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Letters from Erika - MANY brings the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition Program to New York State

June 28, 2018 3:26 PM | Deleted user

Are you inland or coastal? Do you travel on, in, along, around, or over? What do you celebrate at the shoreline?

I am very pleased to announce that the Museum Association of New York (MANY) will be the organizational partner for the state-wide tour of the Smithsonian Museum’s Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibition. Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibitions are designed to inspire dialogue, connect communities, and open doors to new programming through an expertly designed traveling exhibit. MANY is delighted to help build the capacity of our state’s museums and cultural heritage organizations by bringing this national program to our state as we celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial. The exhibition and programs produced across the state about our waters will tie stories about New York’s history, art, and culture to the story of our nation and our world.

Fishing on the Chattahoochee River, Ga. Photo by Steve Harwood.

Water/Ways will travel to six small- to mid-sized museums for six weeks each between June of 2019 and April of 2020. Three museums along the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in the Western, Central, and Capital regions will be selected. The fourth site will be located in the Hudson River National Heritage Area, the fifth in Suffolk County, and the sixth location will be a museum in any part of the state that makes a strong case for the importance of water to its history and cultural heritage. The goal of the program is to bring the highest quality exhibition possible to museums that can leverage this resource to build long lasting relationships with their community, add local resources to a national program, improve organizational sustainability, and create a convening location for discussions where everyone’s water story can be heard.

Sites will be selected through an application process. Each site will be judged on its own merits and its ability to muster the resources necessary to host the exhibition. Successful applicants will have a proven track record of community collaborations through exhibitions, school partnerships, and public programs. Additional decision-making factors will include the ability to care for the exhibition, commitment to plan and implement at least four public programs/events, and experience developing exhibitions that interpret the natural environment through the arts and humanities.

The exhibition is comprised of five easy-to-assemble, free-standing sections and two interactive kiosk monitors. Museums will be required to contribute between $250 and $500 (on a sliding scale by budget size), cover the cost of shipping the exhibition to the next host site on the tour (estimates pending), meet exhibition space and security requirements outlined in the application form, and comply with the ADA. Water|Ways requires a minimum of 800 square feet with 8.5-foot ceiling and electricity. Museums will also be required send two staff members to attend training workshops in December 2018 and spring of 2019 (dates and locations pending). Additional information and a sneak-peak video about the exhibition can be found here.

Hadley Exhibits, Inc. provided inaugural funding with partial project support that will allow MANY to cover exhibition rental costs, deliver training and capacity building workshops with MoMS staff, waive registration fees for most of our fall 2018 professional development programs for selected site museum staff, and provide promotional materials (banners, posters, postcards, docent handbooks, teacher resources, press kit, and social media templates). MANY staff will be available for ongoing consultation and support and will help connect sites to local art centers and regional cultural institutions. We are seeking additional sponsors and funding sources to help support programs and community-based exhibitions that share all of New York’s water stories.

Interested museums should send an email to me: by 5 PM on July 13 with “Interested in Water/Ways” as the subject line. I will reply with the RFP and application attached. I will be happy to answer questions about the process and share ideas for the exciting ways this program can make a splash in your community once you have read the materials. Applications are due by 5 PM on August 10 and I will notify selected museums on August 24. MANY jumped into Water/Ways with both feet, but not much time to spare to bring this important program to New York State in time for the Erie Canalway Bicentennial.

We are riding a fast tide to June 2019 and I look forward to seeing you on the water!

Erika Sanger
Executive Director, MANY

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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