Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Can Today’s Fullerton City Council Learn from the “Great Loss” of the Norton Simon Museum?

In my morning class, we read together an essay by a former student about how, in the 1960s, the Fullerton City Council rejected Norton Simon’s offer to gift his art collection to the city of Fullerton and build a museum. I asked my students to respond to this prompt:

What might today’s Fullerton City Council learn from the “great loss” of the Norton Simon museum? How might they think/act differently from their predecessors?

Here’s what I wrote:

Today’s Fullerton City Council can be mindful of not just the present, but also the future, when they make decisions. Instead of thinking: What’s going to make us money right now? They might consider the future value and pay-off of allowing cultural destinations like museums, gardens, planetariums, etc that will make people actually want to come and live in Fullerton.

Also, today’s city council might learn not to let personal petty jealousies and personal vendettas get in the way of doing what is best for the community. When politicians, local or otherwise, get so wrapped up in their own ego that they forget they are public servants, then everyone loses.

Finally, today’s Fullerton city council members ought to research, deeply, their own city’s history, as preserved in the Center for Oral and Public History at Cal State Fullerton. They ought to understand the tragedies and triumphs of the past. As a someone wise once said, “It is only in understanding the mistakes of the past that we can hope to not repeat them.”


The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena holds one of the largest and most impressive collections of art in the world, featuring works by Picasso, Rodin, Van Gogh, Degas, and other masters.

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