You didn't miss it on the Boca campus - it's at the Jupiter campus. 10,000 square feet of exhibition space is not bad at all, and with free admission, the price is definitely right.
Simply put, universities and museums have a harmonious relationship because both have an educational mission. "University museums" also tend to house research laboratories for various departments, from history to anthropology to biology. For instance, in Gainesville the Florida Museum of Natural History also houses the laboratories for the entomology department, specifically their butterfly research labs (hence why one of the main attractions is an indoor butterfly garden). And in the case of art museums like the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts) at FSU, a small gallery space grew and grew until the demand was great enough to transition from a gallery into a full-fledged museum.
Our Boca campus currently has two art galleries: the University Gallery (in the Performing Arts building) and the Ritter Art Gallery (on the second floor of the Breezeway). Neither are particularly large and yet they have still housed some pretty impressive exhibitions over the years; one of my favorite events was a rock poster show at the University Gallery back in 2006/2007.
Having a museum on campus pays off in different ways. First and foremost, there's the educational aspect. We have a duty to educate both our students and the general public (and this is partly the reason why FAU established the Lifelong Learning Society). Universities are "knowledge engines" yet not everyone can attend the university or participate in the research, so museums are another way to bring that knowledge to the people. In doing so, we can foster stronger subconscious associations between "FAU" and "knowledge," enhancing our local and academic reputation. Museums host traveling exhibits, which in turn can focus the spotlight on the university and raise our visibility (one of our goals). Museums offer jobs and provide opportunities for Museum Studies programs to flourish here. And finally, museums inspire donations.
Furthermore, Boca doesn't have many museums, nor are there many notable ones in the South Florida outside of The Morikami Japanese Museum & Gardens (in Delray) and the Museum of Discovery and Science (in Ft. Lauderdale).
So there a lot of good reasons to have one at FAU, if you can make it financially viable. If capable donors are involved, the museum can operate on its endowment and not charge admission. If not, it must have interesting enough attractions and events that can draw in repeat customers, and this is where a good portion of museums have difficulty. That being said, pretty much anything can become a "museum" so it's not all that surprising when things like the Cartoon Museum close their doors (unfortunately... I liked that place!)
Now, I believe that FAU should consider earmarking some land for a "museum street" south of Indian River Street for 2-3 museums in the future. Understand that I don't mean in the next 3-5 years, I mean in the next 20-30 years after the rest of campus is built up. Originally I thought that it would have been nice to give FAU's "Surfing Florida" exhibit a permanent home on campus, but then I read this somber review and realized it's probably for the best if it isn't (maybe we could have it line a hallway somewhere?). Still, there are a number of ideas that could work:
- An ocean engineering/marine sciences museum. Show easy-to-understand diagrams of how boats and submarines are made, what research we're doing, show off the Talon-1 and the various boats our students have made, maybe have a coral reef area/aquarium, have a wall of seashells that the Geology department has dug out of the Everglades, fish and turtle skeletons, effects of ocean acidification, the sea turtle rehab project at Gumbo Limbo and talk about the research we're doing to create medicines from the sea.
- A medical museum to tie in with the medical school with exhibits about rare diseases, X-ray puzzle rooms ("can you spot the difference between the normal X-ray and the bad one?"), diseases of famous people, mannequin ER, stuff like that. The BODIES exhibit proved that people are interested in even "gross" medical stuff!
- An art museum specializing in art installations with a name like "The Boca Art Experience." I like all kinds of art museums but I can understand why the general public doesn't want to spend $20 to go room to room looking at pictures and drawings that don't impress them. I really like the idea of an art installation museum because it brings people "into" the art: it's a room you walk through, a hole for you to pop your head into, a console with switches and buttons that you can manipulate.
More cool stuff here, here and here.
- A jazz museum. I'm always hearing about how this and that person donated a ton of one-of-a-kind jazz recordings to FAU. Not sure why we're that lucky, but we just are. According to this site, we have over 21,000 pieces in the archive... I'm sure some of that could be parlayed into a small museum. Maybe this could just be an addition to the new Culture and Society building.
- A museum of the future. I know this seems counter-intuitive, as museums are usually retrospectives, but as universities look to the future as much as they look to the past, this would fit in well. And it would definitely be one of a kind! The general idea here is to look at how people in the past (50's, 60's, 70's) thought the world would be like in the future (now known as the present), from watch phones to jet packs; to examine the "futuristic" advances we're completing now (from cars to computers) and then look at various concepts for the future, from vertical farms to vacuum tube trains to, well, jetpacks! And the museum could have various new technologies (like the very impressive Google Glass) on display for people to try out and get them excited about buying in the future - meaning corporate sponsorship of exhibits!
And who doesn't like to think about the future? :)