Date of this Version
The development of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton has prompted diverse coverage from print and online media. This investigation looked at trends in news stories and commentary from 2005-10 to show how the location of a medium affected coverage. Through the author’s own observations and interviews with journalists and other interested parties, several trends emerged. Media outlets outside Arkansas portrayed the museum as trying to plunder the cultural heritage of local communities and relied partly on the museum’s association with Wal-Mart and stereotypes of Arkansas to frame coverage. Arkansas media, faced with limited cooperation from the museum’s public relations apparatus, typically played a cheerleader role, at times overemphasizing the importance of the collection in the art world and showcasing few critical voices in stories about acquisitions and other areas of the museum’s development.