A New Agora for New York
Museums as Spaces for Democracy Humanities Discussions Programs
The Museum Association of New York is pleased to announce a new initiative to help museums in New York State amplify the role that our state and people have played in the development of American democracy as we approach the 2026 Semiquincentennial.
In the latest grant funding for humanities projects, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded MANY $499,988 to support “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy,” produced in partnership with Humanities New York (HNY). The series will use the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America as a launching point to support the work of twelve museums and their communities to explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American Democracy and envision the future of our nation.
The exhibition will open at Preservation Long Island in March 2024 then travel to Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, National Women’s Hall of Fame and Museum, Robert H. Jackson Center, the Munson in Utica, Alice Austen House, Long Island Museum, Onondaga Historical Association and Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center, Genesee Country Village and Museum, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Chemung County Historical Society, and concludes at the Underground Railroad Education Center in Albany in January 2026.
Each museum will display the Smithsonian exhibition and produce an exhibition drawn from their own collection that relates to their community’s role in the development and advancement of democracy in America. Smithsonian resources available to the twelve museums will include digital learning curricula and communication tools. MANY staff will organize the exhibition travel, and help each museum plan, implement, and evaluate the exhibitions and interpretive programs.
The project will help the museums build their capacity to engage with their communities with access to consulting and advising scholars, a project fellow dedicated to program support, New York State Museum education and curatorial staff, AASLH’s Vital Resources program, training by HNY staff in leading Community Conversations, and a subscription to the OurStoryBridge virtual platform to collect and share oral histories about voting and democracy in their communities.
Humanities New York is an instrumental project partner who will share their expertise in developing and leading community conversations and their deep connections to humanities scholarship and audience development.
Teacher training workshops will be organized by New York State Museum Senior Historian and Curator of Political and Military History Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator of Social History Ashley Hopkins-Benton, Museum Instructors James Jenkins and Kathleen Morehouse, and Director of Education Kathryn Weller. Workshops will connect exhibition content to New York State Learning Standards and create a teacher training program that encourages hands-on and inquiry-based classroom learning.
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation will add $120,000 to the NEH’s award for this 30-month-long project that will support public events, community exhibitions, free public lectures, workshops for teachers, and community for discussion programs at the twelve museums.
*In ancient Greek cities an Agora was both an assembly of people and the physical setting in which they gathered. It was an open space in which intellectual and thought-provoking discussions formed the foundation of a civil society.
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.
About the William G. Pomeroy Foundation
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation® is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and working to improve the probability of finding appropriate donor matches or other life-saving treatments for blood cancer patients. Established by Trustee Bill Pomeroy in 2005 to bring together his two greatest passions, the Pomeroy Foundation is a private, philanthropic organization located in Syracuse, N.Y. As the nation’s leading funder of historic roadside markers, the Pomeroy Foundation has awarded more than 2,100 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 48 states and Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.
About Humanities New York
Using dialogue, reflection, and critical thinking, Humanities New York applies the humanities to strengthen democratic society. Established in 1975 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities New York is a private 501(c)(3) organization that may receive federal, state, and private funding. To learn more about Humanities New York, visit humanitiesny.org.
About the New York State Museum
The New York State Museum is a center of art, science, and history dedicated to exploring the human and natural history of the state. Established in 1836, it is the oldest and largest state museum in the country. From its beginning, the Museum has been home to some of the nation’s leading scientists, including the founders of American paleontology, ethnology, botany and mycology. Its collections rank among the finest in many fields and total more than 16 million scientific specimens and one million cultural objects.
The New York State Museum is a program of The University of the State of New York / The State Education Department / Office of Cultural Education.
OurStoryBridge empowers every community to cultivate connection across the generations, encourage civic engagement, celebrate diversity, and engender shared and durable kindness. To learn more, visit ourstorybridge.org.