People who study museums—like Lukas, Jenna Tonn, and others—know this well. But I think one thing the Field Museum episode reveals is that, even within the academy (indeed, even within history of science), there are some widespread misperceptions about today's museum curation—some will be surprised that curators are tenured, for example, and that "curation" is as much original research as preservation and display.
Sure, we "know" this. But I think if a scientific division at a major university—down the road, say, at the University of Chicago—were going through this (collapsing departments, breaking tenure), we'd hear more about it. Does that sound right? If so, why? And why do I get the impression that part of making the case for the Field is convincing people that its staff really does crucial research (rather than, say, simply enabling others to do it)?
Maybe a comparison with art museums will help bring what interests me into focus.