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Museum News

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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  • June 29, 2022 9:51 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Beatrix Farrand Garden, Bellefield, Hyde Park


    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    For the past couple of years my summer calendar has been decorated with patterns of red circles. The red circles represent the dates that applications for funding are due to private foundations as well as federal and state agencies. They also represent hours of writing, conversations, calculations, and a lot of hope.

    For me, it is hope that MANY will be able to keep our museum community connected with a sense of belonging and offer programs where peer-to-peer learning can support shared purpose. These hopes are embedded in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan approved by MANY’s board of directors at our June 22 meeting. I am pleased to share this important document and welcome your ideas to help us achieve our goals. 

    We also have hope for the future of New York’s museums as our society grapples with tremendous change. Museums can use their resources to support and empower communities to face ideas, issues, and challenges. Grants that help museums emerge from the pandemic stronger than they were before 2020 and build their capacity for the future are available from an amazing array of sources. 

    We are pleased to announce a fifth round of funds available through application to the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History. This round of funding will distribute $100,000 in amounts up to and including $5,000 for salary support/hourly wages to bring back or hire museum educators who will plan and deliver interpretative educational programs. You can learn more about eligibility and the application process here. We will open the application portal on July 18. 

    The deadline for the New York State Council on the Arts’ 2023 funding opportunities is July 12.  

    Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York is accepting applications for Planning and Assessment Grants through July 15. 

    The National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town creative placemaking grant deadline is August 4. 

    The National Endowment for the Humanities is accepting applications for Public Humanities Projects through August 10.  

    And if you thought you have missed it, you didn’t! September 1 is the new deadline for the Greater Hudson Heritage/NYSCA Conservation Treatment Grant Program

    Humanities New York accepts applications on a rolling basis for their Quick Grants and Vision Grants and will soon announce a fall 2022 deadline for their next round of Action Grants

    The Preservation League of New York State will also soon announce a fall deadline for their Technical Assistance grants. 

    Whether it is assistance to secure buildings and collections or deliver programs and services for communities, these opportunities represent so much hope for our museums.  

    Some museum professionals struggle with writing narratives for grant applications or formulating budgets that express organizational priorities in financial terms. With so many deadlines on the horizon, I am pleased to share that we have figured out a way to offer our grant writing workshop virtually. The four-hour participatory workshop will take place over two mornings, from 10 AM – Noon on August 30 and 31. Space is limited; the registration fee covers the cost of mailing the grant workshop materials to you. You can learn more and register here.

    With hope that you find time in the next month to take a break from your grant writing and celebrate summer, 


    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

  • June 29, 2022 9:48 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In 2024, the Olana State Historic Site will open the Frederic Church Center, a 4,500-square-foot orientation center with ticketing, restrooms, a café, and exhibition space. It will be the first new building at Olana since American painter Frederic Church’s death in 1900. It will also be the first publicly accessible carbon-neutral building in New York State. The $11 million project was generated from a 2015 strategic landscape design that encompasses the land and buildings that could be recovered, restored, rehabilitated, and brought into the full public experience. 

    Expanding and Improving the Visitor Experience

    “In 2021, Olana had over 200,000 visitors, but only 16% took a public tour,” said Sean Sawyer, the Washburn & Susan Oberwager President at The Olana Partnership. To help accommodate the current visitorship, the FCC will include 45 parking spaces, an entry lobby for ticketing and orientation, restrooms that will be accessible after ticketing hours, a café (the first time that Olana will offer food and beverages on site), and a multipurpose room. 

    “In the busiest times there are a limited number of tickets so there are a lot of sold-out tours, or visitors have to wait for the next tour and 90% of the total visitors only experience 1% of the landscape.” Olana already offers a number of public programs focused on connecting visitors to the landscape including the program series, Environmentalists on Olana consisting of walks led by regional environmentalists, agriculturalists, activists, and ecological stewards. The series is designed to give visitors an opportunity to explore Olana’s history and current legacy through the intersections of art and environmentalism. One goal for the FCC is to increase awareness of these guided tours and the building will have adjoining outdoor terraces and paths that connect to Olana’s historic carriage road network, making all 250 acres of the historic landscape an integral part of public interpretation.

    “It’s not a lot of space, but it includes an equal amount of outdoor space with places to sit and wait before you move through the landscape,” said Sawyer. “It’s really the next necessary step should there be more at Olana in the future, but this is the way we get to restore our collection which includes the farm, the barn, and all of the landscape, and have a sustainable maintenance plan for it.” 

    “We’re imaging a space that in the regular ticketing hours is providing information about the tours, is giving you an overview of Church and where American art and environmental consciousness intersect but then come 6 pm and there’s a special program about someone with a book on the Catskills that changes over and they’re able to show their PowerPoint or video or do that and then on Sunday evening there's a wedding reception.”

    Finding Space in a Historic Landscape

    Landscape architectural firm Nelson Byrd Woltz utilized data maps, including a heat map that visualized current and potential human activity across the site to determine where the FCC would be located within Olana State Historic Site. They included the historic farm, Crown Hill, Ridge road, and the lake in their mapping activities. They also referred to an 1886 plan by Church to help better understand the 19th-century vision for Olana and how the 250-acre naturalistic landscape was to be connected by carriage roads and walking trails.

    The Olana Partnership also identified a three-point historic corridor between the main house, the farm complex, and the lake and wanted to keep any new development outside this “historic core” to preserve Olana’s historic integrity. 

    The selected site is adjacent to the existing entry from NY-9G by the lake, looking up towards the house. This location positions the FCC to serve as the principal entry point for Olana. “Some people have described it as like a base camp for Olana, which I like because it’s located immediately adjacent to one of Church’s historic planned views from the lake up to the house. It will provide a transitional space for visitors before diving into the world of Frederic Church.” said Sawyer. 

    The location will also make it a highly visible, publicly accessible demonstration of sustainable design and carbon-neutral construction. 


    Sustainable Design

    In building Olana, Church focused on creating his own version of an American Eden by planting trees and embracing a naturalistic landscape to create his own wilderness. There was also the opportunity to use sustainable materials and to make the FCC a green building. 

    “Assemblymember Didi Barret (D-106 Dutchess/Columbia) pushed us to make this project a better project, especially around its environmental stewardship,” said Sawyer. “She has wanted this to be the greenest building, sustainably designed, and she understands that this requires adequate funding to purchase long-lasting materials. She understands her influence and she is committed to environmental solutions,” said Sawyer. 

    Assemblymember Barrett secured $1 million to support capital development plans for Olana, the largest single grant from the Assembly to a NYS Historic Site. Assemblymember Barrett also connected Olana with colleagues around the state, including faculty at The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse; specifically with Professor Paul Crovella whose primary research focuses on sustainable construction. 

    Faculty from SUNY ESF sat in on multiple presentations, provided advice, and met with architects from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and project engineers. “[SUNY ESF] is actively trying to build the capacity of the wood products industry in the state and that includes introducing the manufacturer of cross-laminated timber,” said Sawyer. “Most importantly, they’ve helped us realize the expense and the challenge to raise the funds are worth it because what we’re building will be the first publicly accessible model of engineered wood, cross-laminated timber frame in the state.” SUNY ESF will also work with Olana on the interpretation of that design for the public to help visitors understand what they are seeing in the materials used. 

    Currently, the State Environmental Quality Review process is underway and the project was presented for public comment in late April and is anticipated to start construction in 2023. 

    Leveraging a Collaborative Partnership

    Olana has been a public/private partnership since the 1960s when the non-profit partnership then named “Olana Preservation” was incorporated and later transferred ownership to the New York State Historic Trust. Today the Olana Partnership operates all public programs and education programs as well as fundraising, marketing, and communications under a cooperative agreement with New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

    “This project, in particular, shows the strength of a public/private partnership to leverage both private dollars for public and public dollars for private,” said Sawyer. “From the very beginning of the planning process, it was The Olana Partnership board working closely with NYS Parks executives. Rose Harvey took a very direct role in the process. Olana was going to be a test case for capital funding to NYS Parks.” The former NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, who stepped down in 2018, helped to secure funding from then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to Olana, the first time since 1974 that there was designated capital funding for NYS Park. The Frederic Church Center is a cornerstone of Olana’s larger capital development plan. “She was really focused on Olana I think in part because of the very viable strong pattern that is here,” said Sawyer. “For the Frederic Church Center, there was an agreement for it being such a visible and new construction building, that the private nonprofit, our organization, would be able to effectively fundraise. It’s a balance of the public and private funding with public funding supporting infrastructure and private funding going to more visible aspects of the project.” 

    Private and Public Funding Sources

    The Olana Partnership has raised $7.5 million of the $11 million estimated cost for the Frederic Church Center with a goal of $10 million coming from private funding sources. In Round 11 of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC), Olana was awarded a total of $3,268,776 –$1,868,776 from the New York State Energy and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that will support the development of a sustainably designed, carbon-neutral building with the goal to make the FCC a threshold to an immersive visitor experience of Olana as a unique, world-class carbon-neutral tourist destination at the intersection of American art and environmental consciousness. An award of $1,400,000 from Empire State Development will directly support building construction with the goal to increase Olana’s regional economic impact.

    “This is not about in any way diminishing the role of the main house and its historic interiors and the decorative arts at Olana but rather about making the experience of them for people who visit more impactful,” said Sawyer. “It’s about having a real culmination of their visit by getting into the house and parallels in a way the historical experience of visiting Olana.”

    Learn more about the Frederic Church Center here: https://www.olana.org/about/fccenter/

  • June 29, 2022 9:45 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Cliff Laube is the public programs and communications manager at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Hyde Park, New York. Laube has been with the United States Federal Government for almost twenty-five years with experience in public programming, public affairs, and heritage tourism. 

    Laube manages visitor services, operations, and the rental of conference facilities at the Roosevelt library’s Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. He has managed volunteer programs at both Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton, CT (NPS) and the Roosevelt Library. Laube sits on two Library committees, the social media committee (founding member) and workplace culture committee (chair), and has helped develop and implement strategies to grow and maintain visitation to Dutchess County, New York historic sites as a board member of Dutchess Tourism, Inc.

    He joined the MANY board of directors in 2021 as an ex-officio member and serves on the Marketing Committee.

    Earlier this year, he took on the role of co-chair of the Program Committee. We spoke with him to learn more about his career path and what keeps him motivated.


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

    As a student of historic preservation at Roger Williams University (RWU), I had a part-time job leading tours at the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in North America, Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It is an extraordinary place. That was my first taste of working in the field of heritage tourism and helping to make our American story more accessible to a visiting museum public. After college, in 1998, I took a job as a park ranger at Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton, Connecticut -- one of our most inspirational national parks, commemorating the life and work of American impressionist painter J. Alden Weir, and his visiting artist friends, including Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, and John Twachtman. I loved it. I loved helping people learn about this little-known but very important historic site. After six years at Weir Farm, in 2004, I came to the beautiful Hudson River Valley to manage publicity and public programs at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

    Cliff Laube introducing the annual Hudson Valley History Reading Festival in 2022, the first in-person program since March 2020.

    What other experiences in your career have you found most helpful for your role now?

    I've certainly benefited from the training provided by both the National Park Service and the National Archives, but on-the-job experience has always helped me the most. To this day, I feel strongly that -- at all levels of visitor/customer service work -- it's critical to regularly connect with museum visitors and program attendees. They know what they want and we should always know what they're thinking.

    What is one of your biggest motivations to do what you do? What do you get excited about in your role as the Public Programs and Communications Manager at FDR Presidential Library and Museum?

    As a civil servant, the single biggest motivation (of which there are many) is striving to do good work for the American people. I work with a team of federal employees who took an oath, believe in what they do, and continue to perform at a very high level of performance to provide access to the authentic material culture of the life and times of the Roosevelts. We strive to make the museum and programming experiences here as authentic as the collections we are charged with protecting. Every day is exciting with this as a goal. 

    Cliff Laube at NewsRadio 1450 WKIP promoting FDR Presidential Library and Museum’s 2019 Memorial Day Weekend World War II reenactment

     

    What are some of your goals?

    ​​As the Roosevelt Library matures, we've been able to tackle topics that this institution hasn't focused on enough over the years since President Roosevelt created the LIbrary in 1941. I hope to continue to expand programming on topics such as Japanese American Incarceration, America's response to the Holocaust, the Roosevelts and Race, and FDR's disability. The Roosevelts were faced with many difficult decisions in their lives and careers, and we can learn a lot from the choices they ultimately made by trying to better understand why they made them based on the documentary evidence in our collections.

    Would your 18-year-old self imagine that you would be where you are today?

    No, at 18, I really wanted to be an architect. My educational path bounced around through the fields of landscape architecture, architectural design, and eventually historic preservation. Preservation was the discipline that finally grounded me and helped me explore how historic sites, our built environment, and our tangible history can give us a better understanding of who we are today. Two RWU professors, in particular, Philip Marshall and Michael Swanson, guided me on this path.

    Can you tell us about where you grew up? What was it like growing up there? Where did you go to school?

    I was born and raised in Connecticut, Milford and then Southbury. It was a fairly standard, middle-class upbringing in a close-knit community that we watched evolve from rural to suburban due to the development of a new IBM research facility in the 1980s. I lived in an older, less affluent section of town, but had a privileged childhood in a caring, hard-working family, with loving parents and two older sisters.

    What was the first museum experience that you can remember?

    My first museum experience was on a field trip to a small museum called the American Indian Archaeological Institute in Washington, Connecticut (now called the Institute for American Indian Studies). I remember my fascination with the buildings created in the replica Algonkian village there.   

    Cliff is a “regular dunkee” at the summertime Family Fun Festival

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    I think my favorite moment at the Library so far was during the question-and-answer session following a book talk about 12 years ago. The author flipped the script in Q&A and asked the first question of a captive Hyde Park audience of about 60 people. She wanted to know to what extent Hyde Park residents were aware of FDR’s disability back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. After contracting polio at the age of 39, Roosevelt could never again walk unassisted. She unexpectedly got a firsthand account. One of Hyde Park’s longtime residents told a story from his childhood. He described a day in which FDR arrived late to church. Around the time he noticed the President wasn’t there yet, the hair stood up on his arms. A moment later, he then heard softly, and then louder, the sound of metal braces coming closer and closer to the open doorway of St. James Church. He knew -- without turning around -- the President had arrived. FDR’s disability was so much a part of who he was to those who lived and worked around him that it hardly registered as a disability at all. The audience was transfixed. We all had goosebumps. We all heard FDR approaching that door. For me, that program rose above the rest.

    Do you have any key mentors or someone who has deeply influenced you? Is there any piece of advice that they gave you that you’ve held onto?

    ​​I do. Lynn Bassanese, the former Library Director at the presidential library, was an incredible boss, friend, and mentor, during the most formative professional years of my career. I am, without question, where I am -- and, most importantly, happy where I am -- because of her guidance. Lynn had a small piece of paper beside her computer (it's besides mine now) with an unattributed saying, "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." She lives by that. And I try to. If your work involves any level of visitor/customer service, working towards this mindset can be an enlightening and transformative experience.

    You have an entire museum/collection to yourself. What do you do?

    I'm a big World's Fair buff. Especially the two New York fairs at Flushing Meadows. While I am too young to have experienced them myself, both my parents went to both the '39 and '64 fairs and loved them. My grandfather was Suburban News Editor for the New York Times and lived in Richmond Hill not far from the fairgrounds, as well. So, I think I would love to run around the Queens Museum -- a building that dates back to the first of the NYC fairs -- and explore all the nooks and crannies for remnants of the fairs. Of course, the amazing Panorama of the City of New York from the '64 fair is still on display there and it would be fun to have time -- by myself -- to inspect it more closely.


  • June 06, 2022 5:45 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Friends, Members, and Supporters,

    I am pleased to share the news that the New York State Legislature passed A.9710/S.8934 “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York state,” unanimously in the Assembly on May 24 and in the Senate on June 2. This bill will make a difference to every museum in the state regardless of budget size, discipline, or location. It now heads to Governor Hochul’s desk where her signature would enable the act to take effect immediately. 

    New York State's museums are inextricably linked to our communities, economies, and histories. Too many museums operate in a culture of scarcity, struggling to pay bills and wondering each year how they will keep their doors open. Museums need support to ensure they can protect and share their collections, to be strong community education partners and efficient economic engines generating $5.37B to the state's economy.

    “Museums have long been synonymous with New York – from world famous icons like the Met, MoMA or Cooperstown to local history collections and cultural community hubs. Yet despite the fame and significant economic impact, our museum sector has no real “home” in the New York state government,” said Assembly Bill Sponsor Didi Barrett (AD 106). “Support for museums is spread across a host of state agencies, and many have no access to state funding at all. This legislation is a pathway to ensuring these beloved institutions have the support and stability to flourish in the 21st century.”

    The Museum Study Act directs the New York State Department of Economic Development, in conjunction with the Empire State Development Corporation, Department of Education, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of State, and New York State Council on the Arts to conduct a study of public and private museums in New York State.It will identify and gather data about all museums in the state including information on size, hours of operation, visitor statistics, funding sources and amounts, and the subject of their collections. The report will help communities, legislative representatives, and individual supporters learn about museum missions, audiences, and funding needs.

    “New York State is the proud home of museums, large and small. From world class art galleries to volunteer run historical societies; these institutions are part of the fabric of our communities across the state,” said Senate Bill Sponsor Jeremy A. Cooney (SD 56). “They tell our stories, enrich our lives, employ creative talent and keep dollars in our local economies. As important as museums are to New York, these institutions lack an established funding structure in state government. I am proud to have passed new legislation directing a multi-agency team to conduct a study of public and private museums to ensure the protection of collections and an equitable funding structure in the future.”

    The speed at which this bill was passed is a powerful sign that your legislator knows how important your museum is to your community. As they wrap up their time in Albany, it would mean so much for you to take a minute to thank the legislators who represent your museum and let them know that you are grateful for their support. Share an example that helps define your museum as a community space. Does your museum reach an historically marginalized population? Is it a destination for tourists? Or share a unique program/event offered by your museum. Include statistics to help illustrate your museums' impact and reach. Have they been to visit lately? Invite them for a tour of your museum! Feel free to use this template for your letter.


    You can be sure we will let you know what comes next!

     

    With thanks,

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director


    Find your Assembly Member Here

    Find your Senator Here 

    Click here to view Assembly Bill A9710

    Click here to view Senate Bill S8934


  • May 25, 2022 11:56 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    “Quiet as It’s Kept” 2022 Whitney Biennial

    Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues, 

    Two years ago today, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Yesterday, nineteen elementary school children and their two teachers were shot to death in Texas. Eleven days ago, ten Black people were murdered in a mass shooting in Buffalo. In our nation alone, over one million people have died from the coronavirus. Numbers like these can become meaningless without connections to people and actions that move us to change.  

    As our cultures, institutions, and educational systems attempt to respond to the devastation wrought by the pandemic and systemic racism, every one of us needs to play a role in changing our society and our museums. Our museums need to promote truth and dignity, to encourage every person on staff to take ownership of their work, and to respect the work of their colleagues no matter their position or title. 

    Lately, more people are talking about uplifting people, not objects. I understand the purpose but question a distinction that removes contemporary and historic makers, scientists, and artists -- those who are named and those whose names are not remembered -- from the products of their hands and their minds. Implementing human-centered values in our workplace does not require the exclusion of the art and material culture of our world. In fact, centering and being inspired by art and culture can lead to embracing diversity in all its forms. 

    So how can museums - with collections, without collections - push back against the darkness of our times? We can take one step at a time. We can create budgets that align to strategic plans, value our staff, fund professional development, and allow for the purchase of job-appropriate tools. 

    In the May 2022 issue of This Month in NYS Museums we launch our reformatted job board that will require employers to post salary ranges. It took us a bit longer than some, but not as long as others, to make this change. New York City will legally require salary transparency in job postings on November 1, 2022. I am proud that MANY did not wait for a law to catch up to our values.

    This week we also announced the recipients of the NYSCA/MANY Capacity Building Partnership Grants. The review panels were particularly struck by the requests from dozens of museums for technology because they had been “operating” with decades old hardware and software. We are pleased that we were able to help NYSCA distribute over $500,000 to 102 museums. We know that those who were not awarded grants or did not qualify as museums using NYSCA’s guidelines were very disappointed. We will announce new opportunities for grant funding soon. 

    Yesterday, A9710 (Barrett D-106) “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State” unanimously passed the Assembly. The study will identify and collect data about all museums in the state to inform policy making and recommend systems of support to ensure equitable distribution of state funds regardless of discipline, budget size, or location.

    The bill is now moving through the Senate. Your New York State Senator needs to know that they have museums in their district that need help to serve their communities and preserve their collections for future generations. Please send an email today and ask them to support S.8934 (Cooney D-56). You can find your Senator here and use this document as a template for your email

    We are approaching change for our museums in so many ways. This one step will help us get closer.

    With sincere thanks, 

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director


  • May 24, 2022 2:27 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Chloe Hayward is an educator, artist, art therapist, and the Associate Director of Education at The Studio Museum in Harlem. She believes in the power of art to transform systems, selves, and structures. Her latest written work “Museums as Therapeutic Space: Centralizing the Voices of People of Color”, is part of a larger anthology Museum Based Art Therapy: A Collaborative Effort with Access, Education, and Public Programs. Hayward has worked in museums for over two decades, and regularly serves as a consultant for art institutions and cultural organizations.

    Hayward was the Opening Keynote speaker at the 2022 annual conference, Envisioning Our Museums for the Seventh Generation in Corning, New York. We are pleased to share her opening remarks.

    Chloe Hayward speaking at the 2022 annual conference in Corning, NY

    "I want to talk about the concept of Seven Generations, and the potential this holds for museums. I want to begin with a quote about love by author, bell hooks, “Love is a combination of care, knowledge, responsibility, commitment, and trust.” When we think about what it means to consider the preservation of culture, making long-term decisions, and drawing from the past while laying the groundwork for the future - I believe these principles, the foundation of love, are exactly what is necessary and vital as we dream together about the future of museums.

    How do we create spaces of care? And what does care look like? Why should we care?

    I’m going to make some assumptions, and I know that’s a bold move, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. When I talk about care, I am talking about why we do this work. We care. Museums matter. We want to see our institutions thrive. We all do our very best to make this a reality, nurturing our works of art, our exhibitions, our projects, and our programs. At the same time, museums are facing a moment of reckoning, of questioning, not if we care, but how are we enacting care? Not just for objects, but for people and for communities. There is more work to do, more changes to make. I believe true change is about collaboration,co-creation, and about making as much space as you take. This is one of the ways that museums can show up for community in the spirit of care. Community in the biggest sense of the word possible. Not just our stakeholders, but our internal ways of operating as an institution. Our colleagues, our museum community. We are all individuals part of a greater collective, and it’s important that we recognize who we are in the spaces we occupy, who we are in relationship to the communities we are with and in, for I believe it is individuality itself that is the seedling to the enactment of care we hope and need to see within our institutions, and within the museum field.

    Growing up, I never had the opportunity to visit museums. When I finally did, I either didn’t see my experiences reflected on the walls and in the space, or if they were, the perspective from which stories were told, didn’t ring true for me or my culture. So who are we calling in? Who are we recognizing and giving space to? The decisions we make as museum professionals have impact in the present moment and the future, and we must remember that the how is just as important as the why. Yes, we care, but if we aren’t calling in the voices, vision, and perspectives of all people, then we are actually causing harm. As a museum professional today, I deeply value and honor the voices of artists and artwork that speak to history, culture, and identity not from a singular narrative, but from perspectives that are rich and wide.

    One of the first steps we can all take in creating spaces of care is to ask. Ask what people need, what people think, and what people want. Part of that understanding is sharing knowledge.

    How do we decipher what knowledge is valid, valued, and prioritized? How do we dismantle systems that negate the experiences of others? Change begins and ends with us, but we must also make space for others, leaning into the knowledge of those whose experiences may differ from our own.

    I often consider the concept of “professionalism,” when I think about these questions, and how that concept has been used within institutions over the years to exclude the culture and knowledge of others whose race and identity are deeply connected to the ways in which they show up to these professional spaces. Being an individual within the collective, how do you fit or not within the spaces you occupy? Do you see yourself? Do you see your culture? I am privileged and honored to work for an arts institution that upholds and uplifts my culture. The ways in which space is made for community stems from collaborative and co-creative efforts. How are we as museums co-creating with the communities we are with and part of? How are we making space? How are we showing appreciation and not appropriating? How are we collecting, not colonizing? Are we doing the work of building care, commitment, knowledge and trust? In what ways are we aware of our privilege and how are we using that privilege to be better allies to those in the world who have been and continue to be marginalized?

    Working at The Studio Museum in Harlem, there is a shared knowledge and understanding, a recognition of the importance of care, that allows me to show up as my full self. My identity is not erased but uplifted and celebrated. Through my individual experience I am able to make space for the larger community so that they may feel all of this as well. When we talk about museums and about preserving, protecting, and making decisions for the future generations; making space is part of the responsibility of this work.

    What does it mean to be responsible within society? What systemic impact do our decisions have on the larger community? As humans, like it or not, we can be inherently selfish. When I think about responsibility, I think about what it means to be human and to evolve. We have at times as a society had to be selfish in order to survive, but where has that gotten us? What are we actually trying to survive for? What obstacles do we face, and what are we trying to overcome? I think the answers to these questions are very different, and depend on who is answering.

    I can and will only speak for myself. As a Black woman working in what has been a historically white male field, it has been challenging to be recognized, to make space for my voice to be heard. It was not until I found my home at The Studio Museum in Harlem that I was able to surmount these challenges. I share this with you so that you may consider the ways in which you give opportunity for others to share space because this is something which has impacted me tremendously as an individual working in the field of museums. It is something I carry with me always as I work with generations of Museum professionals even younger than myself today. The solution cannot be to leave museums, which I know often happens, I’ve seen it, but how can we uplift and make space for everyone who is a part of this museum community? This institution? How can we create spaces of support? My existence here and now in this space is an example of what it means to give opportunity and make space for others, for the future generations of museum professionals.

    I’d like to invite each of you to consider personal challenges you’ve faced in this world, and in this work. How have you worked to overcome them? Have you? It’s not easy to continue to do this work day in and day out. Showing up, even when things are challenging, is commitment. Choosing to work in museums and continuing to renew our commitment to this work, to our communities, is important now more than ever.

    I always like to say that art is a mirror, it offers a view that reflects whomever gazes upon it. We project what we know, our thoughts, feelings and experiences onto the art work or object. In this way, museums are uniquely positioned to be spaces of reflection, a sort of psychological excavation of society. Museums offer a space for people to come together in dialogue about the world, about life, about ourselves.

    The consistency we show for ourselves and others in working within the museum field lends itself to trust. When we consider the concept of Trust within museum spaces, we must ask ourselves: are the decisions we are making within museums offering spaces of safety? Are we showing up for our communities, giving care to people, places and art work within our institutions, sharing knowledge and honoring the viewpoints of others, creating not from a singular narrative, but one that is rich with the nuanced and layered fabric of our society?

    Museum work is not easy, and we have done a lot. During my time working within museums, I’ve witnessed openings created for broader representation across institutions. I have created systems and structures which are collaborative and creative in nature, and provided space in the form of programming that reflects the community in which the museum resides. All of this was done through the lens of care, commitment, knowledge and trust. Even so, there is more work to be done and we have farther to go. Although I speak to you from the perspective of someone from New York City, I want to make space and acknowledge that this work is happening around the state, and around our nation. I’m sure each of us can think of examples of positive change from where you live and work, I am sure I am not alone. So how do we inspire change and growth within this field? Change begins and ends with the individual. Change comes from within.

    As I’ve grown in my position and leadership within museums, one thing is very clear: never underestimate the potential of small wins. It is these small wins, when collected and put together, that create systemic change. So I ask each of you how might you win small? For I’ve witnessed over the years how these small shifts in thought, in implementation of ideas, programmatic changes, have a ripple effect. Small impacts lead to larger ones, and you truly never know the impact your small wins have on others.

    I would lastly like to offer a fifth element to bell hooks' definition of love: and that is creativity. I believe museums must lean into their creativity. By definition, creativity is a process and process is an energy. It flows and is always moving. To be in the creative process is to be in the process of change. We must lean into this and always be in the process, always be in the flow of change. I’m going to make another assumption: if you are reading this now, you are a creative person and a resourceful person. How many of us don’t have enough room on our business cards to write our true title because we are doing the job of five people?

    Now I may joke, but this is a very real thing. At the Studio Museum we always say we are small, but mighty. To be small, while also doing big things, takes a certain level of creativity. Let’s tap into our innate creativity to be vehicles of change in our institutions and in our communities. As we make decisions that will impact the direction and the future of museums, let's consider creativity. There is so much value in this room today. We are rich. The creative energy when we gather together as museum professionals is abundant.

    In the museum world, there needs to be a commitment to care, a responsibility to share knowledge, for it is these very principles that begin to create and build trust. All these elements are interconnected, woven into the very fabric and fibers of what it means to be in community. Museums are about community as much as they are about art, about preservation, and education.

    In our commitment to care, we have a responsibility to share knowledge. The ways in which we share, and what we choose to share, is what builds trust, and creates spaces of inclusivity and representation. Creativity is the fuel that drives our change, it is, by definition, change. All these elements are what we should hold in our minds as we plan for the future of museums. This is the power of intentionality. The heart of museums for the Seventh Generation is moving with intention, and with care."


  • May 24, 2022 2:22 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Sackets Harbor is recognized by the National Park Service as one of the most significant sites during the War of 1812 in the United States. Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site includes a dozen buildings, over 70 acres, and is interpreted to the public using exhibitions, outdoor signage, guided and self-guided tours, and a restored 1850s Navy Yard and Commandant’s house. Today, as part of an initiative led by Site Manager Connie Barone, staff and volunteers are working to highlight the voices of Black and Indigenous who fought in the War of 1812. They are focused on reaching local, national, and international audiences by applying new skills in video production and making those videos accessible across multiple platforms.

    Sunset at the Navy Yard, behind Commandant’s House. Photo courtesy Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site

    Cross-Border Collaboration

    The Sackets Harbor Battlefield Historic Site has collaborated and partnered with Canadian entities for many years. When the US-Canada Border was closed during the pandemic, Sackets Harbor Battlefield staff collaborated with the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC) Bridge Annex as part of their 2021 virtual annual conference.

    “The historic site has always had a good working relationship with our Canadian neighbors because of our shared military history,” said Barone. Barone encouraged more formal tours from places like the Royal Military College Kingston, Ontario, which had been conducting informal staff visits for years. The Sackets Harbor Battlefield site was also involved with the St. Lawrence International Partnership that began over 30 years ago to help attractions in the US and Canada collaborate. “It included museums, forts, aquariums, nature centers, and any type of cultural institution,” said Barone. “It was a very strong organization, we met every month, and organized cross-border visits.” This group dissolved, but the partnerships and collaborations continued including large-scale re-enactments leading up to the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

    “In 2020, Sackets Harbor was supposed to host the annual War of 1812 North American Grand Tactical as the site had in 2010,” said Barone. “It would’ve included thousands of participants, reenactors, dozens of historians, and authors.” The event was canceled due to the pandemic. Over the last three years, the Battlefield site staff in collaboration with local re-enactors has offered smaller, outdoor programs. During the pandemic, Barone had the opportunity to participate and connect with other Canadian-based groups through Zoom  presentations that furthered and sparked research initiatives to help tell a more diverse history of the historic site and to expand interpretation. 

    War of 1812 Bicentennial Crown Forces monument dedication 2013 with US, Canadian, and British military personnel and War of 1812 re-enactors 

    Expanding Interpretation

    Barone began researching more about the history of Black soldiers at Sacker Harbor five years ago after coming across a newspaper article dated from the turn of the 20th century about the all-Black 24th regiment who left Texas in 1908, assigned to Sackets Harbor at Madison Barracks. Barone discovered that there was a Black soldier living on Hill Street with his family. “Hill Street is part of the historic site today. Archaeologists from Peebles Island (NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation) have excavated the area to examine the site to learn more. They’ve done some wonderful archeological studies and I wanted to then learn more about the families that were living there and so this article prompted me again. I wanted to learn why this soldier was living here and not in Madison Barracks. It made me think, were there other Black soldiers living in this community and what did that mean? Were they segregated in certain neighborhoods? The village was just nine or ten streets with about 1200 people, so what is this story?”

    During her research, Barone discovered more African American history in Sackets Harbor that covered multiple time periods including ties to abolitionist Gerrit Smith. “There were four Black men in Sackets Harbor given land by Smith. It led me to look at their histories through the census. I discovered that these families intermarried and one of the young men enlisted in during the Civil War and now we have his whole story.” 

    The NYS Museum recently opened a new exhibition, Timbuctoo: Gerrit Smith’s Experiment that focuses on the 1846 NYS law that required African American men to own $250 worth of property to vote. Smith, an abolitionist, gave away 120,000 acres of land in Essex and Franklin Counties to 3,000 free Black men, enabling them to vote. This exhibition is based on filmmaker Paul A. Miller’s documentary, Searching for Timbuctoo which tells the history of this forgotten settlement. The exhibition is on view in the Adirondack Hall until December 31, 2022. 

    Barone also credits her longstanding relationships with cross-border organizations like the Toronto Public Library that helped with this research. A Toronto librarian discovered a court case about Mr. Endicott, a Black man who lived in Sackets Harbor, left the area, traveled to the mid-west through the Great Lakes before the Civil War, and finally settled in St. Louis. In that court case Endicott described that “He was captured by an enslaver and he appealed to his friends back in Sackets Harbor to help free him and to prove that he was a Free Black man. The Toronto librarian sent us copies of all of the court case documents that we can use to tell his story.” 

    When the pandemic paused in-person collaborations, the conversations moved to Zoom and included a conference with Canadian historians and re-enactors.

    “I joined a Zoom presentation with Natasha Henry, a historian, educator, and the President of the Ontario Black History Society. She was presenting information about early Black history in Toronto and mentioned a Mr. Baker who served in the War of 1812.” John Baker was a Canadian soldier enslaved, later freed, and then fought for the British Crown. Baker fought at the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor in 1813 when British forces tried and failed to capture the military center of operations. This battle is listed as one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812 by the National Park Service. Baker fought with the 104th Regiment of the British Crown Forces and is believed by researchers to be the last person born into slavery in Canada to die. “I had never heard of Mr. Baker and contacted Natasha after the Zoom. She was able to connect me to the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada and its “Bridge Annex” chapter located in Cornwall, Ontario. “They had done extensive research on Mr. Baker and were working on a memorial to him.” The memorial marker was installed by the UELAC in 2021. “I reached out to see what our Sackets Harbor site staff could contribute and we decided to produce a video that could be shared at their conference.” The video was a brief overview of the Battle of Sackets Harbor and was filmed by Sackets Harbor site staff member Nicole Cronk with other staff, volunteers, and re-enactors narrating. Barone did the final interview at the Crown Forces monument that honors the members of the Crown Forces killed at the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor. The monument was dedicated in 2013 and was the first of two local monuments dedicated during the bicentennial. In 2019, in recognition for the collaborative work on the Crown Forces monument verifying names and raising funds, Barrone was presented the British Empire Medal for her work to British and Canadian soldiers who fought in the War of 1812.

    “After working with the UELAC to honor Mr. Baker, it led me to continue to research other members of the Crown Forces that were Black or Indigenous. We’ve always known that the Oneida Nation played a huge role in the Battle of Sandy Creek which is about 30 miles [BC(4] away but at Sackets Harbor, we had no information about any Indigenous involvement until a couple of years ago when I discovered Moses Abram from the Oneida Nation in documents that spanned over 52 pages.” The documents describe Abram’s involvement in the battle fighting alongside US troops inside the basswood barracks. “It was the first record of an Indigenous person fighting alongside US soldiers here,” said Barone.

     

    Building New Skills to Reach New Audiences

    Barone and Cronk learned new production skills to reach local and international audiences through video and audio content, contributing to the UELA 2021 virtual conference. Sacket Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is one of the 96 museums participating in “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” project organized by MANY and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services via a CARES Act grant to support museums in reaching their audiences digitally.

    “It was very important for us and for museums, in general, to not be stagnant,” said Barone. “It’s important for us to move forward and to continue to connect with our constituents in order to be relevant. It’s about keeping history relevant and in the public eye and there are so many ways to do that.”

    “Connie has shown great dedication to building new skills and advocating for her continued professional development,” said Eli McClain, Building Capacity Project Fellow for MANY.  “In each session, Connie displays increased proficiency and confidence using new hardware like the iPad Pro and software like Adobe Premiere Rush, Google Workspace, and Facebook. It has been a pleasure working with Connie on Building Capacity and helping her leverage new technology to strengthen local, national, and international partnerships.”

    Since joining the Building Capacity program, Barone has learned video production skills including editing with Adobe Premiere Rush. Other video content included highlighting staff work, site history, historic preservation efforts, and local community events.

    “When we saw the call to apply for the Building Capacity program, it was very appealing…the idea of using technology that we didn’t have or readily available. It was also beneficial to collaborate with museums outside of state historic sites. These were the main reasons we wanted to participate. At the start of the pandemic, we were asking “how can we move forward, what do we do next, and what can we do differently?”


    National Park Service–Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site video: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm%3Fid%3DAA187B03-7793-449C-8909-170CF05B546C

    NY State Parks: Sackets Harbor Battlefield:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmIcv6gkMLE 

    A Virtual Tour of Grant-Related Historic Sites Around the United States [Sacket’s Harbor 6 min 20 seconds]: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=B3C45CCE-F6AD-43A6-8003-211EABB044BA

  • May 24, 2022 9:07 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    More than $500,000 awarded to NYS Museums in all 10 REDC Regions 

    Troy, NY— The Museum Association of New York (MANY) in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) awarded $500,981 to 102 grantees to assist New York museums with capacity building.

    “We thank NYSCA for this partnership and this opportunity to rapidly distribute much-needed funding to New York’s museums,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director, MANY.

    This grant partnership with NYSCA was developed in direct response to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Partners for Public Good (PPG) study “Market Analysis and Opportunity Assessment of Museum Capacity Building Programs” report published in March 2021.

    Capacity Building grants were awarded in amounts up to and including $5,000 to help museums respond to pandemic-related challenges, build financial stability, strengthen board and community engagement, update technology, support leadership, and change systems to address diversity, equity, access, inclusion, and justice. Awards were made to museums of all budget sizes and disciplines.

    “The arts and culture sector is facing a multi-year recovery process after two years of unimaginable challenges,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director, NYSCA. “We are grateful to MANY for their stewardship of this opportunity that will ensure New York State museums continue to grow and thrive. We send our congratulations to all grantees on their awards.”

    Several museums are using grant funding to support institutional DEAI work. In New York City, the Bronx Children’s Museum’s “Accessibility Now” project will expand the Museum’s reach to thousands of children and families with different physical and mental abilities by conducting a multi-day workshop for staff.

    In Central NY, the Cayuga Museum of History and Art will work with the Executive Director of the Sing Sing Prison Museum and Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to update their permanent exhibition on the history of the Auburn Correctional Facility to include discussions of mass incarceration and the modern prison industrial complex.

    Other awardees will update technology to strengthen their community engagement. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site in the Capital Region will update the technology required to present in-person and virtual talks with scholars, artists, and community leaders. The Museum plans on continuing to serve their broadened online audience developed during the pandemic.

    In the North Country, the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical will use this grant to support leadership in updating the organization's strategic plan that will focus on developing goals and strategies to increase the institutional capacity and the historical society’s service to the community.

    Partnership Grants for Capacity Building are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

     

    View the full list of grants awarded.

     

    # # #

     

    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 uploifting 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 New York State Council on the Arts

    The Council on the Arts preserves and advances the arts and culture that make New York State an exceptional place to live, work, and visit. The Council upholds the right of all New Yorkers to experience the vital contributions the arts make to our communities, education, economic development, and quality of life. Through its core grant-making activity, the Council on the Arts awarded more than $100 million in FY 2022. NYSCA's statewide grants program supports the visual, literary, media and performing arts and includes dedicated support for arts education and underserved communities.

    The Council on the Arts further advances New York's creative culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the Council is an agency that is part of the Executive Branch. For more information on NYSCA, please visit http://www.arts.ny.gov, and follow NYSCA's Facebook page, Twitter @NYSCArts and Instagram @NYSCouncilontheArts


  • May 17, 2022 1:35 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York stands in solidarity with MANY Member Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission and shares the following statement from Executive Director Terry Alford regarding the May 14th tragedy in Buffalo, New York.


    You may write me down in history

    With your bitter, twisted lies,

    You may trod me in the very dirt

    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.


    Like so many of you, our hearts are very heavy today. Like the iconic Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, which serves as the connector of the past, present, and future for those historic neighborhoods within and beyond the City of Buffalo, Jefferson Avenue is celebrated as a cultural beacon of African American life. Long considered the “spine” of the Black community, Jefferson Ave. has been a place where many socio-and political movements successfully began and flourished.


    Did you want to see me broken?

    Bowed head and lowered eyes?

    Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

    Weakened by my soulful cries?


    We must all stand steadfast and condemn the systemic and societal issues that led to this heinous act. We all must engage in honest discussions that unabashedly and unapologetically acknowledge the scourge of white supremacist hate groups that exists in every city, town, village, and hamlet across this nation and beyond. This terrible atrocity was committed by a weak, impressionable individual radicalized by a network of hate groups upon other people who look like me. However, we are not in the least defeated. We are a strong people emblematic of so many before us who despite the hardships and obstacles placed in their way simply because of the color of their skin, still possessed the resolve to rise above them all.

    We cannot begin to express the amount of grief and pain all of us continue to feel. The African American community in Buffalo has for generations been a close-knit one. Many of us are close to someone directly impacted by this violent murderous act. We cry with those families who lost loved ones, but they will not be defined as victims but celebrated as beautiful, inspiring people who loved their families and their community.


    You may shoot me with your words,

    You may cut me with your eyes,

    You may kill me with your hatefulness,

    But still, like air, I’ll rise.


     

    (Excerpts in italics from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright 1978)


  • May 10, 2022 3:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues,

    I am pleased to share the exciting news that A9710/S8934 “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State” was reported out of the Assembly Economic Development Committee to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee earlier today.

    MANY extends our thanks to Assemblymember Didi Barrett D-108 and Assemblymember Harry Bronson D-138 for their work on this bill and their efforts in support of all of New York’s Museums. We also extend our thanks Senator Jeremy A. Cooney D-56 for introducing the bill in the Senate.

    With only nine days to go in the legislative session, your outreach could make a critical difference towards advancing the bill in the legislature. 

    We need you to reach out to your Assemblymembers and Senators today to ask them to sign on in support of the bill.

    Not sure who represents you in the Assembly? You can find your Assemblymember here.

    Need to find who represents you in the Senate? You can find your NYS Senator here.

    Click here to download a template that can help you write to your Assemblymember.

    Click here to download a template that can help you write to your Senator.

    Download the PDF, insert the name of your legislative representative and the name of your museum. The PDF also has room for your electronic signature. Please feel free to edit/adapt the language to your museum and your community.

    Thank you in advance for taking the time out of what I know is an incredibly busy day to reach out in support of this important bill that will help create an accurate and relevant picture of our state’s museums to inform policy making and grow public awareness of the missions, collections, audiences, and funding needs of New York State’s museums.


    Sincerely,

    Erika Sanger


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

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