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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. 

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  • June 28, 2018 1:43 PM | Deleted user


    Whether we’re professional curators or not, we all do it. Some people collect art or stamps, and sometimes even more eclectic items, while other’s curatorial pursuits find them invested in America’s favorite pastime: baseball.

    At the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, the hobbyist will mesh with the curator in the Hall of Fame’s upcoming exhibition, Shoebox Treasures, opening next spring. Shoebox Treasures will take a deeper exploratory dive into the hobby of collecting baseball cards, examining the history, tradition, and design evolution of cards.

    The National Baseball Hall of Fame on opening weekend, 1939.

    Why baseball cards? Besides the more obvious answer (it is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, after all) Erik Strohl, Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections at the Hall of Fame, says there are multiple facets to approaching this question. “Baseball cards are a way that many fans connect with the game, especially since it’s something they may have started doing when they were kids,” Strohl says. “It’s something that’s accessible.”

    While the Hall of Fame has had exhibits devoted to baseball cards in the past, Strohl, who has been with the Hall of Fame for 20 years, says none of them offered an interpretation of the practice of card collecting like Shoebox Treasures will. Even after the public outcry that followed the closure of the previous baseball card exhibit, Strohl says the Hall of Fame was in no rush to put something back up on display. “We wanted to do it the right way,” he says.

    Shoebox Treasures will explore the history of baseball cards, but with a twist. They’ll be approaching their interpretation from a variety of standpoints – collectors, producers, and players – while also using innovative new technologies to showcase the Hall of Fame’s collection of 140,000 baseball cards.

    Jim "Catfish" Hunter's Topps card (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum).

    Strohl says he and the rest of the Hall of Fame staff are excited to be incorporating displays and technology in Shoebox Treasures. The exhibit will be implementing new tools of conservation in their baseball card display. The cards will be kept in drawers that visitors will be able to pull out to view an entire panel of cards, which Strohl says will reduce the square footage of the exhibit while also allowing them to show more cards in less space.

    The exhibit, which is slated to open next spring, will also feature the Hall of Fame’s “Holy Grail” cards – the rarest and most sought-after cards in the collection – in a way that their exposure to light will be cut down significantly. “This is some cutting-edge stuff that we haven’t done anything with,” Strohl says. “It’s always fun to incorporate something new in the fabrication part of the exhibit that’s going to show the benefits to the visiting public.”

    Ken Meifert, Vice President of Sponsorship and Development at the Hall of Fame, says that baseball cards have a much deeper story than one could imagine. “It’s not just about the piece of cardboard,” he says. “I think there’s a lot of stories that can be told, and a lot of different ways that people can engage with the card exhibit beyond the idea of having a pack of cards with a rubber band around them.”

    Willie Crawford's Topps card (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum).

    The duality of collecting as being both hobby- and museum-based is one of the main themes of Shoebox Treasures. Initially, the Hall of Fame had planned to examine the relationship between hobbyists, investors, and collectors, but soon realized that there was less of a distinction than they had thought at first. While there are investors and collectors out there who are savvy when it comes to investing in the rarest and most expensive cards, both Meifert and Strohl say they’re all hobbyists at heart.

    “What we’re exploring historically, which is the history of card collecting, you started off with hobbyists,” Strohl says, going on to explain how some hobbyists evolved into investors and collectors as the market for baseball cards grew. “People are still thinking about value, but they wouldn’t be doing this if they weren’t hobbyists and if they didn’t love it. We found less and less of a distinction from where we’d thought about it.”

    Meifert agrees. “What we’ve come to realize as we’ve spent more time with guys who are buying multimillion dollar single cards and folks who are buying 25 cent common cards, the only thing that’s really different is the number of zeroes to the left of the decimal point,” he says. “The passion in their approach is similar, it’s just a matter of value.”

    Meifert has been handling the Hall of Fame’s fundraising efforts for Shoebox Treasures since the exhibit’s proposal was accepted in January. The proposal estimated that the total budget for the exhibit would be $800,000; in the five months since the Hall of Fame started fundraising, that goal has been surpassed by 10 percent.

    “The response has just been overwhelming,” he says, adding that he’s seen a significant increase in the number of donors adding personal messages to their contributions. “I’ve seen tons of notes from people talking about their favorite cards or wanting to tell us what they’re favorite set is, or what era they’ve collected. [It’s] another indicator that we’re really touching something that means something to people, and that’s pretty cool.”

    Learn more about Shoebox Treasures here.

    Words by Sarah Heikkinen. Photos courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

  • June 28, 2018 1:13 PM | Deleted user

    Over the past decade, virtual and augmented reality tools have become increasingly popular interpretive resources for museums. Now, visitors are exposed to new, innovative experiences at their favorite cultural institutions, sometimes without even needing to leave the comfort of their homes. From 360 videos on Facebook and YouTube, to mind-bending apps to use on site, museums are experimenting with exciting ways to engage their audiences.

    In 2017, the Smithsonian American Art Museum teamed up with Intel to “develop an experience that takes advantage of room-scale VR’s immersiveness.” The Smithsonian and Intel worked with VR studios like V.A.L.I.S. and Framestore to make a virtual recreation of one wing of the art museum. Devindra Hardawar, a writer for Engadget, said his experience with the virtual tour wasn’t “photorealistic,” but was still fairly convincing. “It felt like I was standing in a museum, which is the ultimately the most pressing goal,” he wrote.

    During a recent exhibition of Parisian artist Modigliani, the Tate Modern in London conceptualized a virtual reimagination of his final studio in Paris, where the artist lived and worked between 1919 and 1920. The Tate, in partnership with VR company Preloaded, reconstructed the studio using the actual physical space as a template, then referenced “first-hand accounts and historical and technical research” to create the VR experience. The museum also digitally recreated Modigliani’s artwork, collaborating with the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    “This research allowed us to portray these artworks with painstaking accuracy, from the surface texture of the canvas, to the types of paint and brushes the artist may have used, to the type of stretcher the self-portrait may have originally been painted on,” the Tate wrote on their website.

    And now, this groundbreaking technology has made its way up to the Adirondacks at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

    The Wild Center officially opened its doors on July 4, 2006, beginning over a decade of celebrating the Adirondacks as “a great American success story.” Since then, The Wild Center has expanded its range with interactive exhibits and programs like Planet Adirondack, Wild Walk, and the Youth Climate Program.

    Now, with the help of Patrick Murphy, the Center’s Community Engagement Coordinator and recipient of MANY’s 2018 Rising Star Award of Merit, the Wild Center is heralding in a new era of immersive museum experiences with their recent collaboration with the virtual and augmented reality company, Frameless Technologies.

    When Murphy attended last year’s New York State Tourism Industry Association annual conference in Lake Placid, he was struck by the conference’s emphasis on the benefits of virtual reality on the tourism industry. He had previously been made aware of Frameless Technologies through the Center’s Executive Director, Stephanie Ratcliffe.

    “Their whole keynote address was about VR and tourism marketing,” Murphy says. “It all kind of fell into place.”

    Murphy worked with Frameless Technologies to shoot a sample of what they could do for the Center – a 360 video tour of the site. Like the VR experiences at museums like the Smithsonian or the MOCA in Los Angeles, the Center’s 360 video creates a new opportunity for off-site visitors to immerse themselves in a space to which they may not readily have access.

    Michaela Gaaserud, Frameless Technologies’ CEO, says that what her company’s goal when working with clients – especially museums – is to make unique experiences accessible. “It’s difficult to get tour operators to come out in person and check out The Wild Center,” she says. “That way, they can become more aware of it.” 

    Since the Wild Center and Frameless Technologies began their partnership, Murphy has showcasing the video to potential donors and clients with VR goggles and brought the 360 video tour of the Center with him to trade shows. The video is also available to those without access to VR goggles on YouTube, where users can navigate through the tour using their mouse and keyboard. “It’s pretty amazing to see how much more action you get off of this type of experience other than regular videos or still frames,” Murphy says. “We feel pretty good about it right now.”

    The Wild Center is also home to two other immersive virtual reality experiences: Science on a Sphere (SOS) and an augmented sand table. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Science on a Sphere is a “room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six-foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe,” according to NOAA. 

    Science on a Sphere at The Wild Center. Photo courtesy of The Wild Center.

    The SOS system gives museums and science centers like The Wild Center the opportunity to enhance their educational programs by directly putting their visitors into the learning experience.

    So, what does this all mean for other museums and cultural institutions like The Wild Center? Traditionalists may say that adding technology like virtual reality and augmented reality defeats the purpose of the tried-and-true museum experience, when in actuality, these resources may serve to enhance that experience. “Virtual reality is the only type of media that elicits both a mental and physical response,” says Gaaserud.

    The augmented sand table at The Wild Center. Photo courtesy of The Wild Center.

    Bringing new technology into museums broadens the scope of people that can be reached, especially if it’s technology that can help transport someone on Long Island to the Adirondacks with just a click of a button. From the Smithsonian to The Wild Center, the possibilities are endless.

    “There’s just so much versatility within the technology,” Murphy says. “I think this kind of flexibility is key for people to be able to understand that even though The Wild Center may be using it in one way, another place can use it in a different way.”

    Words by Sarah Heikkinen. Photos and video courtesy of The Wild Center.

  • May 29, 2018 3:54 PM | many info (Administrator)

    Over the next three years, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum (MHCM) in Poughkeepsie, NY will be developing and building an exciting and bold new museum campus along the city’s waterfront. “It feels like the stars are aligning,” says Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Executive Director of the MHCM.

    The expanded campus, “The Museums at Upper Landing,” will be built on the Upper Landing Property, which currently includes a pocket park along Poughkeepsie’s northern waterfront and will eventually be home to four museums, including the Children’s Museum, which borders the property. The park and surrounding properties were previously owned by The Dyson Foundation, who, in late 2017, sent out a call for development proposals from nonprofits in the Hudson Valley to take stewardship of the property.

    The MHCM had already been weighing their options for the museum itself after realizing that their current space was nearly at capacity. Litchfield-Kimber says they were considering more expansions to the museum and had even thrown the idea of relocating the museum on the table when they were invited by the Foundation to submit a proposal on what they would do should they take ownership of the land. “The timing of everything was really exciting,” Litchfield-Kimber says.

    Dyson Foundation President Andrea Reynolds said in a press release that the Foundation chose the MHCM because their proposal offered a more compelling plan for the restoration of the property, adding that their goal had always been to transfer stewardship of the land to a responsible nonprofit who would keep the public’s interest in mind during development. “We think the Children’s Museum offers a plan that fulfills that goal,” she said.

    While actual construction on the site won’t start for three years, work for Litchfield-Kimber and her planning team has already begun. For the next year, the MHCM will be studying the property, which includes determining the feasibility of transforming the two vacant, yet historic buildings on the Upper Landing Property – the Reynolds and Hoffman houses – into a new science center. In June of next year, the ownership of the property will officially transfer to the MHCM. This not only includes the vacant lots, but the Upper Landing Park itself, which Litchfield-Kimber says the MHCM will maintain.

    So, what exactly is the MHCM’s goal in transforming this property into a museum campus?

    “We’re really trying to invent the science center of the future,” Litchfield-Kimber says. “This is a really fast-living laboratory for us in terms of how we can take what has worked well in science centers in particular and turn it into something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

    The MHCM envisions a new campus that will preserve public green space and waterfront access with the continued maintenance of the Upper Landing Park, while simultaneously restoring and repurposing the two historically significant houses into two brand new museums focused on science education. “The fact that we’re a technology corridor without a science museum is interesting and kind of sad,” says Litchfield-Kimber. “This is our opportunity.”

    Litchfield-Kimber, who comes from a science museum background, says she’s particularly excited to introduce more science and math-driven educational content to the Poughkeepsie community. “We do get a lot to get families comfortable and ready for a lifelong museum habit,” she says, “but I would love to be able to offer more for older kids.” The Museums at Upper Landing will transform the two historic buildings on the property into science centers targeted at older children and teenagers, something Litchfield-Kimber is very passionate about. “We realized that each of these buildings could be built out into their own spaces so we could take a scaffolding type of approach to engaging families as their kids grow,” she says.

    As the home of IBM, the Hudson Valley as a whole has the potential to become a hub for science-loving students – particularly those interested in STEM – to further their education. Litchfield-Kimber says that technology companies, schools, and colleges in the Hudson Valley had begun to express concern that they didn’t have a natural space for students to grow, or the resources to attract and encourage students in STEM to stay local, which is where the MHCM’s new campus comes in. “We see a way to contribute to our community in a real regional way that will allow students who are coming up through our pipeline to not feel that to get ahead, they have to leave [the Hudson Valley],” she says.

    Initial concepts for the campus include the transformation of the Hoffman House into a science center for younger children; the Reynolds Building becoming science center for teens and adults that would explore issues at the cross-section of science and society; and the renovation of the MHCM’s Pavilion into a food hub that would also serve as a museum, event space, and culinary center for families.

    “It is not often that a new science center or museum opens its doors, making this potential project a special prospect for the Hudson Valley Region,” said Cristin Dorgelo, President and CEO of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, in a press release distributed by the MHCM. 

    “We’re really excited to see how we can create a canvas that can change up pretty regularly, and also be a hub for really important community conversations,” Litchfield-Kimber says. 

    More information on the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum can be found here.

    Photos courtesy of the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum. Words by Sarah Heikkinen.

  • May 29, 2018 3:50 PM | many info (Administrator)

    With historic buildings that make up a broad collection of the simplistic architecture of a nearly forgotten religious group, an herb garden and orchard filled with crops grown since the 18th century, and hiking trails across acres and acres of original pastural land, the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District presents a unique opportunity for visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for an often-ignored aspect of American history.

    “You really can equate Shakers with the concept of Americana,” says Starlyn D’Angelo, Executive Director of the Albany Shaker Heritage Society. D’Angelo is currently partnering with the Preservation League of New York State to draw statewide attention to the Shaker Heritage Society and the surrounding historic district. The Shaker’s tremendous influence on American culture, D’Angelo says, is why it’s imperative that the historic district is protected.

    The Shakers

    Formed in England in the early 18th century, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (known most commonly as The Shakers, a mashup of their original nickname, “The Shaking Quakers”) made their way to the United States in 1774 under the guidance of Mother Ann Lee, the first official leader of the Shaker community. Lee and the small group she led across the Atlantic settled in modern-day Colonie, establishing the first Shaker community in the United States.

    Lee, who joined the Shakers with her parents in 1758, was one among many women revered by the Shakers, whose beliefs did not restrict women from taking leadership roles. In fact, Lee was seen as being the “second coming of Christ” by the community, due to her claims of revelations that would come to inform the core practices of the Shakers.

    Along with their progressive views on gender roles, the Shakers were also known for a wealth of other impressive achievements and for their contributions to American culture. Idyllic American traditions like apple pie and “simple living” were, according to D’Angelo, “really rooted in Shaker culture.”

    The architectural style of the Shakers has had a particularly significant influence on American architecture. Their barns and homes are known for their simplistic and austere design, and though they later took inspiration from Federal style, their simple yet technically perfect furnishings left a lasting impression on American styles.

    Acknowledging and honoring the Shakers’ influence on some of the most deeply ingrained aspects of American society in culture is why D’Angelo is fighting hard to preserve the grand collection of Shaker history the Historic District offers to the Capital Region.

    The Movers

    That’s where the Preservation League comes in. “We’re like MANY for historic preservation,” jokes Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation at the Preservation League.

    Since 1997, the Preservation League, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation in New York State, has been facilitating the preservation of historic sites across the state through their Seven to Save program. In the past, Seven to Save has designated sites like the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, Bent’s Opera House in Medina, NY, and the Kingston Historic Stockade.

    For the 2018-2019 designations, the League is focusing on the preservation of historic districts around New York. According to their website, each of the seven districts listed are in danger of disappearing because of “vacancy, disinvestment, and lack of public awareness.” Its past designees have found success through their partnership with the League, averting demolition, developing plans for reuse, and even securing landmark status.

    So, why the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District? Tobin says the League chose the site because of its significance at the local, state, and national level. “It’s a nationally important place,” she says, which is why they’re listing the entire district, and not just listing the Shaker Heritage Society, located on the Church Family land. The other former Shaker properties included in the designation once belonged to the West and South Families in Colonie and Mount Lebanon, respectively.

    “Part of the designation was meant to enhance its visibility,” Tobin says. The League works closely with its designees to draw attention to the historical importance of each site, strategizing ways to engage the media and local communities. Since the announcement of their partnership in April, Tobin says they’ve had “great press coverage,” with D’Angelo and the Shaker Heritage Society being featured in several different news outlets in the area.

    “We felt that getting statewide attention through the Seven to Save program would really help us clearly articulate the importance of the historic site to the county,” D’Angelo says.

    And on May 15, D’Angelo and the League cohosted a reception to do just that for members of the Albany County legislature and of the Shaker Heritage Society board. Many of the 39 legislators had never been to the site, D’Angelo says. “This is a really great opportunity for us to think about the positives that we’ve accomplished,” she says.

    D’Angelo recalled that one legislator at the reception had been talking about all the repairs that are currently needed for “more important” facilities in Albany County. “I said I understood but that none of those projects could drive economic development like the Shaker site can,” she says. “He was definitely swayed!”

    The Challenges

    However, there are complications that have come up in D’Angelo and the League’s efforts to preserve the district. For instance, the land is leased by the Shaker Heritage Society but has been owned by Albany County since 1925. The terms of land ownership can complicate things when it comes to applying for grants and other funding to maintain the grounds and buildings, says Tobin.

    “Without a long-term lease, they have a hard time getting grants and raising funds,” Tobin says. “Most funders will only give awards if the grant recipient is either the owner of the building and the land, or if they have a long-term lease.” For example, D’Angelo explained that a recent grant the Shaker Heritage Society received from the REDC had to be submitted by Albany County, though the Society wrote the grant proposal.

    “We’re lobbying them for a 50- to 60-year lease of the Church family property,” she says. This long-term lease request may work in the Society and League’s favors, thanks to one of the six new developments coming to the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District.

    Soldier On, a nonprofit organization committed to ending veteran homelessness in the United States, is currently developing a permanent housing village for veterans at the site of the former Ann Lee Nursing Home. Albany County has granted Soldier On a 60-year lease on the land. Tobin says the League is supporting the Shaker Heritage Society in their lobbying of the county to have the same length lease as Soldier On. “It just makes sense,” she says.  

    Aside from Soldier On, five other developments are coming to the historic district, including a soccer complex, multiple apartment buildings, a hotel, and an office building. D’Angelo says she helps provide guidance for the property owners. “We don’t try to stop these projects,” she says. “We prefer to be a partner.”

    This spirit of comradery and partnership is what has kept the Historic District afloat for so long, even when incoming developers operate without the same sensitivity as their peers. Currently, the town of Colonie is undergoing a large amount of renovations; while this does present a potential roadblock for D’Angelo and the Preservation League in their quest to protect the Shaker buildings and artifacts, D’Angelo recognizes that change will continue to come. “Preservation is the most important thing,” she says. 

    Why It Matters

    While there may only be nine original Shaker buildings left on the Church Family site, where the Shaker Heritage Society resides, D’Angelo says that doesn’t put a damper on the importance of preserving the sites. “There’s enough left here to give a sense of what it was like,” she says.

    The rich history of the Shaker community is still seen today through the immaculately cared-for Meeting House at the Albany Shaker Heritage Society, which serves as a museum of Shaker history, a gift shop, and a performance venue – it also happens to be the last large-scale Shaker Meeting House with an intact interior.

    The Historic District not only preserves the unique history of the Shaker community in New York State, but has inspired a number of world-renowned artists. “They influenced everyone from Pablo Picasso to Donald Judd,” D’Angelo says. Composer Aaron Copland was inspired by his discovery of the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" in an archive; he later modified the music and included it in his famous composition, “Appalachian Spring.”

    D’Angelo says that artists have come to the district and been inspired, even writing music pieces or choreographing dances specifically for the Meeting House. “I really believe there’s something for everybody here,” she says. “There’s so much to offer.”

    What’s most important, however, is simple: the preservation of a deeply significant chapter of American and religious history. D’Angelo says she wishes more people knew about the Shakers’ influence on American culture. “I recognize it’s one aspect of the dominant culture,” she says, “but it’s a really important one.”

    More information on the Albany Shaker Heritage Society can be found here; to learn more about the Preservation League, click here.

    Photos and words by Sarah Heikkinen.

  • May 29, 2018 3:28 PM | many info (Administrator)

    Members of the Capital Region community gathered in Waterford on May 4 for the first of a series of four roundtable programs celebrating the history of the Champlain Canal and the communities who helped build it.

    Organized by Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc., the programs were facilitated to not only raise awareness of the vibrant history of canals in New York, but to encourage museum professionals to collaborate with their communities and develop engaging experiences for visitors. Attendees of the Waterford workshop included local town historians, representatives from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and Waterford history buffs.

    “Community Building: The Growth of Canal Communities” was the first roundtable to kick off the series in Waterford, NY, on May 4, 2018. The program featured presentations by Brad Utter, the Senior Historian and Curator for Science and Technological History at the New York State Museum, and Russ VanDervoort, a local historian and president of the Waterford Canal and Towpath Society.

    Utter, whose research and curatorial work at the New York State Museum focuses on the canal system of New York, provided attendees with a comprehensive history of the Erie and Champlain Canals. Showing photos, maps, and newspaper clippings, he explained how the need for canals across New York State had increased by the War of 1812. The state of New York wanted to trade with Western New York and towns and cities bordering the Great Lakes without British interference, Utter said, and also find a means to efficiently transport their troops across the state.

    Brad Utter presenting at the first Lakes to Locks roundtable.

    Pro-canal folks went as far as to claim that supporting the construction of the Champlain Canal was “patriotic,” since it would be ultimately good for the state government. Utter showed excerpts from the Champlain Canal’s Board of Commissioners’ call for Hudson Valley residents of the 19th century to support the construction—they claimed that the Champlain Canal would “enhance the value of the Northern Lands,” going as far to predict that the cities within the Capital Region would unite into one giant city because of the new canal.

    While the Board’s prediction of a mega-city never did come true, their promise of value enhancement certainly did. By the mid 1800s, the Champlain Canal’s reach was significant, with trade routes stretching from Waterford to Vermont. Over 500 tons of merchandise were shipped out of Waterford after the Canal was completed. While local farmers and merchants were initially against the canal’s construction (and for good reason, since the physical toll the canal took on their land was dire in some cases), many of them learned how to work the new waterway to their advantage. Some turned to dairy and fruit farming, sending their products down the canal to Troy.

    The Capital Region also saw an increase in tourism on the Canal, said Utter. Saratoga Springs unsurprisingly benefitted the most, due to the common lore which promoted the idea that the sulfurous waters had “healing properties.” This certainly caught the attention of the wealthy canal travelers, but Utter explained that canal tours were not only catered for the rich and famous. The Northern Tour opened up the floodgates for the poor and middle-class to tour the Champlain Canal—plus, they were cheaper and faster than the tours sent to Saratoga.

    While the pros of the canal were plentiful, there were a few cons that Utter mentioned near the end of his presentation. The physical impact of the construction alone was enough to turn off some Hudson Valley residents, with land being commandeered by the government (in what Utter said was the first major use of imminent domain in the state), farms being split in half by new canal channels, not to mention the sudden appearance of canal robbers and an outbreak of cholera that originated in Montreal, the Champlain Canal’s northernmost pier. Despite its drawbacks, Utter said the Champlain Canal proved its worth to the region by the mid-19th century, building up the communities of towns along the canal, like Waterford.

    While Utter’s presentation told the history of the Champlain Canal, VanDervoort’s recollections of his family’s life on the canal brought the event full circle. Gretel Schueller, the Community Outreach Director for the Lakes to Locks Passage, emphasized how important it is for the Passage to reach out to their community through the roundtables. “We’re telling real stories from real people,” she said.

    Margaret Gibbs, the Heritage Program Director of the Lakes to Locks Passage, explained that they’re encouraging the communities of Waterford and the larger Capital Region to interact with their histories; luckily for Lakes to Locks, that’s exactly what VanDervoort has been doing since he was a child.

    VanDervoort says his family has been tied up with the canal in one way or another since 1807. VanDervoort, who has published two books about his family’s history with the Champlain Canal, regaled the roundtable’s attendees with funny stories about his great-grandfather, affectionately nicknamed “Cap’n Lou,” a tugboat captain who didn’t tolerate bad behavior from his crew members (but did, on occasion, let them run ashore to have a little fun).

    In between stories about his predecessors who lived in a tugboat on the canal year-round, VanDervoort showed then and now photos of the Champlain Canal. Many of the structures that could be seen in the old pictures are long gone now, but VanDervoort was reflective in showcasing the change of landscape in Waterford. He went on to talk about a local historian in the 1950s who had made it his mission to record the stories of canal community members, some of whom were VanDervoort’s family. “I can listen to stories the way they told them,” he said.

    The Lakes to Locks Passage sponsored three other roundtables over the course of the month in Hudson Falls, Schuylerville, and Glens Falls. More information on Lakes to Locks can be found here.

    Photos and words by Sarah Heikkinen.

  • May 29, 2018 12:10 PM | many info (Administrator)

    I grew up in New York City playing on blacktop surfaces and walking along rivers bounded by concrete walls. I now live in a 200-year-old farm house on three acres of land adjacent to a “kill,” in a county with a population of less than 160,000 people. Learning the names of plants and trees does not come easily - Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory would place my skill set firmly in the visual-spatial category. Activities that call upon naturalistic intelligence can be a challenge.

    When walking through the Phoenix Desert Botanic Garden during the 2018 AAM conference, someone turned to me and asked, “What is that sound?” I genuinely surprised myself when I quickly responded, “That’s a mourning dove.” It didn’t sound exactly like the mourning doves in my backyard in New York, but it was close. As she and I scanned the trees together to find the bird, we talked of the places we lived and worked and became acquainted with each other and the garden.

    Attending the 2018 AAM conference reminded me how important it is to seek out opportunities for professional development, to listen and learn from colleagues, to be present in rooms where people are sharing their best work, to take to heart the opinions of others, and to hear meaning in the words of someone you don’t know.

    Many of the concurrent sessions, roundtable discussions, and keynote speeches I attended at the 2018 AAM conference in Phoenix centered on the work of AAM’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Committee. Those sessions and the committee’s report are a call to action to change the way we recruit and train our staff, work with our communities, and share our exhibitions and collections. No matter the museum in which we work, or the community we call home, it is time to get a bigger table for our meetings - or maybe even move the meeting to a bigger room - to create a place for multiple perspectives when decisions are made in and for our institutions, and to listen to things that may be difficult to hear.

    With the geographic and demographic range of New York State, each museum and community will have to define diversity for themselves. We each need to do our part to represent all of New York’s history, art, and culture within our museum spaces. What we know or don’t know should not impede the process. The collective intelligence of New York’s museum professionals is there to support us. There is no right or wrong way to partner with a community or train an emerging professional if we are responsive and dialogic, listen closely, and create fearlessly together.

    When I left New York City, I knew that every individual’s experience was different from the millions of others that call the city home, but tone deaf to much of the natural world. Patient friends taught me the sounds of the field and the forests. The sessions I attended and museums I visited in Phoenix reminded me that as I have learned to distinguish the song of a mourning dove, whether it looks like the one in my backyard maple or the one perched on a cactus, we all have much to learn from the stories that are told by our colleagues and our museums.  

    Tomorrow, we launch our e-newsletter for MANY members. Each month we will feature original reporting by our Marketing and Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Heikkinen. Her articles will share the work of three MANY member’s programs and achievements with three themes:

    • how museums are growing institutional resources, including welcoming new staff and board members and securing funding for projects;
    • how museums are working with their community and visitors;
    • and how we use our exhibitions and collections in new ways.

    We’re excited to share this newsletter with our members and hope that, if you are not a member, you will consider joining our growing New York State museum community today.

    With thanks,

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director, MANY

  • May 02, 2018 10:50 AM | many info (Administrator)

    On April 10, 2018, Suzanne LeBlanc, President of Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM) began her tenure as President of the Museum Association of New York’s (MANY) Board of Directors at their annual conference. LeBlanc is preceded by Robert Cassetti, Senior Director of Creative Services and Marketing at the Corning Museum of Glass. Cassetti served as the president of the Museum Association of New York’s Board for four years.

    LeBlanc brings with her over 40 years of experience in the children’s museum field, having worked in leadership positions at children’s museums in Boston, Brooklyn, and Las Vegas. LeBlanc earned an MA in Counseling Psychology from Lesley College and a BS in Journalism and Photojournalism from the School of Public Communication at Boston University.

    In the 14 years she’s been at the LICM, LeBlanc has been a member of the Community Advisory Council of the Junior League, and a member of the Early Years Institute Advisory Committee. She was also named one of the “50 Most Influential Businesswomen of Long Island” by the Long Island Business News. LeBlanc is a member of the New York State Regents Museum Advisory Council and has served as the Vice President of the Association of Children’s Museums and as President of the Nevada Museums Association.

    Erika Sanger, the Executive Director of MANY, said she is looking forward to working with LeBlanc. “Suzanne’s commitment to diversity in museum content and staffing serves as a model for the field, and her expansive experience at museums and museum associations across the country will benefit all of MANY’s members,” Sanger said.

    LeBlanc has been a member of the MANY Board for six years, acting as the chair of the Governance Committee and serving on the Audit and Finance Committee. On her new tenure as Board President, LeBlanc said, “This is an exciting time in the history of the Museum Association of New York. Working with all the members of the Board, Executive Director Erika Sanger, and MANY staff members Sarah Heikkinen and Rachel Bournique, I hope to help lead the organization to new levels of growth, advocacy, and service delivery.”

    LeBlanc’s previous position as Vice President has been filled by Tom Shannon, Director of Facilities at Dia:Beacon. In addition to his duties as Vice President, Shannon is the chair of MANY’s Programming Committee and serves on the Executive Committee.

    MANY is also welcoming four new museum professionals from across the state to the board: Eliza Kozlowski, the Director of Marketing and Engagement at the George Eastman Museum; Sheila McDaniel, the Deputy Director of Finance and Operations at the Studio Museum in Harlem; Natalie Stetson, the Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum; and Thomas P. Schuler, the Chief Government Affairs Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    “With 24 board members from the state’s ten economic development regions, MANY’s board represents the full range of the geographic, content, and budget size diversity of New York State’s museums,” Sanger said.

    Beth Levinthal, an Arts Management Consultant and former Secretary of the MANY Board, joined Andrew Saluti, Assistant Professor at the School of Design at Syracuse University and Robert K. Cassetti in retiring from the board after six years of service. Sara Pasti, the Neil C. Trager Director of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, is replacing her as Secretary of the 2018-2019 Board.

    Photo courtesy of Erich Camping, 2018.

  • April 24, 2018 4:30 PM | many info (Administrator)

    Dear Members,

    Now that the post-conference dust has settled, we’re excited to officially announce MANY’s next venture: the relaunch of our monthly member e-newsletter! The primary purpose of the relaunch is to show our member base that no matter their size, location, or content area, all museums and cultural institutions are concerned with the same three issues:

    1. Resources, both human and financial;
    2. The relationship with the Community in which they are located, and;
    3. Access to their Exhibitions & Collections.

    Stories and events that showcase how museums in New York State have addressed these issues in their day-to-day operations will be the core of this newsletter. In each edition, we will share the accomplishments of our members through articles and posts from our website and social media channels.

    We need your help to make this newsletter a success. MANY is only as strong as our members, and although you will be able to share your stories with your colleagues through links on our website, this newsletter is a benefit of your MANY membership. 

    Here’s how it’s going to work: Think about what stories you want us to share with other museum professionals in New York. Consider these questions while you’re brainstorming ideas:

    • What are you working on that’s new and exciting?
    • What is something you’re proud to have accomplished in the last year?
    • What awards or accolades have you received for your work?

    Send your pitches via email to our Marketing and Social Media Coordinator, Sarah Heikkinen (sheikkinen@nysmuseums.org). Sarah will be producing the newsletter and managing the News, Member News, and Discussion and Events Forum pages on our website. Send all submissions, questions, and feedback to her. Please include the words "Newsletter Submission" in the subject line. All pitches should be submitted to Sarah by the second Wednesday of the month. Look for the first issue of the MANY e-newsletter in your inbox on May 30, 2018!

    Other newsletter content will include editorial features from guest authors and highlights from our social media pages. We’ll be adding multimedia features to the newsletter as it grows, so we also invite you to share photos, videos, and other media with your submissions.

    We’re so excited to be starting this new chapter of MANY with all of you. Thank you again to all who attended Visioning Change for making #MANY2018 a tremendous success. If you haven’t taken our post-conference survey, it will be open through May 1st – take it here!

    Until next month,

  • April 18, 2018 9:36 AM | many info (Administrator)


    The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Division of Preservation and Access has offered Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions since 2000. These grants help smaller and mid-sized cultural heritage institutions such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections.

    Awards of up to $6,000 support preservation-related collection assessments, consultations, purchase of preservation supplies and equipment, training and workshops, and institutional and collaborative disaster and emergency planning. (Applicants may request up to $7,000 if the project would support emerging professionals, as discussed below.) Preservation Assistance Grants also support assessments of digital collections, education and training in standards and best practices for digital preservation, and the care and handling of collections during digitization. NEH does not fund digitization or the development of digital programs in this grant category.  

    All applications to NEH must be submitted through Grants.gov; see the application guidelines for details. The 2018 guidelines for Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions are available at www.neh.gov/files/grants/pres-assist-grants-may-1-2018.pdf. You will also find sample project descriptions, sample narratives, and a list of frequently asked questions. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2018.

    Smaller and mid-sized institutions that have never received an NEH grant are encouraged to apply. We also have a special encouragement for applications from Hispanic-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities, and from Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian and Native Alaskan organizations with significant humanities collections. 

    Mindful of the importance of preserving cultural heritage in regions affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires and mudslides in California, the program is offering special assistance of up to $10,000 to applicants in federally declared disaster areas.  In addition to the regular activities supported by Preservation Assistance Grants, applicants in these areas are encouraged to seek additional support for disaster planning, response, recovery, and mitigation; preservation assessments; conservation treatments; the temporary relocation and storage of collections; the purchase of supplies; education and training related to disaster planning and response; and the reformatting of collections as a preservation methodology.

    NEH is also offering encouragements to address issues facing smaller institutions and the preservation field. To provide practical experience to emerging preservation professionals, we encourage consultants to work as mentors with advanced students or recent graduates from preservation programs who may assist in conducting preservation assessments, addressing specific preservation issues, and/or training staff at the applicant institution. Applicants may request up to an additional $1,000 if the consultant is working with emerging professionals.  To address the risk to cultural heritage materials from natural disasters, theft, and other types of destruction, NEH encourages all applicants to develop disaster plans and to work collaboratively with local institutions for training in disaster preparedness and emergency response.

    See our Web series, 50 States of Preservation, about PAG awardees across the country, on our Web site: www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/featured-project.

    For more information, contact the staff of NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at 202-606-8570 or preservation@neh.gov.

  • April 17, 2018 11:08 AM | many info (Administrator)

    Dear Museum Directors:

    Greetings from Washington, DC! I write you today to invite your museum to participate this year in the Blue Star Museums program. For the past eight years, the National Endowment for the Arts has collaborated with Blue Star Families and the U.S. Department of Defense on Blue Star Museums, a program which provides free museum admission to active duty military and their families all summer long. Each year, more than 2,000 museums participate, reaching on average more than 856,000 military members and their families.

    To become a Blue Star museum, the process is simple: just follow this link to sign up on-line. Even if you have participated in the past, you must sign up again to participate in 2018. If your institution is already offering a similar program or already offers free admission to all, registering as a Blue Star Museum provides a national platform to showcase your museum to the military community.

    After registration, you will receive a welcome email with a link to the Blue Star Museums webpage where you will find information on admissions eligibility and promotional resources to help you share news about this summer program. We would be deeply appreciative if you would join Blue Star Museums 2018. The Blue Star Museums program sends our nation’s military families a clear signal, that the museums of the nation recognize and honor their contributions by opening their doors to share the treasures of the nation with those who have been serving so long and so faithfully. If you have any questions please email bluestarmuseums@arts.gov or call Laska Hurley at 202-682-5451.


    Jane Chu, Chairman
    National Endowment for the Arts

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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