LACMA still blocking art blogs

I wrote about this in mid December ( first post | follow up ) but with my connection problems and the holidays it was hard to follow up on too closely so I’m bringing it back up now. LACMA, that being The Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, has installed a firewall that blocks off much of the internet from it’s employees view. This includes, and depending who you talk to maybe even focuses on blogs. Including art blogs, including Los Angeles focused art blogs like our sister site art.blogging.la. I know this because several employees of LACMA have been in touch with me detailing the problem from the inside.

The reason given (to employees) for this was to prevent internet viruses from spreading, however I would guess that pretty much anyone who has ever heard of the internet knows that you can’t catch a virus from reading a website. This sounds to me like an excuse given either by or to someone who has no idea what they are talking about or is intentionally trying to mislead people. Either way, and maybe it’s just me, but I have a notion that a person like this shouldn’t be making such decisions.

Since you are reading this on a blog, I’ll skip the discussion about why blogs are important and why it’s insane that an art institution in Los Angeles would block access to a Los Angeles focused art publication. The issue here, is that since all blogs are not on one server, there’s no way they could have just “blocked off those kind of sites all together” as their employees are being told. They can still access other museum sites, art gallery sites, and pretty much the rest of the web – just not any blogs. Clearly a list of sites was complied and those sites were blacklisted. I want to know why.

I want to know because specifically I think this is a problem here in Los Angeles and I think LACMA will suffer by having under-informed employees because of it, but also because I’m a blog publisher and if a company is out there selling a prepackaged blog blacklist that’s something I should know about. I was given an e-mail contact of Andy Dworkin in their technology department so I sent him a note and asked him a few questions, such as:

“I’m interested in knowing where this blacklist came from. Did LACMA create it or did they just implement a list created by a third party?

If the list was created by LACMA, why were art blogs included on this list? Given that many of them are a valuable source of information written by industry professionals, it seems odd that LACMA wouldn’t want their employees to be able to read them.

If the list was created by a third party, what does LACMA think about the fact that this list is blocking art world sites?

Are their any plans to correct the situation and restore access to some of these art blogs such as art.blogging.la or modernartnotes.com?”

I e-mailed that on December 9th and still haven’t heard back. Not being one to just let things fade away, I asked for a better contact – someone I could put on the spot on the phone and get an answer from. I was given the contact for Domenic Morea, their publicist. His number is 323.857.6515 and I’ve left him several voice mails, none of which he’s responded too (Please, feel free to give him a call yourself). Apparently I’m not the only one getting the silent treatment on this matter. Employees were told they could submit websites and request for access to that domain to be reinstated. Several have submitted such requests and they too have heard nothing.

I made a commitment to get to the bottom of this last month and I’m not going back on that. I’m just going to keep calling, and keep posting about this until either they respond to me, until someone else with more weight takes note and steps in (causing them to actually respond), or until the #1 Google result for “LACMA” is this thread.


Update: Thanks to all the blogs helping push this issue ( MAN, Grant, LA Observed, 2020 Hindsight, grammar.police, LA Voice and Artblog) – a little birdie told me that the LA Times is working on a piece about this now.

19 Replies to “LACMA still blocking art blogs”

  1. Howdy!

    To say this in the politest way possible, you can do serious damage to your computer and others from viewing a website. The first one that comes to mind is “Mydoom.”

  2. Sorry Zeke, maybe you should have Googled that before you posted it. Mydoom, along with all other computer viruses, is spread though e-mail attachments, or downloading, and opening files from the web – not from viewing a website.

  3. I just want to point out that given Zeke’s well-meaning but nevertheless ridicule-worthy and all-too-common misinformation about Mydoom, Sean needs to be commended for replying to it in the “politest way possible.”

  4. Actually, that’s a problem with Microsoft Internet Explorer specifically, and anyone concerned about this kind of thing would be advised against using that browser at all.

    Regardless, to assume blogs are the source of this is quite insane.

  5. If you are using IE you deserve a virus. Using IE is like fucking a prostitute without wearing a condom, you never know what sort of VDs you’ll come home with.

  6. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I use the Firefox browswer. But IE still has a 90% lock on the marketshare. And I also doubt art blogs are the source of trojan horses too.

  7. I suspect that you are imagining a workplace where the staff has open time that it uses to keep up with the industry, and if this were true then it would be a big deal if they had access to other media but not you. It seems to me that this is probably just a productivity issue.

    The difference between blogs and other web sites is the amount of new content that gets released every day, which we know eats up a lot of time if reading a handful of blogs becomes a habit. LACMA was probably monitoring the amount of times its employees spent on which sites and that your site came up near the top of the list.

    Oh, well. Consider it a liability of your form.

  8. Damn, I’m bad at this.

    I meant to write that keeping up with the field by reading blogs is probably not something that the staff at LACMA is supposed to do while on the clock. This is something that the staff of a small gallery is allowed to do because the director is on top of them to keep it from becoming an idle habit. LACMA is just too big an institution to manage that sort of thing effectively, so they try to limit the loss through stopgap measures, like banning your site.

  9. Jim-

    Perhaps that is true, but if so I’d like LACMA to come clean about it and not imply that blogs spread viruses. However, as Franklin said on Artblog.com “If true, this compares to the Royal Ontario Museum drawing ban as an act of institutional hubris and know-nothingism.” Which I agree with – many of the people we’ve spoken to at LACMA have job descriptions which require them to know what’s going on in the art world, so blocking off an entire format because it’s _too_ uptodate seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  10. I believe you’re right that LACMA is lying about its reasons for blocking your blog.

    Still, you know this field.

    Imagine you have to manage a whole department of arts professionals and it comes to your attention that each of them is spending about an hour a day on blogs. The whole department is lagging in getting things done, but these are not people who expect to be scolded about their work habits, and so the polite thing to do is pretend there is a technological reason to block these sites.

    It might cheer you up to consider that this could be a damn good thing for you, and art in general.

    I understand that you want to be taken seriously in the discussion of the artworld, but if that happens then a blog is going to become just another step to a career in the arts, and you’re going to be about as relevant as a university art theory class. The longer they ignore you, the longer you have the chance to establish a culture that may actually contribute something to the world.

  11. Just in case there’s any confusion, Franklin said the above over at Artblog.net, not .com.

    Insurgent Muse has confirmed that LACMA is blocking sites. Mine seems to be getting through, so I guess I’m not on the blacklist. (Rats, I never get included in anything.)

  12. “I understand that you want to be taken seriously in the discussion of the artworld, but if that happens then a blog is going to become just another step to a career in the arts, and you’re going to be about as relevant as a university art theory class. The longer they ignore you, the longer you have the chance to establish a culture that may actually contribute something to the world.”

    What? Is it just me or are people starting to take blogs WAY too seriously. Art blogs are already part of the art world, they arleady contribute to discussion and are already recognized. I had full press credentials to Art Basel and Art in America just did a mention about art blogs. Hell, even Artnet puts art writing content online. So, I guess that means we’re “part of the system”. Good, that’s the best way to change things.

    The longer they ignore us, the longer they ignore us. Blogs are going to grow and change on a daily basis so it’s not like we’re all working to some particular goal with a specific mission – we’re writing about art, passionately, with opinions and news. That’s all. If LACMA wants to block it, then they aren’t part of the dialogue.

    As for the whole work-quality thing – bullhonky. If any business wants to do then they need to turn off the internet. It’s not blogs, it’s the whole damn thing. Plus, treating employees like children who need to have things taken away to behave is improper. Not that LACMA is doing that, I just mean in general.

    Ok, enough of this, I have to actually install a show.

  13. Caryn, you’re right that it is no big deal. LACMA is not blocking their employees from reading your site. They are blocking their employees from reading your site while they are at LACMA, which is an entirely different thing. It does not mean that LACMA has excluded itself from the dialogue, and you are taking yourself WAY too seriously to suggest that it does.

    Okay, now I have to actually make art.

    Just having fun. I am gonna go paint, but seriously, I admire what you’re doing with this site. I just see this particular issue differently than you do.

  14. Jim – If there is a dialogue going on and LACMA is blocking access too is, please, PRETTY PLEASE tell me how they are not excluding themselves from that dialogue.

  15. I’ll try, Sean.

    I used to work at an independent bookstores in the country, and it was the policy of that store that the staff could not read on the job. Of course every one of us resented the hell out of it when we started working there, because one the reasons you want to work at a bookstore is so you can sit behind the register and read books.

    Nonetheless, the staff of this store was astonishingly informed about everything in the store. We couldn’t read, so we wound up talking about books all the time, and this motivated us to go home and spend most of our free time reading, so we could participate in the talk. Besides all the books each of us read, we wound up knowing all about the books that the others read, and so we had a rare ability to put books into the hands of people who would enjoy them.

    The year I was working there, we wound up being named the best bookstore in the country by an association of independent bookstores.

    LACMA won’t let their staff read blogs. If anyone in the museum cares about it, they will read your blog on your own and talk about it, and the other employees will go home and read it as well and talk about it the next day, and the thing will become even more important as a conversation topic than it is itself, and there you go, LACMA is part of the dialogue.

    BUT I can definitely understand why this would be important to you as a symbolic issue, and why the misinformation that blogs spread viruses would be particularly upsetting to you, and why you want to take a stand on behalf of the nameless LACMA employees who contacted you. It was never my point that you are wrong. I was just offering a different way of looking at it. I find it interesting that other people think differently than I do, and I hope you feel that way as well.

  16. Damn, I did a little cutting before posting and didn’t realize that it wound up kind of choppy. Sorry about that! I hope it’s clear enough.

  17. Jim – I do understand what you are saying and I agree with most of it, however I don’t think that is the situation here. If LACMA had a policy that their employees could not read blogs, or magazines, gallery websites, or anything like that while on the job to increase productivity or to encourge discussion or to get them to do it outside of the office that would be one thing, however that isn’t the case. Rather, it seems they bought a third party filter which randomly blocks one website and not another. As one employee told me it seems to block many sites based on the URL alone without any consideration for the content. They can get to free porn, but they can’t get to a site talking about art events in Los Angeles. Additionally, they are justifying this by claiming it’s to prevent viruses.

    Does that make sense? If they are blocking blogs for the resons you proposed, first of all I’d like them to admit it. Secondly I’d like them to explain why some are blocked and others aren’t. As well as why there isn’t a ban on reading art magazines with show reviews, why is one system of content delivery OK and another not?

  18. I admit that I got completely drawn into the way that the story was dramatized. I get it now. The just installed some bad technology and the administration would rather ignore the problem until they can justify the expense of replacing it.

    It bothers you that the problem is not being solved and so to force the issue you demand to know what this situation says about the priorities of LACMA. I know you. You are Al Sharpton. Tell me when the march is, and I’m there.

Comments are closed.