historian and worked as a curator for a decade before enrolling at SOM. Since graduating, he has led museums at Dartmouth College, in Cincinnati, in Cleveland, and now in Philadelphia, where he is the director and CEO. He has overseen major construction projects, acquired major works of arts, and even helped one museum reconnect with its community after years of stagnation.
Rub told the group that the primary job of a museum director is constituent management. As public institutions, museums must constantly be in tune with the needs and desires of vastly different groups such as large donors, ethnic communities, and members. Rub's museums have launched drives to reengage communities, whether it's through what it chooses to exhibit or major construction projects. Rub calls it all interesting, but never easy. Running a major museum is more complicated than ever. "The leadership model for museums is changing," he said. "A generation ago, a director could say 'Do this,' and people would do it."
Rub has served during a period of great change in public institutions, with museums asked to do more with limited resources while dealing with major shifts in the demographics of cities. "Museums have been slow in responding," he said. "Museums, which safeguard and preserve things from the past, must also look toward the future."