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Museum Association of New York Announces 2022 Awards of Merit

March 16, 2022 5:28 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Ten Awards of Merit will be presented at the 2022 Annual Conference in Corning, NY

Troy, NY — The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce the 2022 Awards of Merit recipients. Awards of Merit will be presented as part of the 2022 Annual Conference Envisioning Our Museums for the Seventh Generation at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY on Monday, April 11 at 12 PM.

Awards of Merit recognize outstanding and innovative programs, staff and volunteers who have enriched New York State museums with new and remarkable projects. This year, the review committee reviewed over 50 nominations and awarded ten recipients in six categories. 

The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award recognizes a board member or staff leader that saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative, effective manner. This year, Brenda Simmons, Founder and Executive Director of the Southampton African American Museum, recieves this year’s most prestigious award. “Brenda is truly a force of nature who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to inclusion and the African American community on the East End of Long Island,” said Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele. Members of the review committee noted her leadership and tireless work makes her a worthy recipient of the Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award and is an inspiration to the museum field.  

The Award of Merit for Individual Achievement recognizes devoted staff or volunteers who are instrumental in moving their organizations forward over a sustained period. This year, the Individual Achievement was awarded to Melissa Dunlap for her incredible 30 year career as Curator and Executive Director of the Niagara County Historical Society. Over the course of her 30 year career, Dunlap increased the number of permanent staff, increased the historical society’s operating budget, reorganized the archives, increased school tours, led two major capital campaigns, relocated the historical society–including building a new gallery space and redesigning exhibition spaces. The committee applauded her dedication and leadership that supported and grew the Niagara County Historical Society.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a museum professional who is under the age of 35 and currently employed at a cultural institution. The Rising Star displays creative thinking and inspired institutional change. This years’ RIsing Star is Mary Tsaltas-Ottomanelli, Special Programs & Engagement Manager at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Mary’s investigation into visitor interests, her detailed research, and the stories she chooses to tell have pushed the Museum to collectively reexamine how they interpret their collection and to think strategically about the stories the Museum chooses to tell. Her work inspired others to share the lesser-known stories found in the Museum’s collection and she is a champion for diverse narratives.

The Excellence in Design Award recognizes an exhibition produced by a cultural institution that articulates content through engaging design and creates a satisfying visitor experience. This year, the committee awarded the Museum of Arts and Design’s Story Makers: Burke Prize 2021, an interactive exhibition that highlights 16 finalists and winners of the Museum's Burke Prize, which honors excellence in contemporary craft. The review committee was impressed by the multimedia interactive website and how this reimagines the exhibition experience for a digital audience.

The Innovation in Collections Access Award recognizes exemplary projects that broaden access, preserve, and catalog museum and heritage organization collections. This year the committee recognizes Digital Carpet Restoration for Historic House Access at Frederic Church’s Olana. This project sought a creative solution to the restoration and preservation of the rugs owned and used by the Church family. Olana staff utilized high-resolution photography and digital printing to produce highly accurate reproductions of historic flooring and carpeting materials printed on a rubber-backed material that provides a protective layer against visitor traffic. The review committee was impressed by the innovative use of technology to offer authentic visitor experiences and promote long-term conservation of collection assets. Olana State Historic Site is one of the first instiutitions in the United States to use this technology alongside Mount Vernon and Geroge Mason’s Gunston Hall. 

The Engaging Communities Award recognizes organizations that use creative methods to engage its community and build new audiences. Projects can include collections interpretation, exhibitions, lecture series, educational or public programs, focus groups, strategic planning, or other community engagement efforts. This award is given to organizations based on the size operating budget.

Volunteer- $100,000

Standing on their Shoulders: 101 Years of Voting and Still Marching for Women’s Rights – Historical Society of Woodstock

Based on the campaigns of two early US women’s rights workers as documented by their Woodstock-related descendants, this was the final exhibition in the Historical Society’s yearlong women’s rights centennial series “Standing on their Shoulders,” a project made possible by a grant from Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This exhibition included early 20th century photographs and artifacts with interactive videos and music. It highlighted the social justice work of Elisabeth Freeman (1876-1942) and Edna Kearns (1882-1934) whose activism and use of horse-drawn wagons as campaign plaforms inspired generations. 


A Visual Dialogue on Environmental Issues –Long Island Explorium

Long Island Explorium partnered with Stony Brook University’s Department of Art students to curate a digital art exhibition “A Visual Dialogue on Environmental Issues.” This exhibition focused on the balance of local community needs fueled with artistic insight on environmental justice. It also encouraged innovative multi-disciplinary artistic exploration by individual artists that expressed how the arts and new media can propose solutions to environmental issues and create alternatives that support sustainability and climate justice, fostering cooperation and an exchange of ideas.


Jupiter Hammon Project –Preservation Long Island

The Jupiter Hammon Project is a major, long-term initiative focused on developing a more relevant and equitable interpretation of the life, literature, and world of Jupiter Hammon (1711- ca. 1806) and the other individuals enslaved at Joseph Lloyd Manor, one of Presevation Long Island’s four historic properties. While enslaved at the Manor, Jupiter Hammon wrote powerfully about the social and moral conflicts slavery raised in the newly formed United States, becoming one of our country’s earliest published Black authors. Preservation Long Island hosted three public roundtable discussions over Zoom with nearly 700 total attendees that brought together scholars and professionals to explore the legacy of slavery on Long Island via the life and work of Jupiter Hammon. The public’s response to the scholarly information presented in the roundtables will shape the interpretation of Jupiter Hammon’s story. 


Tomashi Jackson: The Land Claim – Parrish Art Museum

Tomashi Jackson is a multidisciplinary artist working across painting, textiles, sculpture, and video to place formal and material investigations in dialogue with recent histories of displacement and disenfranchisement of people of color, resulting in formalist compositions of exuberant color, bold geometries, and intricate layerings of material. In 2021, Jackson was invited by the Parrish Art Museum as part of their annual project series for artists to consider the entire Museum as a site for workers that transcend disciplinary boundaries, encouraging new ways to experience art, architecture, landscape, and community. Tomashi Jackson: The Land Claim focused on the historic and contemporary lived experiences of Indigenous, Black, and Latinx families on the East End of Long Island, and how issues of housing, transportation, livelihood, migration, and agriculture link these communities. 

Over $5,000,000

GATHER: Conversations led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers – Guild Hall of East Hampton

Devised specifically for community leaders, services workers, teachers, and developers, GATHER: Conversations led by Black & Indigenous Changemakers platforms the voices and experiences of BIPOC scholars, artists, and leaders, providing both lessons on our past histories and strategies and examples of how to progress forward together. The July 2021 GATHER series was programmed in tandem with the Guild Hall exhibition, “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks, platforming indigenous experiences, traditions, and histories with our waterways and systems.” The four events were led by Jeremy Dennis, artist and tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall’s Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement, and a rotating panel of historians, artists, and/or leaders of the Hamptons, including Roddy Smith, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Tecumseh Ceaser, Chief Harry Wallace, Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Donnamarie Barnes, and Skip Finley.


The Award Ceremony will take place at 12 PM on Monday, April 11 at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. Photo opportunities will be available. For further information please contact or 518-273-3400.

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

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

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