A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

Last week, I wrote about cow paths. A lot of you wrote back — I thought I’d share some of your responses here. (All shared with permission.)

Cow paths are unprofessional

A. Curator

Hi Kyle,

A “cow path” is just a random pattern of interest. It has no relationship to the museum. The museum has things that it can bring to people — Things that people can’t find anywhere else. Our job is to help people see the value in that. A “cow path” is not finished. If we let people chase cow paths, we wouldn’t be a museum. We’re professionals…

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Professionalism is the last refuge of a dying organization

Samuel Johnson


Longtime reader, first-time replier.

Just wanted to say that you’re spot on here. And you’ll probably hear from people who are all like, “Oh, but something-something patriotism…”

Listen, I died 236 years ago, but I want to let you know that Boswell got it wrong.

See, I said that professionalism was the last refuge of a dying organization.* I never said anything about patriotism or scoundrels. If you want to know, we were in the library that night, and Boswell had some street urchin transcribing my comments — he called him an “intern” — and neither of them was paying any attention… Anyway, I want you to know that you’re right to be focused on cow paths…

Show me a funded cow path, and I’ll show you a sidewalk

The Powers That Be

Is a cow path a viable path?

There are no second acts in a cow’s path

F. Scott Fitzgerald

You only get one chance to exit the cow’s path. Everyone is watching — There’s no room for chance… I believe my colleague, A Curator, has written to you about this already…

Cows don’t path on their own.

A cowboy

Everybody wants their cows. Nobody wants to know how their cows get from here to there, or how they feel about it along the way, or what they’ll do at the end of the path, or…

The cow’s path will still be there tomorrow.

Christie Sosnowski-Bowen

You can stop writing now. It’s getting late.

On my way.

illustration of two cows, overlapping eachother


*In support of Mr. Johnson’s claim, I submit that James Boswell is not a reliable source. Specifically, what do we really know about Johnson’s supposed “friend” and biographer? Did you know that James Boswell voted 14 times in Pennsylvania during this year’s election? And how is James Boswell — a man who has been dead for centuries — campaigning to become a board member for the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District in the town of “Pleasanton”, California? (I write “Pleasanton” in quotes because do we even know if Pleasonton is a real town? And, if it is, who's to say Hugo Chavez isn’t living there right now? I’d like a reader of this newsletter to prove that Chavez is not living in Pleasanton. In fact, if any of you can prove that Hugo Chavez is not running the show in Pleasonton, HBO will donate $10,000 to the puppet James Boswell’s campaign. That’s right, we’ll aid in his bloodless coup of Pleasanton’s Parks and Recreation District — Just reply to this email with your so-called evidence and, if it checks out, we’ll put a check in the mail on the morrow. #PleasantonCoup2020)
John Oliver


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