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The Museum Association of New York Announces 2020 Awards of Merit

March 02, 2020 7:52 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

The Hudson River Museum was awarded a Engaging Communities Award of Merit for Through Our Eyes: Collection Initiative and Exhibition, a new digital archive documenting the diverse history of the people of Yonkers. A related exhibition Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers (May 31-November 3, 2019) culminated the year-long project envisioned by HRM and implemented by their Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow, Christian Stegall, under the direction of the curatorial and education department heads.

Troy, NY—The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce their 2020 Awards of Merit to be presented to eleven individuals, museums, exhibitions, and programs from across New York State. The Awards of Merit were judged for programs conducted in 2019 and will be presented as part of the Museum Association of New York's 2020 conference "The Power of Partnership" at the Hilton Albany in Albany, NY on Monday, March 30 at 8 AM.

The Awards of Merit recognizes outstanding and innovative programs, staff and volunteers who have enriched New York State museums with new and remarkable projects. The Awards of Merit are judged in seven categories by an Annual Review Committee.   

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. Ed Varno, Executive Director of the Ontario County Historical Society will receive this year’s most prestigious award. Members of the committee noted Varno’s dedicated work at the Ontario County Historical Society during a critical point for the organization. Varno led the organization to new levels of community engagement, relevance, and sustainability.

The Award of Merit for Individual Achievement recognizes devoted staff and volunteers who are instrumental in moving their organizations forward over a sustained period. This year the committee recognized Individual Achievement in two categories, one recognizing a staff member and the other recognizing a museum trustee/volunteer. For the Individual Achievement of a museum staff member, the committee recognized Stuart Lilie, Vice President of Public History at Fort Ticonderoga for his incredible work in overseeing their Public History department. The committee was impressed with Lilie’s work that created a living history program using documents from Fort Ticonderoga’s collection to establish a sustainable program that has visitors returning to Fort Ticonderoga year after year. For Individual Achievement of a museum trustee/volunteer was awarded to Stephanie Krusa of the Montauk Historical Society. The committee appreciated Krusa’s tireless dedication to the Montauk Historical Society and her commitment as a volunteer who went above and beyond to help raise the professionalism and elevate the profile of the museum.  

The Excellence in Design Award, sponsored by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME), recognizes an exhibition produced by a cultural institution that articulates content through engaging design and creates a satisfying visitor experience. The Excellence in Exhibition Design for organizations with an operating budget over $5 million was awarded to Camp: Notes on Fashion by The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The committee was impressed with its engaging content and how the exhibition brought out a marginalized story into public view. It was an incredible exhibition design and a relevant non-traditional topic for the museum. 

The Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island by the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages was awarded an Award of Merit in Excellence in Design for organizations with operating budgets under $5 million. Drawing on decades of scholarship about the African American experience on Long Island during and after slavery, the Long Island Museum became the first museum to offer an island-wide exploration of this crucial historical subject in a format accessible to a wide public audience through this exhibition and its accompanying public programming. The committee was impressed by the breadth of this project and how it provided a socially relevant historical experience.

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 Accelerate: Access and Inclusion at The Tang Teaching Museum. Accelerate was an ambitious project and involved collaborations with more than one hundred artists, students, faculty, and visiting scholars over three years and serves as a model for developing large-scale grant projects that focus on a museum’s collection, bringing in collaborators from backgrounds and perspectives that differ in geography, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, and highlighting artists of backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the museum space. 

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 their operating budget:


Volunteer- $100,000

Civil War Day, Military History Society of Rochester 

Hosted by the Military History Society of Rochester, Civil War Day is a day-long, interactive program for 4th and 7th graders that engages them with the American Civil War through talks, slide shows, authentic artifacts, and active participation. The day included four sessions on tenting and school of the soldier, artillery and soldiers in the way, music and kids in the Civil War, and Uniforms and food of the day.



We Were There: Schoharie County and the 9/11 Response

In early 2019, Schoharie County Historical Society representatives along with local residents Brian Head and Kevin Neary, undertook an effort to gather the stories of their first responders involved at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. This project was a first for Schoharie County Historical Society. Through collaborative efforts, the historical society was able to exhibit numerous artifacts from the New York State Museum to teach a new generation about 9/11. 



Through Our Eyes: Collection Initiative and Exhibition, Hudson River Museum

Through Our Eyes is a new digital archive at the Hudson River Museum (HRM) documenting the diverse history of the people of Yonkers. A related exhibition Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers (May 31-November 3, 2019) culminated the year-long project envisioned by HRM and implemented by their Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow, Christian Stegall, under the direction of the curatorial and education department heads. Their goal was to collect images related to important stories and everyday moments in Yonkers, as a part of a commitment to equity in representation at the Museum. To date, HRM has collected more than 700 photographs, spanning over 100 years, which document African Americans who made Yonkers the vibrant city that it is today.


Over $5,000,000

Vogueing Program by The Costume Institute and the Education Department, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the spring of 2019, The Costume Institute’s exhibition Camp: Notes on Fashion created an opportunity to launch a unique series of events and workshops centered around performance by members of New York City’s vogueing community.  Exhibition curators and museum education staff conceived of the series of performances in The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a way to advance critical and creative dialogue about the ongoing impact of the camp aesthetic on fashion.  In so doing, curators and educators sought to support community engagement with diverse NYC youth, area LGBTQIA communities, and the transgender community of New York City.


New to the Award of Merits this year is the Development Award. This award recognizes institutions whose fundraising campaigns have been innovative, engaging, and successful. This award showcases teams or individuals who garner financial support creatively and effectively for the benefits of their organization and their community’s cultural economy. The Paleontological Research Institution (Museum of the Earth) will receive this award for their Teach Climate Science Project. This project was a crowdfunding campaign to disseminate their “Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change” to every high school science teacher in the United States. By November 2019, Museum of the Earth had raised $137,000 and reached over 50,000 teachers and 5 million students with both print and digital copies. The committee was impressed by the reach of the project and how relevant and helpful this project was for teachers seeking information from a scientific source. 


The Award Ceremony will take place at 8:00 AM on Monday, March 30, 2020 at the Hilton Albany in Albany, NY. Photo opportunities will be available. For further information please contact info@nysmuseums.org 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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