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How are museums growing institutional resources? How are museums working with their communities? How are museums using their exhibitions and collections in new ways? Explore original articles by MANY staff about NYS museums. 

What's happening at your museum? Submit your museum news and we might feature you in our next This Month in NYS Museums newsletter!

Email meves@nysmuseums.org 

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  • November 29, 2022 3:56 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Balsam Fir growing at the edge of a granite quarry that closed for industrial purposes in 1960, making this tree approximately the same age as the Museum Association of New York.

    The last weeks of 2022 bring MANY’s sixtieth year of service to the museum field to a close. Despite the recent hardships we have all experienced, we stand stronger now than ever before. As I look back over all that we have accomplished, I am proud of the ways we brought museum professionals together in person and virtually for critical discussions about contemporary museum practice. I am continually inspired by my colleagues who generously share their time and expertise and I write now to ask for your financial support. 

    MANY’s in-person programs help museum professionals meet new people and form new connections. In 2023, we will host programs in every region of the state to discuss strategies to prepare and envision post-pandemic museums. We will begin those discussions on February 8th at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. We are excited to be in Syracuse from April 15-18 for “Finding Center,” our 2023 annual conference. I am pleased to announce that Omar Eaton-Martinez, Senior Vice President for Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation will join us as our opening keynote speaker on Sunday, April 16. 

    Federal and state pandemic grants helped us absorb the increasing expenses of the past two years. Project support grants help us to provide free, virtual programming. But as we move into 2023, our budget can no longer shoulder the impact. We need your support before December 31. Your donation, no matter the amount, will help us continue to serve the needs of our museum community.

    You can use the secure donation page on our website: https://nysmuseums.org/donate or send a check via USPS to: Museum Association of New York, 265 River Street, Troy, NY, 12180.

    With thanks for all the ways you support MANY, 


    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director



  • November 29, 2022 3:54 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Natalie Stetson is the Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse, NY. She previously served as the Director of Development at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY. Natalie has spent much of her career thinking about and finding ways to engage new audiences at history museums and connect museums to their community. 

    Natalie received a BA at the Honors College of Florida Atlantic University with concentrations in American Studies and Literature. She later attended Syracuse University and received an MA in Museum Studies. Natalie grew up in museums and followed in the footsteps of her father, who received his MFA in Museum Studies (then called Museology) from Syracuse University thirty years before she attended.

    Natalie joined the Museum Association of NY Board in April 2018 and is the co-chair of the Program Committee Chair of the Host Committee for our 2023 Annual Conference in Syracuse “Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement” April 15 - 18, 2023.

    We spoke with Natalie to learn more about her career path and her leadership in the development of a new interpretive plan for the Erie Canal Museum.

    Natalie Stetson, Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum sits on a recreated canal boat in the historic 1850 Weighlock Building 

    What other jobs have you had in the museum field? Can you tell us about your journey to get to your current role?

    My dad is a museum director so I grew up in museums. He’s been working in museums for over forty years across the country including Iowa, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, and New York. His first museum job was at the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University.

    I’ve volunteered in many different museum positions including art classrooms, the gift shop, and the front desk. My first paid museum job was a front desk job at my dad’s museum in Central Florida. I worked the front desk on the weekends while I was in high school but I didn’t mean to go into the museum field. Outside of volunteering and working at the front desk, I didn’t spend a lot of time in museums and wasn’t thinking that’s what I wanted to do. 

    It’s a time that I now look back on and it makes sense that I’m working in museums. Those early experiences led me to work in a museum now, but I didn’t know it at the time. I wanted to be a teacher and that’s what I worked toward in college. Later I realized that teaching wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I wanted to work in education. 

    After college, I started looking at graduate programs in museum studies or American studies. I don’t like writing. It doesn’t come easily to me so I wanted to pursue something without a thesis dissertation. When I was growing up, my aunt was working on her PhD and for my entire childhood, she had a dissertation to write. I just imagined the burden of that dissertation or that thesis on my shoulders. I didn't think I would finish it and get my degree. It made me think that maybe academia wasn’t right for me. I ended up taking a year off after college and moved to Portland Oregon with my best friend. It was at this point that I thought about pursuing a career in museums. 

    Museums seemed to check all the boxes in what I was looking to do in my career. I started looking for graduate programs in museum studies. I applied to a few but ended up choosing to attend Syracuse University because they offered me the best deal. I actually only applied to Syracuse because my dad got his master's in museum studies at Syracuse University. My dad’s mom also went to Syracuse and his grandmother. So just the idea of this legacy I thought that I’d apply but I wasn’t going to go. I didn’t see myself moving to Syracuse. I didn’t have any interest in moving to Central New York. I wanted to live in a large city where I didn’t need a car but I was convinced that I would only be here for two years to get my degree and then I would leave. But I’ve been here for over ten years now and it’s home. 

    I wasn’t sure which part of a museum I wanted to work in. I took a development class and I developed this philosophy of museum development which is if you can be passionate about what you’re doing and can convey that to others, the money will follow. That was my early development philosophy. Then I interned at the Erie Canal Museum and worked for the museum curator Dan Ward. In the first semester of my second year of graduate school, he forwarded me an email from the museum that said they were looking for a Director of Development and Marketing. I still had a semester left of school but I figured that I would throw my hat into the ring. The museum hired me and I started in November 2010. In the early days, I felt like I had no real idea of what I was doing but I had a lot of passion, energy, and ideas. I worked at the museum for three years and learned a lot about grants and their complicated nature. I left the Erie Canal Museum and worked at the Seward House Museum in a similar position for two and a half years. Billye [Chabot, Seward House Museum Executive Director] came to me one day and told me that the director position at the Erie Canal Museum was open.

    I was hired as the Erie Canal Museum Executive Director in March 2016 and in my six years here, I have really come to love this museum and the story of the Erie Canal. The canal touches upon enough things that if you want to, you can find a connection. Art, math, science, immigration, and Native American history. It’s all here and I loved that. 

    What an interesting journey and opportunity to explore different roles at museums. Did you ever have a moment when you began your museum career and look back at your childhood with your father and think about the impact it has on your role now?

    Yes. I think part of what makes me at least somewhat of a successful executive director is that I have experience working in many different parts of a museum. Having that knowledge of other roles and what they’re doing, helps me understand my staff’s needs. I think people are the most important resource this museum or any museum has and if I can't support my staff and take care of them, then we won’t be successful. Having at least some understanding of what they need without them having to tell me because some employees are better than others at telling you what they need. Having a little bit of background knowledge from my experience is helpful. 

    I think back to watching my dad interact with his staff and although he’s a different kind of leader than me, we both trust our staff. I’m not a micromanager. I trust them to do what needs to be done because we’re all on the same page with the same goals is important. They’re probably a few of my previous experiences that come up here and there that are nice reminders of all of the things that I know help me to hopefully be a better leader. 

    Tell me about some of your biggest motivations to do what you do. What do you get excited about in your role as the Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum?

    That’s a good question because it’s changed over time. This museum is amazing, but for many years it kind of just existed. We’re a popular tourist destination which is wonderful and we can exist on that if we wanted to. When I came back as director there was a lot of foundation building we needed to create. We were down to three volunteers. We needed to build up a constituency of people who cared about this museum in the community. There also wasn’t a lot of collaboration amongst the staff. It was very much a blinders-up situation and working independently of each other. In those first couple of years, my job was hard and I didn’t always like it and didn’t always know what I was doing. 

    But then during the pandemic, there was this moment, an awakening for all of us where we thought we can do so much more with the Erie Canal story. I called it a microcosm for all of American history and we have this incredible opportunity to help people reconcile with history. People think that history is hard but it’s not. It’s not pretty most of the time, but our museum is a trusted source of information. This museum now has the support of a wonderful group of people who are letting us tackle really hard topics and allowing us to think about how we can be kind of the arbiters of change in this conversation around history. I like when I come to work each day now, really excited about what we’re going to do next and where we’re going. The team here is excited. I think we’re going to change things. We’re just one little museum in Central New York and I hope we can be leaders for other small museums. 

    For the past couple of years, we've been doing a lot of this work through our programming. We’ve been focused on expanding our interpretation. We’re talking more about the Haudenosaunee past and present. Currently, you cannot find the word Haudenosaunee in our exhibitions anywhere and that is a problem. But changing exhibitions is a lot more complicated than working to develop programming. I think developing programming and developing those relationships, the language, and establishing goals all need to happen before we start changing the exhibitions. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years. We’ve had a couple of thousand people participate in our virtual programs, but there are over fifteen thousand people visiting the museum in person, walking through the door to look at our exhibitions and our programs are not touching those people. They’re not getting that experience. 

    The museum was recently awarded $50,000 IMLS Inspire! Grant to develop a new interpretive plan as part of a larger effort to tell a more inclusive Canal story. Can you tell us more about the grant project?

    Our last interpretive plan was connected to our reaccreditation with the American Alliance of Museums in 2010 which was part of the documentation needed in order to be reaccredited. Nothing is wrong with that plan, but it’s not extensive and it no longer aligns with our current goals to tell a more inclusive story of the Erie Canal. We knew that we needed a new interpretation plan. The murder of George Floyd and the social justice movements that followed ended up being a transformative moment for a lot of museums. When that happened, many cultural institutions made statements. For us, The Canal connects to everything, and initially, we stayed silent but we knew that there were things we were not talking about and that we should be. Derek Pratt, our Museum Educator, and I got to work. Derek really dug in and created our Pathway Resistance walking tour. In 2021, we brought in a research fellow, Renée Barry, who traveled across New York State’s Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, collecting and analyzing Canal history. She focuses on how the dominant Erie Canal discourse continues to reinforce and obscure the ongoing historical context of industrialization’s radicalized inequality. This position was funded by the NYS Power Authority’s Reimagine the Canal initiative. It was a great opportunity for us and two months after Barry started, we applied for the IMLS grant. 

    We were awarded the funding from the IMLS in August and we’ve met with our consultant to outline themes and goals. We will likely completely redo the entire museum. Our current exhibition was installed in 2015. Its research is twenty years old and it’s not the story we want to tell. We want to talk about New York State before the Erie Canal, and what was happening before the ditch was dug. When this exhibition was installed it cost $700,000, so this is just the first step with a large capital campaign to follow. One donor has already contributed $10,000. 

    Can you share more about what some of the intended goals are for this project?

    There are five goals. The first one is to tell a more inclusive Erie Canal story through exhibits and programs, the second is to expand the interpretation of the 1850 Syracuse Weighlock Building, the third is to increase engagement for children and families, the fourth is to provide a more welcoming environment for marginalized populations, and the fifth is to create a more cohesive visitor experience.

    The plan will allow for strategic updates over the course of a few years or as funding becomes available. 

    We don’t know fully what this will look like but it’s important that the museum is a space that is welcoming to all people. One thing that will be critical for us is to figure out tone and language. For example, we will need to talk about the trauma the Erie Canal had on the Haudenosaunee. That’s why we’ve hired professionals and built connections with our colleagues at the Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center to help us. 

    What advice would you give other museums applying for an IMLS Inspire! Grant? 

    It seems like a nuanced thing but I’ve been part of some teams that try to create something that a particular grant funding will work for but then ended up with a project that there weren’t resources available to actually complete or didn’t fit within your goals. 

    When I sit down to write a grant I know that this grant is important to the museum’s goals and we’re not creating a project to fulfill grant requirements but it just aligned with what we’re already doing. 

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    I can’t think of a literal day but there are days when I am not sitting at my computer and I’m leading people through the museum that I really enjoy. I’m a member of the Canal Recreationway Commission for New York State* and l led a tour a couple of weeks ago. I don’t get to do this often but it’s important because those are the days when I get to talk about our plans and goals. 

    I like watching visitors interact with a presenter during one of our programs. It’s nice witnessing the good work we’re doing rather than just being behind the scenes. 

    I also like our staff meeting days where we talk and share the work we’re doing. It’s important to get out from behind the computer and have face-to-face interaction, both with the public and with your staff. They’re the days when I look at the calendar and think I’m not going to get any work done with all the meetings, tours, and programs but at the end of the day, I feel so invigorated. Those days can be overwhelming and exhausting but they’re the best days. 

    *The Canal Recreationway Commission was founded in 1992 and comprised of 24 members representing the Canal System and appointed by the Governor to develop a conceptual framework for fostering the development of the Canal System into a recreationway system.


  • November 15, 2022 9:38 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    Scholarship Applications Due Friday, Dec. 2


    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is sponsoring ten (10) scholarships for museum professionals to attend the 2023 annual conference “Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement” in Syracuse, from Saturday, April 15 to Tuesday, April 18.

    Scholarships will be awarded to museum professionals working in history-related museums in NYS that have an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and who have not attended a MANY annual conference in the past.

    “MANY’s conference is a wonderful opportunity to learn from and engage with talented museum professionals from across the Empire State,” said Deryn Pomeroy, Trustee and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Pomeroy Foundation. “We are pleased to offer these scholarships to help enhance access to the annual gathering as well as to grow professional development opportunities within the field.” 

    Each scholarship includes conference registration, one workshop or special event registration, two nights at the Hotel Syracuse, up to $400 transportation/parking reimbursement, and complimentary individual MANY membership for one year.

    “We are so pleased to make MANY’s annual conference more accessible to New York’s museum professionals,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger. “We are incredibly thankful to William G. Pomeroy Foundation for their generous commitment to the museum field.”

    Those eligible for a conference scholarship must be employed full-time at a NYS museum. Following the conference, scholarship recipients will be required to submit a 500 to 1,000 word summary of their conference experience, which may be included in MANY’s “This Month in NYS Museums” e-newsletter.

    Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 via MANY’s website: https://nysmuseums.org/conference-scholarships


    In addition to funding from the Pomeroy Foundation, there are several other scholarships available for the MANY 2023 conference. Visit the MANY website for more information or email conference@nysmuseums.org with questions about the scholarship applications. 


    About the Museum Association of New York

    The Museum Association of New York is the only statewide museum service organization with more than 700 member museums, historical societies, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. MANY helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 

     

    About the 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 2,000 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 46 states and Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.

     

    # # #

  • October 26, 2022 11:31 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    Last week, the American Association of State and Local History published their 2022 National Visitation Report. The report illustrates that although some history organizations saw as much as a 75% increase in attendance in 2021 over 2020, overall visitation remains well below pre-pandemic levels. With hard data like this, organizational leaders and stakeholders can gain insights into the progress of the sector’s ongoing recovery.    

    Quantifiable trends clearly show that museums can no longer operate –care for collections, produce exhibitions, and engage with communities– the way that they operated in 2019. But how much funding do museums need now and for what purposes? How do we measure the value that museums bring as economic drivers? How can we show all the ways that museums contribute to communities? 

    In Governor Hochul’s recent announcement of the historic allocation of $150M in capital grants available through the New York State Council on the Arts, she said “New York’s arts and cultural organizations strengthen our economic well-being, nourish our diversity and identity, and support our communities.” The Museum Study Bill, passed almost unanimously by the legislature earlier this year, directs the department of economic development, in conjunction with other departments and entities, to conduct a comprehensive study of public and private museums, including taking a census of public and private museums in the state, and to report the findings and recommendations of such study. 

    This bill and the resulting report will help all of New York’s museums quantify their impact and communicate their value. But we still need Governor Hochul to sign the bill.

    Your voice is essential in our efforts to strengthen the field and to show the Governor the important roles your museums play in your community. Please take a few minutes out of your day today to let the Governor know that you support the bill, that you need the data to respond to changes in our world, and the ways in which the report will help communicate the value of your museum. You can send an email to Governor Hochul using this link or send a handwritten note to:  

    The Honorable Kathy Hochul
    Governor of New York State
    NYS State Capitol Building
    Albany, NY 12224

    With thanks in advance for your time and your support, 

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director


  • October 26, 2022 9:08 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Birdseye rendering from the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Strategic Action Plan, 2022

    Buffalo’s Michigan Street played a unique role in local and national American history including the Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights Movement. It was home to many residents involved with the Niagara Movement –a precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) and the Colored Musician's Club that helped shape the Jazz Age.

    In 2007, supported by leaders in the local African American community, the then NYS Assemblywoman (now Assembly Majority Leader) Crystal Peoples-Stokes sponsored state legislation to designate Michigan Street as a Heritage Corridor. The Corridor contains several key cultural and historic sites including the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House, the Colored Musician's Club, and the WUFO Black Radio History Collective. This legislation established the initial structure of the African American Heritage Corridor Commission (MSAAHCC) that includes representation from each of the heritage and cultural sites and other public and philanthropic organization stakeholders.

    “This Corridor has been represented by so many different cultures,” said Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission. “Before African Americans started inhabiting it in the early 1920s, there were European immigrants like in many other urban cities across the country looking for new opportunities. This Corridor served a number of different peoples who had hope for themselves and their families and hope for new opportunities in this city.”

    On January 1, 2021, the Commission became its own independent non-profit organization with a board that includes representatives from each of the four cultural anchor sites. “They will always have a seat at the table,” said Alford. “We want to make sure that our anchors are sustainable. It’s a covenant between the anchors and the Commission to always make sure that they have representation and a voice.”

     

    Community Driven Strategy

    In 2020, MSAAHCC hired Moody Nolan, an African American-owned design firm with a history of developing and promoting strategies that help transform communities and neighborhoods like Michigan Street, to lead the Strategic Action Plan.   

    “The intent of the Strategic Action plan was to facilitate a consensus-building planning process with stakeholders, including MSAAHCC Board and staff, elected officials, involved public agencies, key adjacent property owners, and the public,” said Alford. “It was to identify methods to best coordinate activities of each of these assets and formulate a concept design and spending and operating plan for the investment area to be financed with part of a pending NYS grant.”

    The overall goal was to use this strategic plan to develop a uniformly agreed vision to tell the important stories of the Corridor, achieve sustainable operations for MSAAHCC, and continue to develop the Corridor to increase visitors and create future private investments.

    “A fundamental part of the Commission’s mission and vision is to ensure that the Corridor is recognized locally as a focal point for learning about the city’s African American history and recognizing the Corridor’s heritage legacy nationally and internationally,” said Alford. “We want new residents to move into the area which will bring more spending dollars to the Corridor, new business leases, and create and support more local jobs. Michigan Street’s heritage tourism provides numerous benefits for the organization, community, and economic anchors.”

     

    A Holistic Economic Development Strategy

    As part of New York State’s overall effort to target revitalization in Western NY’s underserved neighborhoods, Empire State Development (ESD) committed $65M in state funding to revitalize Buffalo’s East Side through investments in nine target areas along Jefferson, Fillmore, Bailey, and Michigan Avenues. 

    MSAAHCC received $7M for capital improvements and to facilitate a coordinated tourism destination with four cultural anchor sites. To leverage public funding, private and philanthropic organizations, including the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, allocated an additional $8M through an “East Side Collaborative Fund” known as “East Side Avenues.” The Fund is managed by the University of Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) to support operations, programs, capacity building, and community infrastructure. ESD and the City of Buffalo partnered with UBRI to reach out to community members, to listen, analyze past investments, and create a comprehensive plan focused on what key stakeholders wanted to see happen and what projects they believed were important for promoting economic activity.  

    In 2019 and 2020, with the assistance of UBRI and East Side Avenues, the MSAAHCC grew stronger by formalizing its organizational infrastructure and administrative functions including a search for its first full-time executive director. “East Side Avenues helped organizations like ours that were asked to manage these funds but didn’t have the capacity to manage large-scale projects,” said Alford. “It created a mechanism to help with capacity and provide a support system that also found additional funding to assist with operational support like staffing and day-to-day administration. That’s where our staff salaries come from every year, but this funding stream is not infinite. The goal of this whole dynamic led by UBRI and East Side Avenues is to make sure that organizations like ours are up and running and self-sustainable within a set time frame, in our case five years, with the hope that in the fifth year we would be sustainable in finding our own funds.”

    Concurrently, ESD is coordinating with the Church, Nash House, and the Colored Musician's Club to use a portion of the allotted $7M to address immediate capital needs to stabilize each property. “The next step will support sustainable operations, fundraising, and identify and prioritize how to use the remaining funding for future capital investments,” said Alford.

    Most recently, Governor Kathy Hochul announced in August that the Colored Musicians Club began its $2.95M expansion and renovations to increase programming and tourism to the Corridor. The Colored Musician's Club was founded in 1918 and is the only remaining African American musicians club of its kind in the country. The Club hosted performances by notable artists including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Nat “King” Cole, Miles Davis, and Cab Calloway.

     

    Inside the Colored Musicians Club with visitors inside of the Historic Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum.

    Groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the Historic Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum. 


    Other improvements to the cultural anchors include: 

    $1.3 million for the Michigan Street Baptist Church to help ensure the building's structural integrity and address safety issues at the church, while also providing better access for disabled visitors. The project includes foundation repairs and roof reinforcement, plus accessibility renovations. The Michigan Street Baptist Church was built by African Americans in 1845 and was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for freedom seekers escaping through Buffalo to Canada before the Civil War. It's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

    Construction underway at the Michigan Street Baptist Church and 509 Michigan Ave, which will be the future home of WUFO Black Radio History Collective. 


    $172,000 to the Nash House for weatherization improvements and upgrades to the museum exhibits. The Nash House was once the home of Reverend J. Edward Nash Sr., pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church through the 1950s and a renowned Buffalo civil rights leader. It is currently owned by the not-for-profit Michigan Street Preservation Corporation and has been operating as a museum since 2007.

    Sharon Holley, Chair of the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation, leads the Nash House Museum in the care and preservation of the historic house museum. 


    $1M to the WUFO Radio Station & Black History Collective for a significant restoration and expansion project. The Collective is the only African American owned radio station in Western New York and is the anchor tenant for 509 Michigan Street, a city-owned, one-hundred-year-old, two-story structure located south of the Michigan Street Baptist Church.

    WUFO Black Radio History Collective is led by Sheila Brown, owner of WUFO Radio Station. The radio station has been a staple of Buffalo's Black community for more than 60 years. 

    These projects will create a tourist destination that will tell a unified story of Buffalo's contribution to African American history while attracting new visitors from the region and beyond.

     

    Community Impact

    The MSAAHCC Strategic Planning process involved extensive community engagement to articulate the community’s short-term and long-term goals. The following economic development opportunities reflect the Commission and the community’s goals and include: 

    1. Development of mixed-use buildings to bring more people to the Corridor (residential, commercial, museums, and cultural organizations).

    2. Prioritize retail along the Corridor to strengthen the visitor experience and increase revenue.

    3. Support new cultural uses and long-term public spaces along the Corridor to enhance the local community and tourism.

    “We’re trying to promote and encourage more people to live in this Corridor,” said Alford. “We’re looking at using this part of the Corridor as the economic engine, focusing on heritage tourism with the hope that it will spur community development…not just in this part of the Corridor with our four cultural anchors, but to serve as an economic engine to develop the entire 3.5 miles of the Corridor.”

    Alford also wants to make sure that alongside these developments there are affordable housing options for those who live and work within the Corridor. “Investors are using this opportunity to look at building both affordable and not-so-affordable housing. It’s exciting to see certain development happening but obviously what we all fear is gentrification or more marginalization. When we say Buffalo’s East Side, it’s two-thirds of the city. Most of the people who live in these communities are not middle class or higher, they’re moderate or lower economically. It’s a historically marginalized community, and not just for African Americans but for a lot of different folks who find themselves living here and for generations have been ignored.”

    One of the main goals for MSAAHCC was to keep the community included in the development of programs and services for the Corridor. 

    “What makes us so proud of this plan was that it was definitely consensus building,” said Alford. “Over the course of the pandemic, all of these community engagements were a little more challenging because we had to do them virtually but the community that we reached to help make this plan came from different walks of life and different areas of the Corridor representing elders, faith-based communities, educators, young professionals, and civic and social organizations.”

     

    Visitor and Local Experience

    “We’re unique, unlike the other three Corridors where they work with just one board of directors, Audrey [Clark] and I work with five boards –the Commission board and each anchor site board.”

    MSAAHCC Program Manager Audrey Clark coordinates with each board to schedule regular meetings, working with each anchor site to market the Corridor as a collective entity and incorporating ways of sharing multiple historical stories through a contemporary lens.

    “It’s still a work in progress but basically we’ve spent more than two years making everybody a cohesive unit,” said Clark. “Each cultural site was operating on its own with its own limited hours if they were open at all. Our goal was to get them to operate together with similar open hours, and ticket prices, and share all their resources like tour guide training. We wanted to create a cohesive experience between each historic site. You’re not just hearing the story of the Church or the Nash House, but a continuation of the story of the neighborhood, making it a much fuller experience when you visit the Corridor. It’s about building the programs for both the neighborhood and bringing in outside visitors.” 

    One example is “Mrs. Frances Nash’s Garden Basket,” a program that launched in June in partnership with the African Heritage Food Co-Op, Buffalo Go Green, and the East Side Garden Walk to distribute Community Support Agriculture (CSA) farm shares. From June through October the program distributed 30 free CSA farm shares every week on a first-come, first-served basis. This program is named after Frances Nash, the wife of Rev. J. Edward Nash, who was interested in nutrition and was a lifelong advocate for healthy eating. “She had a wonderful community garden that she used to provide produce to her neighbors in the 1940s until it was demolished by the city since she did not own the lot it was growing on,” said Clark.

    The program helps mitigate challenges created by a lack of affordable healthy food in the Michigan Street Corridor and MSAAHCC is working on a long-term solution for providing healthy food options to residents of the East Side.

    “The idea is that next year we’re going to expand to have a farmer’s market in the Corridor focusing on having affordable produce options,” said Clark. “It’s programs like this one where it’s not strictly history based or even bringing in other large flashy economic development projects but rather a small-scale grassroots kind of project that makes it more meaningful for residents.”

     

    Vision for the Future

    “I was born and raised in these communities that are connected to the Corridor, primarily in the Historic Fruit Belt. I remember from the time I could walk the vibrant communities right along Michigan Street. There was a massive amount of housing and businesses like corner stores, hairdressers, barbers, and all types of bars with live music. Most notably I remember the gardens and tree-lined avenues. Michigan Street used to have a canopy of trees that adorned the entire avenue.” Alford also remembers Urban Renewal which transformed the Corridor. “That’s when NYS Route 33 was built right down the middle of the African American community and knocked down homes and businesses with the promise of new, which never happened. It was a site to see and to have the opportunity to live through that. Hopefully, we can plant the seeds and grow it back again.”

    The next step is purchasing a commercial property for the MSAAHCC office, serving as a visitor center hub for the cultural anchors. Alford said that they hope to close on a property before the end of the year. “We’re ready to take this project on and hire more staff to help the Commission and provide support to the anchors.”

    MSAAHCC will implement strategies centered on business growth for the Corridor that support the strategic plan including business incubator partnerships and business technical assistance. “We’re immediately looking to provide funding that we received from Senator Schumer to provide economic development for each of the anchors,” said Alford.

    In March 2022, Senator Schumer secured $800,000 as part of the bipartisan omnibus spending package. $500,000 of these funds will go to the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition for renovating and revitalizing the Michigan Street Baptist Church, one of the cultural anchors of the MSAAHCC. $300,000 went to MSAAHCC to develop a strategic plan to bolster investment, entrepreneurship, redevelopment, and job creation along the Corridor.

    “It’s my hope that each anchor will have its own economic development and business plans. In the short term, the Commission is working with the city to improve street designs and curb appeal including wayfinding, and art installations. “We're looking for short-term wins, immediate wins. We need to show that we’re doing things that complement our programming that Audrey is leading and the capital projects that our anchors are involved with.” Alford is focused on keeping the momentum going. 

    “I can’t wait for people to see us two years from now to see how far we’ve advanced and progressed in this part of the Corridor,” said Alford. “I believe that while yes this is the African American Heritage Corridor but like how it was in the early 20th century we’re going to have a multicultural group of people living here side by side, working, playing, and praising together. I think we’re already seeing it.”

     

    Learn more about the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission: https://www.michiganstreetbuffalo.org/  


  • October 26, 2022 7:56 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Pomeroy Fund for NYS History has awarded 20 history-related organizations across New York State $5,000 each during its fifth grant round to bring back or hire museum educators.


    The Pomeroy Fund, which is a partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation® and the Museum Association of New York (MANY), has awarded almost $300,000 to 96 history-related organizations across New York State since spring 2020. 

    “We are grateful to museum educators across the state who help enhance our understanding of history,” said Deryn Pomeroy, Trustee and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Pomeroy Foundation. “We are proud to provide funding and support to these organizations and their dedicated employees, who play a vital role in preserving and sharing New York’s rich historical heritage.”

    Educators receiving support through the fifth round of the Pomeroy Fund will plan and deliver interpretive programs, including school programs, teen programs, early childhood programs, family days, festivals, programs for older adults, programs for New Americans, and targeted audience-specific programs.

    “We are honored to be able to continue this partnership with the Pomeroy Foundation to support the work of museums that tell the story of New York State’s history through their collections and programs,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger. “This was an especially competitive grant cycle and awards were made to only the most outstanding applicants. Museum Education staff and the programs they deliver were especially hard hit in the past three years and these grants will make a real difference in twenty different communities.” 

    Pomeroy Fund for NYS History Round Five Grantees (listed alphabetically):

    Beacon Historical Society (Mid-Hudson) will hire an educator to assist with their year-long project “The West End Story” which examines the history of Beacon’s changing landscape during Urban Renewal. Beacon Historical Society hopes to amplify elder community voices, immigrants, and People of Color who were most affected by Urban Renewal to raise questions and form ideas for the future of Beacon.

    Delaware County Historical Association (Southern Tier) will hire an educator to administer a new in-person adult letter transcription workshop focused on reading and understanding 18th and 19th-century handwriting offering ongoing educational opportunities in reading, transcribing, and understanding historical documents. 

    Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center (Mid-Hudson) will rehire an arts education program manager to plan and implement education and community outreach initiatives to engage a broad audience and support audience diversity and cultural experiences. The arts education program manager will work with staff to bring back in-person programs including the Nighthawks Teen Leadership Program which trains high school students in visitor services, interpretive public speaking, and serving as junior docents. 

    Glens Falls-Queensbury Historical Association/Chapman Museum (Capital Region) will hire a seasonal museum educator to lead the Ticket to Ride program at the Glens Falls Feeder Canal where students use inquiry skills to analyze photographs, examine artifacts, explore hands-on STEM-based exhibitions, and learn about the historic and economic impact of NYS Canals. 

    Greater Astoria Historical Society (New York City) will hire an educator to plan, coordinate and implement a historical walking tour during the summer months for elementary school-aged children. Tours will focus on architecture, local history, the environment, civics, and the arts.

    Historic Cherry Hill (Capital Region) will expand the hours of their education assistant hired in 2022 to support the museum’s expanded public hours, develop new school programs, and update existing programs to meet the needs of students. Programs include the Hudson River School Trading Game for 4th and 5th graders which connects students to Albany’s significant history as a Hudson River port that includes stories of People of Color.

    Historical Society of Saratoga Springs/Saratoga Springs History Museum (Capital Region) will hire an educator to coordinate and conduct programming beginning in Spring 2023 to increase the accessibility of off-site school programming and to partner with Saratoga Springs High School on an elective course “The History of Saratoga Springs.”

    John Brown Lives! (North Country) will hire a part-time educator to help develop, deliver, and evaluate a field trip program and work with NYS Archives Partnership Trust to prepare, promote, and schedule a two-day professional development program for teachers, librarians, and teaching artists interested in making “Timbuctoo” a central feature of the curriculum in North Country schools and for other museum and historic site colleagues.

    Lewis County Historical Society (North Country) will rehire a summer educator to work with its education committee to strengthen school partnerships. The educator will develop “Classroom Learning Kits” for 4th-grade students that focus on local history, including the Black River Canal and the local logging industry, in order to develop a foundational understanding of events that have impacted their community.

    Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission (Western NY) will hire a visitor experience specialist to expand open hours, provide tours, coordinate volunteer docents, assist the program manager, and assist in the planning and development of new tours with the goal to inspire visitors to better understand social justice and their role in creating equitable communities. 

    Mount Gulian Society (Mid-Hudson) will hire a part-time museum educator/program manager to plan, promote, launch, and evaluate public and student programs. Programs will focus on the stories of the people who lived and worked at Mount Gulian through on-site and off-site school presentations, living history re-enactments, public lectures, summer camp programs, exhibitions, and specially-themed tours.

    North Creek Railway Depot Preservation Association (Capital Region) will hire a museum educator to expand the museum’s current pre-K to 4th-grade school program “People and Trains That Could” to high school students. This educator will also connect programs to ongoing community events, increase the number of public group tours, enhance onsite tours, develop live-streaming presentations, and offer interpretive presentations and lectures to North Creek’s assisted living and nursing home residents.

    Putnam History Museum (Mid-Hudson) will hire a museum educator to create educational and public programming for the exhibition, Indigenous Peoples in Putnam County, scheduled to open in May 2023. Working with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, the museum educator will create several interpretive activities and programs to coincide with this exhibition including an elementary and middle-school field trip guide and plans for a Native American Heritage Day at the museum which will include demonstrations, discussions, walks, and in-person and virtual talks.

    Seneca Falls Historical Society (Finger Lakes) will hire a museum educator to help coordinate school and public programs including a summer camp program that partners with the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry, and EEEK! (Explore, Experiment, Engage for Kids) a once a month education resource bag designed for students in grades 3rd through 5th. 

    Slate Valley Museum Foundation (Capital Region) will hire a museum educator to revive and deliver programs to schools and seniors, and develop collaborative program partnerships. With the hiring of this education, the museum will be able to meet the needs of the community’s school and senior groups seeking programming about local history, culture, and science. 

    The Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh (Mid-Hudson) will hire an interpreter to deliver programs, including a new outdoor program for ages 9 to 14, “Shaping Staatsburgh: Exploring the Language of Architecture” along with other family programs. This interpreter will also assist staff with family tourism and craft programs and with the delivery of K-8 onsite lessons reaching across the Mid-Hudson region. 

    Time and the Valleys Museum (Mid-Hudson) will hire a museum educator to help create two new educational programs and redesign two existing programs to align with current teaching standards, reduce pressure on volunteers, and include the expanded 1930s Lost Catskill Farm complex –expanding in 2023 to increase the number of programs offered. 

    Underground Railroad Education Center (Capital Region) will increase the hours of the deputy director to lead one-week-long immersion experiences for pre-teens and teens focused on selected historic topics that have contemporary relevance including “Women of Mark” which focuses on the impact of selected Black female artists who changed the trajectory of history and a workshop series that will use visual art as a tool to tell historic and personal stories.

    Vander Ende Onderdonk House/Greater Ridgewood Historical Society (New York City) will use grant funding to pay docents to lead education programs designed to complement NYS Social Studies Standards for K-8 and public group tours exploring the oldest stone house in New York City. Program topics include enslaved persons and Dutch farming, immigration and housing in Ridgewood, 18th-century life on the farm, women in New Netherland, and Ridgewood now and then.

    Wappingers Historical Society (Mid-Hudson) will hire a museum educator to develop, create, and lead in-person programs for elementary and middle school students to support and supplement the New York State Social Studies curriculum for grades 4 and 7 using exhibitions and collecting items for the basis of these programs. 



    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 over 1,800 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 46 states and Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.


    About the Museum Association of New York

    The Museum Association of New York is the only statewide museum service organization with more than 700 member museums, historical societies, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. MANY helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums


  • October 13, 2022 9:39 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Award nominations open Monday, October 17

    The Museum Association of New York’s (MANY) Awards of Distinction recognize the exceptional achievements of New York’s museums and museum professionals. Awards celebrate museums and honor museum professionals who create transformative experiences for visitors, shape innovative programs, and use collections to tell the stories of everyone who calls New York home.

    “Museums across the State of New York create exceptional exhibitions, programs and activities for their communities, audiences, and visitors to our state,” said MANY Board President and The Rockwell Museum Executive Director Brian Lee Whisenhunt. “MANY’s expanded awards programs increases the number of people and organizations that can be recognized; takes into consideration the broad differences in the size and scope of the museums in the State; and celebrates the incredible work museums and museum professionals are doing for communities large and small, urban and rural.”

    Any museum or individual may nominate an organization, person(s), or project completed in 2022 at a museum, heritage, or cultural organization in New York State. Nomination of oneself or one’s organization is permissible and encouraged.


    Excellence in Design

    This award acknowledges extraordinary achievement in design in three categories: Publications/Graphics, Media/Marketing Campaigns, and Exhibition Design. 

    Publications & Graphics –Recognizes excellence in the graphic design of a museum publication. Award winners are selected for overall design concept, creativity, accessibility, and how the museum branding and mission are communicated. Nominations may include online or digital publications such as annual reports, membership materials, exhibition catalogues, museum guides/brochures, school program materials, books, etc.

    Media & Marketing –Applauds an imaginative and original print or digital marketing campaign in either earned or paid media. Award winners are selected for overall creative strategy, accessibility, innovative implementation, and cohesiveness across multiple communication channels. Nominations may include social media campaigns, print ads, digital ads, annual appeal or capital campaigns, event or program promotions, etc.

    Exhibition –Honors a physical or digital exhibition produced by a cultural organization that articulates content through engaging design and creates a rewarding and memorable experience. Nominations may include exhibitions whose theme is expressed in unusual ways, installs collection items in creative or unconventional ways, or uses a fresh or experimental approach to accessible design.


    Engaging Communities

    These awards celebrate organizations that use exceptional and resourceful methods to engage their communities and build new audiences. Nominated projects can include innovative preservation or digital technology to increase public access to museum collections or programs that broaden community partnerships. Nominations may include collections interpretation, exhibitions, lecture series, educational or public programs, civic engagement, focus groups, strategic planning, or other community connection efforts. Awards are made based on the size of an organization’s operating budget.  

    • Volunteer - $99,999

    • $100,000 – $250,000

    • $251,000 - $499,999

    • $500,000 - $999,999

    • $1,000,000 – 4,999,999

    • Over $5M


    Individual Achievement

    The Individual Achievement Award honors a dedicated museum professional or volunteer that played a significant role in advancing their organizations. Award winners are selected for their valuable contributions to expanding audience reach, increasing the number and types of staff, successful campaigns for endowment or capital projects, or instilling financial stability at their organization. Nominations are accepted for a museum staff person or a museum trustee or volunteer.


    Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership Award honors a museum professional who during their career made significant contributions to the museum field or to their organization. This award commends a staff leader or board member that saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative and effective manner over a sustained period. Award winners are selected for their commitment to accessibility, equity, and inclusion, and their dedicated work towards community engagement, relevance, and sustainability. 


    Rising Star

    The Rising Star award celebrates a museum professional with five years or less who displays creative thinking and inspires institutional change. Nominees should be individuals whose performance demonstrates innovation, professionalism, and leadership. Multiple awards may be given to museum professionals working in programs and education or collections and exhibitions.


    Board of Directors Special Achievement Award

    Members of MANY’s board of directors will consider nominations for awards that do not fall into the above categories or for nominated projects that deserve exceptional attention. 


    Nominations open Monday, October 17 and close Wednesday, November 30, 2022.


    Nominations will be reviewed on their own merit and will be evaluated on the basis of relevance, significance to the field, overall quality, and their unique or innovative character. Judges will consider the ways in which a project demonstrates the professional growth of an organization or individual, adherence to museum standards and best practices, level of risk and return on investment, and how the project enhanced the organization’s mission. 


    To learn more about the Awards of Distinction, visit nysmuseums.org/awardsofdistinction 



  • October 03, 2022 10:18 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    The Museum Association of New York welcomes proposals for conference sessions, workshops, panel discussions, facilitated discussions, and peer-to-peer learning experiences that focus on our 2023 conference theme, Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement. We will be gathering in Syracuse, in the Central Region of our state, and the home of the Onondaga Nation, the Central Fire of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. 

    “We’re excited to bring people together in Syracuse, New York,” said Natalie Stetson, Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum and Co-Chair of MANY’s Program Committee. “The Erie Canal once flowed through downtown Syracuse, transforming New York State, carrying goods, people, and ideas. Syracuse’s history and location in the state's center make this city an ideal location to gather to explore our theme of finding center for our institutions and audiences.”

    As we all discover new ways to use the transformative power of museums as places for human encounters and face challenges created by the ways in which our lives and our institutions have changed over the past three years, we hope that you will join us as we explore Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement as pathways to finding center for our institutions and our audiences.

    We seek proposals for conference sessions that share how you and your colleagues: 

    • connect with and grow organizational and human resources;

    • build capacity, revenue, and access; 

    • align values with mission to create inclusive experiences;

    • research, accession, and deaccession collections; 

    • increase participation and engagement;

    • secure and improve endangered historic structures;

    • use objects and collections to tell complicated stories;

    • write new cases for support and increase economic impact;

    • identify digital divides and integrate virtual access; 

    • change organizational culture to build equity and inclusion within your staff; 

    • and create opportunities to support democracy.

    With challenging but significant historic occasions on the horizon - the 200th anniversary of the opening of Erie Canal, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of legal slavery in New York State - our goal is to create a community of practice to advance institutional change and perhaps even create one big New York team of collaborators that learn and create together.

    How to submit a proposal

    Proposal entry forms can be found on the MANY website: nysmuseums.org/call-for-proposals

    Presentations by individuals from institutions of all sizes, all stages of their careers, and from all disciplines are welcome to submit a proposal.

    We welcome proposals from graduate and undergraduate students in museum studies, public history, art history, non-profit administration and other relevant fields for ignite-style presentations. 

    Industry partners are welcome to submit proposals only if they include a museum partner and share how the partners worked together to achieve success. 

    Proposals from organizations in the Central Region can include Saturday Workshops and Tuesday afternoon tours. Workshops and tours should offer a close look at museum practice and exemplary projects. Hands-on learning opportunities and site-based experiences are also welcome. If you are interested in hosting a workshop or a tour, but aren’t sure how to proceed, please contact MANY staff at conference@nysmuseums.org 

    Proposals will be required to identify whether they will be 75 or 90-minutes in length. You may also propose a longer session for consideration as a two-part session or as a pre-conference workshop on Saturday. 

    Proposals will be peer-reviewed by a committee composed of MANY board members and Central NY museum professionals.

    The strongest proposals will share the “why” as well as the nuts and bolts, present case studies with input from all involved, share projects that question foundational processes, and propose discussions about challenges that we all face. Proposals that include only one voice and one perspective will not be competitive.

    If your proposal for our 2023 conference is accepted by the review committee, we are pleased to offer a modest honoraria of $50 per presenter; $200 maximum for group panel discussions. This opportunity, limited to the 2023 conference, is an acknowledgment of the work that our colleagues invest in preparing a proposal and presenting at a MANY conference. Presenters will also receive a discount on conference registration.

    Have an idea, but you are not sure it fits the theme? Looking for a partner to present with you? Send an email to conference@nysmuseums.org and we will arrange a time for you to speak with MANY staff. 

    Deadline for proposal submission: Monday, November 14, 2022 at 5 PM. 

    Notification will be on December 15, 2022.

    Registration Opens January 23, 2023

    Learn more about the 2023 annual conference in Syracuse, NY at nysmuseums.org/annualconference


  • September 28, 2022 12:45 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Building Capacity Across the State

    –Eli McClain, Building Capacity Project Fellow

    Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with over two-hundred museum professionals across New York State as the Building Capacity Project Fellow. Entering this role in the middle of the pandemic, I faced new learning opportunities every day and grew as an emerging museum professional with the support of my colleagues and our 96 museum participants. This week, the project comes to a close after more than 9,000 miles on the road, 555 1:1 meetings, 3,581 contact hours, and more than 90 workshops and training sessions.

    MANY staff designed the Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility as a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project’s goals were  to help museums reach their audiences virtually by providing much-needed hardware and software, increase digital literacy and skills among museum professionals through training, offering personalized support, and peer to peer learning opportunities, and helping them to utilize the new technology and skills to develop and deliver virtual programming. In the changing pandemic environment, the project team strove to reflect, reassess, and pivot to best meet the needs of our partners. 

    Building Capacity sparked countless conversations amongst the the MANY staff and with the participants across the state about what it means to engage audiences digitally, how to balance in-person and digital projects with staff capacity, and the need for sustained incremental growth of technical skills for museum professionals. 

    As I look back and reflect, I want to share some of the lessons we’ve learned and share just a few innovative and impactful projects created by our partner museums from across the state.

    Facilitating New Forms of Engagement

    At the Percy Grainger House in White Plains, Museum Coordinator Ann Occone and Director of Bands at Brown University and International Percy Grainger Society Board Member Matthew McGarrell proposed a unique project to create new ways to access and interact with the museum’s collection. GLOSS, the Grainger Library of Sampled Sounds, invites users to interact with the museum’s collection through recordings of Grainger’s instruments and ambient sounds around the house. Built on Google Sites, GLOSS includes multimedia content to learn about Grainger and his “Free Music” philosophy and provides access to download sound recordings and create new compositions. In Spring 2022, the Percy Grainger House piloted after-school composition workshops at White Plains Middle School students to test GLOSS with target audiences and to receive feedback for continued project development. Looking ahead to this school year, Anne and Matt are hoping to build off their successes and work to deliver additional composition workshops for middle school students.

    Percy Grainger Museum’s GLOSS website

    Sharing New Research

    The New York Transit Museum used new research to develop Communities Through Time: Placemaking and Displacement through the Lens of Public Transportation –a new virtual school program that explores the impact of the transportation system on three communities across the City. Education Manager Polly Desjarlais is hosting professional development workshops in partnership with the Center for Brooklyn History. These workshops will provide educators with tools to discuss with their students the role of transit in the city and the development of communities. The museum is also exploring opportunities to facilitate virtual public programs that share their research findings on various neighborhoods and strengthen relationships between the museum and its multiple audiences.

    Highlighting Different Perspectives

    Many of the stories we tell about the past come from the perspectives of adults. At the Seward House Museum in Auburn, Education Outreach Coordinator Kate Grindstaff worked to highlight a different perspective through an interactive website focused on the daughter of William Henry Seward. The Fanny Seward Story gives users the opportunity to learn about the youngest daughter of Senator William Henry Seward in the late 19th century. This interactive website explores Fanny's life as a young, privileged teen girl during the Civil War using digitized collection items including her diary. The website’s target audience is 4th and 5th graders who explore Fanny’s life, family, world and legacy, and includes activities for further exploration into Fanny’s story.

    Building Off of Successful Models

    In Year 1, Fort Ticonderoga created a companion program to their successful A Soldier’s Life virtual program. A Provincial Soldier’s Life, used the museum’s existing virtual program space andwas designed to teach students in grades 3 to 8 about the French and Indian War through the lives of American soldiers and their daily experiences. The program includes discussions about resources and trade networks using inquiry and object-based learning. In addition to developing this new program, Museum Education Coordinator Katie Long and School and Youth Programs Interpreter Corri Swart redesigned Fort Ticonderoga’s digital education resources and teacher packets using Adobe software to create a cohesive online presence.

    School and Youth Programs Interpreter Corri Swart presents Fort Ticonderoga’s Year 1 project at a regional workshop

    Connecting with Community

    In Utica, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute (MWPAI) brought voices from the community together to respond to the museum’s summer exhibition on Norman Rockwell and encourage critical reflection on the artworks. Spearheaded by Musuem Educator for Docent and Tour Progams Amy Francisco and Digital Marketing Manager Kaytlynn Lynch, Communities in Conversation is three-part web series featuring brief interviews and prompts that explore community members’ perspectives on art. Visitors are invited to respond to these prompts at the museum, at the Utica Public Library, or online. The project builds on previous work at MWPAI to integrate community voices into the galleries, and experiments with different ways of looking at and responding to art. Amy and Kaytlynnbuilt and strengthened relationships with members of historically underrepresented residents in Utica.

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute’s Communities in Conversation space

    Working Across Departments

    At Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCVM) in Mumford, Director of Education  Jennifer Haines and Youth and Family Programs Manager Alyssa Lynch collaborated with colleagues across the organization to develop a three-part video series that highlighted one of the historic structures on their campus. Museum staff produced stories about the history of the Livingston-Backus House, the relationships between members of the Backus family, their disagreements on important social and political issues of their time, and the role of pamphlets and circulars in spreading these differing perspectives. This collaborative project allowed GCVM to leverage the strengths, interests, and skills of staff members to increase access to relevant stories from the past.

    Partnering Far and Wide

    Virtual programming provides greater flexibility when working with external partners and presenters and alleviates  budget pressure from travel expenses. At the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, Executive Director Sarah Kijowski and Museum Associate Wendy Bordwell used the hardware and software provided by Building Capacity to deliver a variety of virtual and hybrid programs. During the past two years, the Slate Valley Museum staff gained confidence partnering and running programs with other museums from outside their region. In May 2022, they presented Exploring Slate Around the World that gave their audiences an inside look at Belizean Artist Jorge Castellanos’ slate carving workshop. This virtual program transcended national borders, highlighted culturally specific stories about  slate, and opened the doors to future international partnership opportunities.

    Reaching New Audiences

    Curator of Education Brenna McCormick-Thompson, Museum Educator Maria Fischetti, and Assistant Director Gina Van Bell at The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor expanded the geographic reach for their activity-based Museum-To-You programs through synchronous and asynchronous virtual offerings. As the pandemic progressed, the museum saw continued interest in pre-recorded, kit-based programs that provided more flexible participation options for families. In the summer 2022, the museum virtually reached audiences from 67 different libraries across the tri-state area. This increase in reaching new audiences spurred new conversations about sustaining digital programs in the long term. 

    Curator of Education Brenna McCormick-Thompson leads a tour of The Whaling Museum

    Digital Accessibility

    While virtual programming has increased accessibility, it also created new barriers for individuals without access to stable high-speed internet, devices to access digital programs, or the digital literacy to engage with program platforms. In North Tonawanda, Executive Director Ian Seppala and Outreach Coordinator Marissa Seib at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum increased accessibility to their virtual programming by partnering with libraries across three local systems to host live, in-person viewing events. Carrousel Chats lectures include discussions on carrousel painting, restoration, maintenance, lost parks, and kiddielands from presenters across the country. These programs are recorded and uploaded to the museum’s YouTube channel to provide continued access to these valuable conversations. Moving forward, the museum is exploring sponsorship opportunities to continue to offer these programs free of charge to the public.

    Hybrid Programming

    As the pandemic environment shifted, more museums began discussing hybrid programming; what it means to go hybrid, the benefits and drawbacks, and the technical logistics. The Rockwell Museum was among many museum partners that explored hybrid programming. In March 2022,  Interpretation and Public Engagement Educator Kate Swanson and Events Coordinator Janelle Steiner partnered with staff at the Southeast Steuben County Library to deliver Buffalo Soldiers & the African American Experience in the Army with guest speaker Dr. Krewasky Salter. “This partnership paved the way for future hybrid programming,” commented Kate and Janelle in their final project report “Since March, we’ve hosted several hybrid programs of varying scales…Thanks to this partnership, we now have the experience to speak from an informed place about any possible requests for a hybrid program and have a better understanding of the staff and resources it takes to create a successful program for both audiences.”

    It has been incredibly rewarding to witness and reflect on the growth across the Building Capacity cohort over the course of this project. I am proud of the work of all of our partners who have experimented with new stories, formats, models, and methods during uncertain times and have built new best practices through their work. As we look ahead, I believe in the strong foundations they’ve developed to support their next steps and look forward to seeing how they continue to build capacity, create sustainability, and grow accessibility.

    To learn more about Building Capacity and the work of partners across the state, visit nysmuseums.org/BuildingCapacity


  • September 28, 2022 11:36 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Colleagues, and Supporters,

    Born in Trinidad in 1932, the Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul struggled while trying to write his autobiography. After multiple drafts, the threads he found to weave his story did not lead to his birthplace, but to a moment in time when he faced tremendous challenges. He described the process as finding center.*

    We are all working to find center as we face, embrace, and grow beyond challenges and changes in our lives and our institutions. Many of you know that my husband and I have a ceramic studio in our home and that I work with clay as an avocation. I have learned that I can’t create until I am as centered as the material in my hands. 

    With historic commemorations on the horizon –the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of legal slavery in New York State– we have chosen Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement as the theme for our 2023 conference. The call for proposals opens on Monday, October 3; soon after you will see calls for scholarship and award nominations. 

    From April 15-18, 2023, we will gather in the city of Syracuse, in the Central Region of our state, home of the Onondaga Nation, the Central Fire of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Our conference hotel will be the four-star Marriott Syracuse Downtown, recently restored to its original 1924 glory, with affordable accommodations and state-of-the-art meeting rooms. Syracuse is a walking city filled with marvelous architecture, theaters, boutiques, and great places to eat. From the hotel’s tenth-floor ballroom, you can see rolling hills and rooflines of historic buildings. People from all over the world have come to call Syracuse their home. The arts, culture, and food of the city reflects that diversity. 

    A local host committee is helping us plan exciting conference events in downtown museums and we are creating a map of the dozens of amazing museums conference attendees can visit in Central New York. Syracuse is easily accessible from anywhere in New York State: it is a two-and half hour drive from both Albany and Buffalo, flights from New York City airports can be found for under $250, and the Amtrak station makes train travel a great option. 

    As plans for the conference come together, our excitement is growing for all that can happen when we come together and find center. I hope you will join us.

    With thanks for your support, 

    *Naipaul, V.S. (1984) Finding the Centre, The Chaucer Press, Penguin Books, Ltd. Great Britain



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Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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