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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. 

What's happening at your museum? Submit your museum news and we might feature you in our next This Month in NYS Museums newsletter!


  • July 27, 2021 6:30 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Fifty three New York State museums and cultural institutions received federal COVID-19 relief through the Shuttered Venue Operating Grants (SVOG) program of the Small Business Administration, totaling just under $115 million. 

    • Battle of Plattsburgh Association, North Country – $4,825

    • Cobblestone Society, Finger Lakes – $6,884

    • Iroquois Indian Museum, Mohawk Valley – $18,598

    • Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Inc., Long Island – $19,990

    • Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc., North Country – $22,588

    • Casa Belvedere, The Italian Cultural Foundation, NYC – $23,578

    • Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, NYC – $46,413

    • Southern Tier Zoological Society, Inc, Southern Tier – $51,043

    • Children’s Museum of HIstory, Natural History & Science, Mohawk Valley – $50,050

    • Chinatown Soup, Inc., NYC – $53,249

    • Irish American Heritage Museum, Capital Region – $55,051

    • Boscobel Restoration, Inc., Mid-Hudson – $71,798

    • The Children’s Museum of Science and Technology, Capital Region – $73,639

    • Staten Island Zoological Society, NYC – $79,554

    • Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, NYC – $80,412 

    • George Eastman Museum, Finger Lakes – $94,467

    • The Hyde Collection Trust, Capital Region – $102,384

    • Brooklyn Children’s Museum, NYC – $103,860

    • Tesla Science Center at Wardencly, Long Island – $130,859

    • Roberson Museum and Science Center, Southern Tier – $155,575

    • Museum of the City of New York, NYC – $170,990

    • Staten Island Children’s Museum, NYC – $174,263

    • The Children’s Museum of Oswego,Central NY – $175,874

    • Ukrainian Institute of America, NYC – $203,809

    • Discovery Center of Science & Technology, Southern Tier– $217,842

    • Jewish Children’s Museum, NYC – $221,888

    • Utica Zoological Society, Mohawk Valley – $272,931

    • September 11th Widows and Victims Families Association, NYC – $370,181

    • Rochester Museum & Science Center, Southern Tier – $441,228

    • Schenectady Museum Association, Capital Region – $455,514

    • American Museum of the Moving Image, Long Island – $547,029

    • Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center), North Country – $570,020

    • National Comedy Center, Inc., Western NY – $573,442

    • National Comedy Center Operator, Western NY – $598,237

    • Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island – $661,234

    • Long Island Children’s Museum, Long Island – $779,003

    • Niagara Aquarium Foundation, Western NY – $1,028,316

    • Museum of Arts and Design, NYC – $1,108,912

    • New-York Historical Society, NYC – 1,239,515

    • The Asia Society, NYC – $1,434,803

    • Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum (Strong National Museum of Play), Finger Lakes – $2,238,217

    • Lower East Side Tenement Museum, NYC – $2,245,142

    • National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, Mohawk Valley –$4,728,163

    • The Corning Museum of Glass, Southern Tier – $5,549,553

    • Intrepid Museum Foundation, NYC – $8,000,000

    • Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, NYC – $9,740,702

    • New York Botanical Garden, NYC – $10,000,000

    • Wildlife Conservation Society, NYC – $10,000,000

    • American Museum of Natural History, NYC – $10,000,000

    • Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC – $10,000,000

    • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NYC – $10,000,000

    • Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC – $10,000,000

    The SVOG program was created by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Business, Nonprofits, and Venues and was signed into law in late December, 2020. It appropriated $15 billion to the SVOG program, which received another $1.25 billion after the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law on March 11, 2021. SVOG funds can be used for salary support, rent and utility payments, administrative costs, and other expenses including maintenance costs. Grants were based on organization size, budget, and past COVID-19 related Federal support. 

    The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY received $5.5 million in SVOG funding

    “The Corning Museum of Glass is grateful to receive relief funding from the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program,” said Karol Wight, President and Executive Director. “Like our peer institutions, the Museum was hard hit by the COVID-19 closure last spring, and our full recovery from significant financial loss will take time. We tell the story of a single, transformative material—glass—and inspire people to see the power and potential of glass in an entirely new light. Federal funding programs like the SVOG recognize that same power and potential in cultural institutions, allowing us to not only survive current circumstances, but thrive into the future. Special thanks to Senator Schumer who championed this relief funding, recognizing the important role museums, in particular, play in New York State and across the country in preserving the past and in enriching lives in the present.” 

    “We are grateful for the federal government’s key support of cultural institutions and museums through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program,” said Steve Dubnik, president and CEO of The Strong in Rochester. “With reduced attendance revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these critical funds allow us to maintain our building and collections, pay fixed facility costs, support payroll for our talented staff, and continue to carry out our important mission of preserving the history of play.”

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (far left) with Michael Grasso, Executive Director of the Roberson Museum and Science Center (far right) at a press conference in Binghamton NY highlighting the success of vaccinations in New York along with the COVID relief package. The Roberson Museum and Science Center received just over $155,000 in funding. 

    The Roberson Museum and Science Center in the Southern Tier plans to use some of its SVOG funding to support staff salaries. “This relief from the federal government alleviates some of the stress and losses from having been closed or under reduced capacity for most of 2020,” said Michael Grasso, Executive Director of the Roberson Museum and Science Center. “This infusion of funds will be directed to paying staff salaries and health insurance so we can continue to delight and educate our community with exhibitions in art, history, and science. A special thank you to Majority Leader Schumer who fought for museum inclusion in this critical legislation."

    “The Irish American Heritage Museum is delighted to receive funding from the SVOG,” said Dr. Elizabeth Stack, Executive Director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany. “The Pandemic taught us that we need to be flexible and creative in how the museum presents its offerings, so we will use the money to invest in our digital presence and film some of our exhibits so that we can offer a virtual museum experience to followers...After almost a year of being closed, receiving the SVOG means that we are truly excited about the possibilities ahead of us, because we have the potential now to grow what we are instead of simply sustaining what we were. It really is an investment in the future of the museum and one for which we are extremely grateful.”

    The Wild Center 

    In the North County, The Wild Center received just over half a million in SVOG funding. "The Wild Center is grateful and truly relieved to receive the SVOG COVID Relief funding from the federal government,” said Hillarie Logan-Dechene, Deputy Director of The Wild Center. “It will be well used to continue to employ our amazing staff, replace some of the lost earned revenue from the mandatory closure last year and our curtailed operations during COVID. It has been a tough 15 months and this funding helps The Wild Center continue to connect people and nature while keeping our staff and community safe, as well as help the regional economy recover."

    The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, which reopened to the public last September, received $10 million. “We are beyond thrilled to receive this funding and recognition of our value to the community. We, along with every cultural organization, have lost millions,’ said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. “To receive this grant is to secure a pathway to continued viability and sustainability to be open and welcoming to all New Yorkers and all those from around the world.”

    The relief funding comes almost 16 months after Congress approved the SVOG program. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) led the effort to include museums in the SVOG and a bipartisan coalition of Senators led by the initial sponsors of the SVOG program (formerly known as the “Save Our Stages” Act)–Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX).  New York’s museums are especially grateful for Senator Schumer’s support of our sector. Erika Sanger, MANY’s Executive Director was honored to present Senate Schumer the well-earned 2020 Museum Advocacy Award on behalf of the American Alliance of Museums. 

  • July 27, 2021 6:23 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    When the Smithsonian Institution launched Open Access in February 2020, copyright restrictions were removed from millions of digital collection images and nearly two centuries of data. Since then, creatives, researchers, and collaborators from around the world have downloaded, transformed, and re-shared this content for any purpose free, and without restriction. Supported by Verizon 5G Labs, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Interaction Lab recently launched “Activating Smithsonian Open Access” (ASOA), an open call for designers to submit new digital interactions and innovative tools that enable play and discovery with the Smithsonian’s Open Access collections. Cooper Hewitt hopes to identify compelling projects that the Interaction Lab might explore for wider use across the Smithsonian in the future.

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum located on Museum Mile, NYC

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

    Cooper Hewitt’s design collection contains over 215,000 objects that span thirty centuries. Over 95% of that collection is digitized and available online through the Museum’s collection portal. On-site visitors can interact with the collection through dedicated exhibitions installed on the Museum’s second floor. This exhibition series called “Selects,” invites a guest curator to explore a theme or tell a story using works in the permanent collection. “Since the Museum reopened in 2014, Cooper Hewitt has offered the opportunity to play with digital collections on-site by using one of our multi-touch digital tables, and playing with wall coverings in the projection-based “Immersion Room,” said Rachel Ginsberg, Interaction Lab Director. “In addition to museum visits, students and educators may encounter the museum’s collection through the growing Smithsonian Learning Lab collection, which provides teaching tools for educators and caregivers, and free virtual Design Field Trips for K-12 students across the country, which explore the design process and build connections to Cooper Hewitt’s collection.”

    Cooper Hewitt’s “The Pen” offers visitors “collect” and “save” objects from around the galleries and explore more of the online collections database

    Interaction Lab

    Launched in 2019, the Interaction Lab is a research and development program, or as Cooper Hewitt calls it, “a lab without walls.” It is focused on visitor experience that’s closely related to Cooper Hewitt’s mission as the Smithsonian Design Museum. “By convening, experimenting and co-creating with museum practitioners, the design community, and the public, we’re reimagining the Cooper Hewitt experience and exploring futures for museum experience broadl,” said Ginsberg. The Lab’s work falls roughly into four interconnected areas: visitor experience research, thought leadership, design commissions, partnerships (for research and prototyping), and public programming. 

    “In our research and thought leadership work, provocations originate from the Interaction Lab, but we conduct the work in collaboration with others,” said Ginsberg. Cooper Hewitt’s recent publication Tools and Approaches for Transforming Museum Experience was co-authored by a diverse group of museum practitioners working across visitor experience. “Sometimes a program will cross multiple areas, like Activating Smithsonian Open Access,” said Ginsberg. “That’s a partnership with Verizon 5G Labs that is also a commissioning program. Public programming for the Interaction Lab is connected to everything we do.” 

    Cooper Hewitt’s initial goal for the Interaction Lab was to explore the future of the Museum experience. Cooper Hewitt spent the first year of the Lab’s existence mapping opportunities in the museum to understand how best to invest in staff time and resources. “Early in the process, we established values that would drive our work–that it would be cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and as transparent as possible,” said Ginsberg. “We would build on our identity as a design museum by inviting people into our own design process to think and learn with us.”

    Activating Smithsonian Open Access 

    Working with Verizon 5G Labs, Cooper Hewitt opened a call for designers, technology teams, creators, etc. to submit proposals to stimulate new ideas for digital interactions with the more than 3 million objects in the Smithsonian’s Open Access collections. 

    Each project must include an audience objective, offer wide access for both the technology platform and collections accessibility. Finalists present their prototypes to the Smithsonian and Verizon, and in virtual programs to the public. 

    “We believe that creative commissioning has a tremendous amount of potential for museums and other cultural sector institutions,” said Ginsberg. “Taking this kind of approach has been central to the Lab’s strategy since the start and we are thrilled to have been able to focus on such a compelling dataset as Smithsonian Open Access.” 


    Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab is specifically interested in tools that focus on 2D images from their Open Access collections. “We launched the open call with a very specific creative brief that specified the kinds of interactions we were interested in receiving from the teams,” said Ginsberg. “In particular, we wanted people to propose ways to engage with collections that moved beyond what we described as a ‘passive looking experience.” Smithsonian Open Access is an astonishing dataset that contains a tremendous range of materials. We felt strongly about wanting to present experiences that explore a diverse range of thought and an approach capable of reaching as wide a range of people as possible.”

    As part of their creative brief, Cooper Hewitt highlighted seven focus areas for ASOA proposals: 


    Analyze and synthesize data from collections to draw conclusions or offer insights about the objects contained therein


    Devise new modes of digital display for collections that offer compelling experiences in two- and three-dimensions, e.g. augmented reality, animation


    Create context around objects by placing them in new environments

    Creative Alteration

    Tools that let users remix/alter objects, and/or considers objects as raw materials to build other kinds of interactions

    Enhances Storytelling Capability

    Creates focused narratives around an individual object or series of objects.


    Increase the accessibility of Open Access collections for people with various physical and cognitive abilities. For example, integrating audio and visual descriptions; building multimodal interactions; or creating teaching tools with collections to engage those who benefit from different modalities

    Play with Smithsonian Web Components

    Expand and improve upon the Smithsonian’s open-source collection of web components, called Voyager. Voyager Story is the Smithsonian’s Open Source 3D Storytelling platform. It enables curators and other experts to create educational experiences around 3D objects by adding text, images, and tours. Since its creation, its components have been expanded to support advanced features like AR and more. 

    Cooper Hewitt’s goals for the process of commissioning include introducing new ideas to the museum, supporting the creation of compelling interactions with digital collections, and sharing the design stories behind their creation. “We’ll be publishing those as a series of blog posts written by ASOA teams in the weeks following our launch,” said Ginsberg. “We’ve also been able to collaborate with a wide range of practitioners from across the Smithsonian through this program and are looking forward to exploring future opportunities for these seven projects in other areas of the Institution.” 

    The Finalists

    Seven teams were commissioned by Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab to develop new digital interactions and innovative tools. Teams received $10,000 each and will have ten weeks to create their project. The Smithsonian, Verizon, and industry experts will provide mentorship throughout and all teams will own their intellectual property that they create during the project.

    “We’ve supported the creation of a truly diverse range of talented people and projects,” said Ginsberg. “It was our ambition to demonstrate a programmatic approach that could generate projects of real value to the creators and also to the Museum. We felt like we’ve accomplished that and are truly excited to see what comes next.”

    Presenting the prototypes, the seven finalists for Activating Smithsonian Open Access


    A data visualization tool that offers users a novel way to browse and learn about Smithsonian Open Access collections by analyzing visual characteristics of the dataset and compiling images into various configurations of clock interfaces.

    TEAM: Zander Brimijoin, Daniel Scheibel, Greg Schomburg, Erin Stowell,  Lisa Walters, Jiwon Ham


    A web based acoustic VR experience that reveals the acoustic attributes of 3D objects in the Smithsonian’s Open Access collections. Though created primarily for the blind and low vision community, the platform offers another way for all people to experience 3D objects.

    TEAM: John Roach,  Zhizhen (Jerry) Tan, Thomas Tajo


    This experience will render 2D images of butterflies from Smithsonian Open Access collections into 3D format that invites users to learn more, while offering a delightful augmented reality interaction.

    TEAM: Jonathan Lee, Miriam Langer, Rianne Trujillo, Lauren Addario


    Marrying physical and digital space, Doorways connects users to augmented reality experiences with Open Access collections out in the world featuring specific historical periods or events.

    TEAM: Abigail Honor, Jean-Pierre Dufresne, Angelo Calilap, Gevorg Manukyan, Yan Vizinberg, Chris Cooper and Alex Robete


    Democratize access to art and inspire conversations about ownership and digital repatriation by transforming 2D images of Open Access African art objects into 3D assets to be used in social AR experiences and other open-source projects.

    TEAM: Mayowa Tomori, Olu Gbadegbo, and Olivia Cueva


    A collaborative VR game where users search for objects selected from the Smithsonian’s Open Access dataset within an immersive environment and learn more about each object and its history.

    TEAM: Jackie Lee, Ph.D, Yen-Ling Kuo, Caitlin Krause


    As users write in this web-based creative tool, it identifies keywords in the writing, and dynamically generates visual narratives from  Smithsonian Open Access collections to accompany essays, research, poetry and more.

    TEAM: Jono Brandel, Sunny Oh, Hiroaki Yamane

    Surprises and Challenges

    “This has been an incredible program to put on, but building and managing it was a complex task,” said Ginsberg. “This kind of open call approach isn’t common to the Smithsonian, so it took a lot of coordination among quite a large group of people to ensure that we were adhering to Smithsonian guidelines, and supporting our cohort in creating exciting work that would connect Cooper Hewitt and the Smithsonian to people all over the world. That said, I am tremendously thankful to have thoughtful, dedicated colleagues at Cooper Hewitt, throughout the Smithsonian, and supportive counterparts at Verizon 5G Labs. ASOA is the result of many people working behind the scenes to make sure the pieces fit together.”

    Future Casting

    After the first year devoted to discovery and a second year of adjustment due to the pandemic, Cooper Hewitt hopes that year three will be full of shared exploration, design opportunities, and exciting releases. “Our plans are focused on building on what we know is working–convening diverse groups of practitioners and the public for thoughtful discussion, co-creative research and prototyping, building dynamic partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals, issuing provocations about the future of the museum sector, and collaborating with the design community on a reimagined Cooper Hewitt experience that considers how we work alongside what we make,” said Ginsberg. 

    On Tuesday, August 3 at 2 PM, Cooper Hewitt will present the prototypes from the seven finalists as part of a demo day in an hour-long webinar. The webinar is free and open to the public where finalists will share more details about their projects. Following the webinar, the prototypes will be available to the public for experimentation and exploration. 

    “Our creators are a dedicated and hardworking group of people, all bringing very different ways of thinking about digital experience powered by museum collections,” said Ginsberg. “Being able to demonstrate those ideas with working prototypes really changes the conversation about the future of projects like these at Cooper Hewitt and across the Smithsonian.”

    Learn more about Cooper Hewitt’s Interaction Lab–Activating Smithsonian Open Access:

    Register for “Presenting the Prototypes: Demo Say with Activating Smithsonian Open Access” webinar on August 3:

  • June 29, 2021 2:28 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    MANY Staff at Fort Ticonderoga, June 24, 2021

    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    On June 23rd, MANY’s board of directors met at the Hart-Cluett Museum in Troy. During a break, we toured the Hart-Cluett’s exhibition galleries and the historic “Marble House” at 59 Second Street. The next day, MANY staff visited Fort Ticonderoga where we saw their new virtual program delivery studio and gained a deeper understanding of how the Fort, located between Lakes George and Champlain, played a pivotal role in history. Today, an image of the Everson Museum of Art from June 2019 popped up in my Facebook “memories.” We were in Syracuse to launch the New York tour of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibition at the Erie Canal Museum

    For most of the past 16 months, what I used to think of as simple – make plans, travel to see a museum with people you know, meet other people you know, meet new people, share a meal, talk about what you saw at the museum – was impossible. I honestly didn’t know how much I missed traveling and seeing museums until last week when the energy generated by gathering, sharing a laugh, and the sonic boom of a demonstration canon shot renewed my spirit in a way I had forgotten. The MANY travel life rhythm emerged and we celebrated. 

    Yes, it can still be complicated and perhaps risky to travel and many museum professionals remain anxious about welcoming visitors without occupancy restrictions and maintaining mask requirements to protect the unvaccinated. It is not quite time to let down all of our guard rails. We have years of work ahead of us to heal the racist harms woven into the fabric of our nation. But as you make summer plans, I urge you to visit a nearby museum - perhaps one you haven’t visited before, say hello to your colleagues, and experience the renewed energy of doing one of the things I know you love. Need some inspiration? Check out the Places to Go in New York State pages on the I Love NY website. 

    Starting in September, MANY will be offering workshops in museums in every region of New York State. Working with the presenters and selecting the locations got us excited, and then the travel plans! I swoon contemplating the views from I-90. Looking for new ways to engage with your community? The Museum and Folk Art Forum will be an exciting way to explore the possibilities of working with traditional artists. Only four spaces remain open to attend the 2021 Museum Institute “Leadership, Partnership, Mentorship” and many of the grant writing workshops are already at half capacity. The Partnership Forum in your region doesn’t fit your professional development needs? Travel to one in a nearby region! We can arrange for you to get a discount at a local hotel and you can hang out with MANY staff after the program. You can follow our travels on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn with the hashtags #manyonthemove and #nysmuseums. I so look forward to seeing you and hearing about all that you have been working on in your museums.

    With thanks for your support,

    Erika Sanger

    Images from Fort Ticonderoga

  • June 29, 2021 2:20 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Mineral Hall in the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History.

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) opened its Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals to the public on June 12 after being closed for four years. Minerals and gems have been part of the AMNH collections since it was founded in 1869.  The Halls underwent extensive renovation as part of the Museum's 150th anniversary. The 11,000 square-foot space features the Museum's permanent collection of minerals, gems, and meteorites totaling more than 120,000 specimens. The renovation not only showcases the Museum’s collection but provides an engaging guide to current scientific knowledge about the Earth. Multi-media presentations and interactives align with next generation science standards and  can serve as a learning lab for science teacher education and professional development while being accessible to the general public. 

    History of the Halls

    The Museum’s collection of gems and minerals is housed in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. It comprises around 200,000 specimens of minerals, gems, rocks, and meteorites and is continuing to expand thanks to an active research and collecting program. Curators, research scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students study topics that include the origin of rubies in Southeast Asia, volatile gases that lead to volcanic eruptions, past changes to ocean circulation and climate, the formation of rocks in subduction zones, the differentiation of planetary bodies, and the mineral and chemical origins of the solar system.

    Reimagined Spaces

     Before the renovation, the collection was displayed in a warren of galleries that made it a challenge to interpret.  The new Halls were designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates with David Brody Bond as architects who worked with AMNH’s exhibition department under the direction of Lauri Halderman, the Museum's Vice President for Exhibition. The Halls are divided into three sections: the Gem Hall, the Mineral Hall, and the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery for temporary exhibitions.

    The Gems Hall in the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History.

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    The Gem Hall includes nearly 2,500 items on display and includes precious stones, carvings, and jewelry from around the world. The Mineral Hall comprises four sections: Mineral Forming Environments, Mineral Fundamentals, Systematic Classification, and Minerals & Light. 

    “The goal was to present minerals and gems in terms of answering what they are and then lay out the Mineral hall to address their context on Earth, organized around the environments on Earth in which they form,” said AMNH Curator George E. Harlow of the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences who organized the Halls. “We defined five basic environments: Igneous (once molten), Weathering (chemical alteration by air and water), Hydrothermal (formed from hot water), Metamorphic (changed by mountain building and shifts in Earth’s crust), and Pegmatitic (a post-igneous condition in which large crystals grow in large spaces).” Harlow describes that the new focus cases can deal with a mineral or place and include historical connections. 

    “We did much more than a renovation,” said Harlow. “These are totally new Halls in the location of the old.”

    Systematic Classification Wall

    Along the west wall of the Hall of Minerals is the Systematic Classification display, which contains 659 specimens that represent the chemical classification system scientists use to organize Earth’s more than 5,500 mineral species. Pictured in the foreground is an orbicular granite from the Yilgarn Craton in Western Australia.

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    “Mineral Forming Environments” is at the center of the Hall and is dedicated to the environments in which and process of how minerals are formed. “Mineral Fundamentals” explores overarching concepts of mineral sciences. “Systematic Classification” runs along the Halls west wall and contains 659 specimens that represent the chemical classification system that scientists use to organize the Earth’s more than 5,000 mineral species. It also has an interactive feature where visitors can explore forming minerals from the elements on the periodic table. The last section, “Minerals & Light,” is a room located off the east wall. It explores the optical properties of minerals and how they interact with light.

    Sterling Hill Fluorescent Rock Panel

    The centerpiece of the Minerals & Light room is a wall-sized panel of fluorescent rock that glows in shades of orange and green, sourced from Sterling Hill in New Jersey. 

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    The “Minerals & Light” space uses a state of the art lighting system that incorporates cool and warm full-spectrum LEDs and sophisticated lighting controls to highlight the texture, color, and reflectivity of the minerals and gems on display. The space also uses short and long-wave ultraviolet sources that reveal colors in fluorescent minerals. The goal was to provide visitors the opportunity to experience the depth and character of the minerals and gems on display. 

    Beautiful Creatures, an exhibition of some of the world’s most spectacular jewelry inspired by animals, is on view through September 19, 2021, in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery. The exhibition features imaginative jewels from the world’s great jewelry houses and designers—including Cartier’s iconic panthers, Bulgari's snakes, Suzanne Belperron’s butterflies, and more.

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    The Meister Gallery houses the temporary exhibition, “Beautiful Creatures” that features designs by some of the world’s great jewelry houses and artisans. The pieces on view range from the mid-19th century to the present and are displayed into categories of animals on land, air, and water. 

    Educational Resource

    The Hall’s exhibits, including media and interactive content, were developed to align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), illustrate Crosscutting Concepts, serve as a lab for science teacher education and professional development, and make connections to other museum halls.

    The Halls were designed as an educational resource for teachers and students to explore current scientific knowledge about the Earth. They Halls support current educational standards by acknowledging the interdisciplinary nature of evidence-based science. This includes: Earth science (how minerals form), chemistry (an interactive periodic table), physics (Minerals & Light gallery space–how light interacts with minerals), and biology (the role of life in the evolution of Earth’s minerals). 

    “When I started at the Museum, there were probably around 2,500 minerals described and now there are more than 5,000,” said Harlow. “The enhanced Halls present up-to-date science, which has progressed significantly.”

    The Mineral Hall in the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History.

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    The Halls play a key role in the Museum’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program which prepares Earth science teachers for grades 7 to 12 in high-needs schools in New York City and throughout New York State. Teachers that participate in the MAT program will use the Halls as a tangible teaching tool for their own classes once they graduate. 

    Periodic Table Interactive

    This interactive display illustrates the periodic table of chemical elements and allows visitors to “make minerals.”

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    Into the Future 

    The renovation of the Halls is just one part of the physical and programmatic initiatives undertaken by AMNH for the 150th anniversary celebration. This project culminates in the opening of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a new 230,000 square foot facility that adds galleries, classrooms, an immersive theatre, and a redesigned library. With this new space, the Museum’s research, collections, and library spaces will be revitalized and expanded to include behind the scenes functions that will be visible and accessible to the public. The Gilder Center hopes to enhance the Museum’s capacity to partner with schools, teacher professional development programs, and out-of-state programs for students, introduce digital tools of science, and explore college and career opportunities. The Center will provide new, flexible learning spaces that are integrated with exhibitions, collections, and science labs in order to create immersive learning experiences. The Museum anticipates that the space will add 745,000 visitors annually. 

    Halls Installation  

    Exhibition staff members install specimens in the all-new Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History. 

    Photo courtesy of D. Finnin/©AMNH

    Harlow hopes that visitors to the Halls will be greeted with a feast for the eyes with many interesting stories that are told by the minerals, including large sized specimens consistent with the geological environment. “My hope is that a visitor’s curiosity about a specimen or case will lead to the discover ‘I didn’t know that’ or ‘that is very interesting.’” 


    Learn more about the Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History: 

  • June 29, 2021 2:18 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    For decades, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute has engaged with its local community through exhibitions and programming. Its latest exhibition Call & Response: Collecting African American Art pulls back the curtain on how the museum has acquired work by Black artists over the past 30 years. The exhibition is about making connections between works of art and the artists who created them. To offer visitors new perspectives, the museum invited eight community contributors who shared their interpretations of the exhibited work using music, personal history, and comparative works of art. 

    Inside Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in the Philip Johnson Building. The Museum has close to 12,000 items in its collection, predominantly American art. 

    Long-standing Community Relationship

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is a multifaceted arts organization located in Utica, New York, a city with a large refugee population. There are more than 40 languages spoken in the school district. “It’s really a dynamic, diverse city and we have one of the largest per capita refugee communities,” said Anna D’Ambrosio, President and CEO of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. The Museum has a long-standing relationship with dozens of organizations throughout the community including a program to help refugees to the area transition and settle through programs and activities using art. Munson-Williams-Proctor began working with the refugee and immigrant community in the late 1990s and gathered momentum in the mid-2000’s. “It’s included running special tours and programs with the refugee community and running National Endowment for the Arts funded programs that use the collections and exhibitions for English language learners from recent adult refugees,” said D’Ambrosio. 

    In 2019, Munson-Williams-Proctor unveiled its long-range initiative, “MWP 2025” –its strategic plan to lead its programming into the future. As the plan was developed, the museum held a series of focus groups to help gather valuable community input.

    African American Community Partners

    Formed in September 2019, the African American Community Partners (AACP) advisory panel is made up of 12 members of the Black community from Utica who meet monthly. “The panel was originally created in conjunction with an Allan Rohan Crite exhibition scheduled to open in February 2022,” said D’Ambrosio. “From that, they’ve grown to help the museum in so many respects from marketing to program ideas. They’re great meetings and it’s become a model of what we can do with other types of focus groups going forward with how they can help with other aspects of the institute.”

    Among the advisory panel participants are Freddie Hamilton, a 5th Ward Councilwoman in Utica and the area’s first Black woman to hold public office, and Patrick Johnson, a Utica native who has taught hundreds of Mohawk Valley residents at racism awareness seminars. 

    “Working with the AACP has been a great experience,” said D’Ambrosio. “Part of their formation came out of the groundwork that we did for our strategic plan when we did community focus groups and really listened to what people said about their feelings about the organization as a whole or their experiences at the museum. It reinforced something that we kind of thought but had no hard data on. The AACP is one of the outgrowth of our community engagement efforts.”

    Munson-Williams-Proctor approached the panel for guidance for Call and Response to help select community contributors as part of its interpretation.

    Community Contributors

    “Part of this program that we’re doing is called ‘Coming Into View’ and it offers visitors new ways to explore works of art and the artists who created them. For Call and Response, eight African American members of the community contributed their responses to artwork in the exhibition through a variety of media including video, other related artwork, photos they’ve submitted, text, and audio conversations we’ve had with them,” said Education Director April Oswald. Two college students, a health professor, a professor of sociology, a minister, a professor of art, a medical professional, and a Utica City administrator each recorded their comments on three different works of art. “It’s an opportunity to bring in different perspectives on our collections and exhibitions. It’s something that we’ve been working on doing for a while but this is new in that it’s really a chance for us to get away from how museum people see things and to get how other people see it. It’s an opportunity for more informed culturally shared experiences and insights that we don’t have.”

    One community contributor Tracy Latty interpreted Counting by Lorna Simpson (left)–a photogravure with screen print on paper. The art is quite large, almost 6 feet in height and is composed of three images; the neckline of a woman, a circular brick building often found in the South for curing meats, and an overhead photo of a woman's braids. “This work suggests associations with the history of African hair braiding traditions in addition to aesthetics and social status,” said Latty.  “Some cite the lore that seeds were woven into braids, others say that braids may have been designed as maps for those fleeing enslavement. This South Carolina smokehouse is the product of the work of the slaves who produced the bricks.”

    Munson-Williams-Proctor provided some comments around the artwork but just enough to provide some context. “For each community contributor we went through the objects with them and had a VTS (visual thinking strategies) conversation with them, a learner centered, inquiry-based way of looking at works of art,” said Oswald. 

    “‘Coming Into View’ interests me because of the demographics the Museum is engaging. On walks around Munson-Williams admiring the beauty of the grounds, I consider this a wonderful opportunity to join such a platform that’s transitioning to a new way for the community to interact with the Museum,” said Latty. “This is a way to engage in dialogue with people in our own community, as well as a change for Africans living in America to expand their awareness of each other.” 

    Another community contributor Marques Phillips, Codes Commissioner and Director of Utica City Initiatives, interpreted Bob Thompson’s Stagedoom, (1962) and compared it to Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos, no. 2. Phillips uses Thompson’s fascination with Goya’s Los Caprichos series after Thompson’s year in Ibiza, Spain in 1961. “At the time Bob Thompson was painting, as today, there was debate about Black culture and what that should mean,” said Phillips. “Should Blacks merely imitate European culture, play classical music, write in European prose or paint the way it was done in the Renaissance?” 

    Bob Thompson (American, 1937-66) Stagedoom, 1962 gouache and charcoal on paper

    Continuing Community Engagement

    D’Ambrosio hopes to continue to engage the community. “For me the challenge remains getting people to make it a habit to come all the time, not just the special exhibitions. The community needs to be welcomed and feel part of the organization so that they come back to the next exhibition to learn more about a topic that they might be far removed from.” Oswald says that the museum plans to continue the “Coming Into View” initiative with future exhibitions and include more community contributors. “I hope that the outcome of what we’re doing is to keep people coming back to have the opportunity to see what's happening in other communities.” 

    Future Plans

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute exterior on Genesee Street in Downtown Utica

    In 2021, Governor Cuomo announced 16 transformational projects for Utica as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award, including Munson-Williams-Proctor. The Museum is expected to receive $819,500 to create a large public-access park on underutilized institute land in the Oneida Square neighborhood with arts and cultural programming. 

    “We want to really activate that part of our campus because it is so central to the neighborhood and make it a real community hub for concerts and festivals, things we already do at Munson-Williams-Proctor,” said D’Ambrosio. “We want to have more partnerships and make sure that everyone feels comfortable and participates at the museum. For Munson-Williams-Proctor, the real strength of the institution is that it can bring all aspects together around a topic to create huge community impact.”

    Learn more about Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute:

    Explore more community contributors for Call & Response on Munson-Williams-Proctor's app: 

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is part of the Museum Association of New York's Building Capacity Project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) designed to help museums impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic share their collections and reach audiences who cannot physically visit their museums. 

  • June 29, 2021 2:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Universal Hip Hop Museum is set to open in 2024 and will be the first museum dedicated to the preservation of Hip Hop. The museum is part of a $349 million mixed-use project to transform Bronx Point along the Harlem River waterfront. The museum broke ground this past May after ten years of work on the part of Hip Hop legend and historian Paradise Gray, a team of Hip Hop icons and enthusiasts, and the museum’s Executive Director Rocky Bucano. 

    Rendering of the Universal Hip Hop Museum 

    The Beginning

    The journey to create the Universal Hip Hop Museum started nearly ten years ago when Rocky Bucano was approached by a developer Young Woo who was working on a project proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory and was thinking about including a Hip Hop museum. “And Rocky has a long history of being in the Hip Hop culture,” said Adam Silverstein, Director of Museum Collections and Archives. “He was a DJ early on in the Bronx and said yes and recruited some people including Kurtis Blow, Shawn LG Thomas, Grand Wizzard Theodore (inventor of the scratch), Grandmaster Melle Mel, and others who said they would support this.” That project would eventually fall through, but the group kept the dream alive of one day opening a Hip Hop museum. 

    The founding members discussed the idea of creating a virtual museum or renovating the old Bronx Courthouse. Then L + M Development Partners and Type A Projects approached the group. “They were responding to an RFP from the City to create affordable housing, retail, and a park space. They asked Rocky if the Hip Hop museum would be the cultural anchor of this project,” said Silverstein. The museum gained its 501(c)(3) register non-profit status in 2015 and moved forward with L + M to include the museum in this multi-million dollar project at Bronx Point.

    Bronx, the Birthplace of Hip Hop

    For Bucano and the founding members, the museum was always going to be in the Bronx. “We were always looking at the Bronx. It was never really an option to go anywhere else.” Silverstein said that it was like Hip Hop was finally taking control of its own narrative and recognized the importance of building the museum in the Bronx. “It’s the community that spawned a global culture and now it’s time to come back to the community. We talk about it like a phoenix, Hip Hop rising from the Bronx and then spreading across the world and now it’s returned. It’s time for the institution of Hip Hop to make itself in its birthplace.”

    The Universal Hip Hop Museum is south of 1520 Sedgwick Ave, a 102-unit apartment building in the Morris Heights neighborhood of the Bronx, widely regarded as the birthplace of Hip Hop. The museum’s collection tracks the history of Hip Hop starting at Sedgwick Avenue where at a party in 1973, DJ Kool Herc was the first person to use two turntables to extend a song’s drum beat, the “beatback” where you switch from one record to another. The museum aims to tell the story of Hip Hop’s rapid growth and cultural impact from graffiti, sneaker culture, dance, urban fashion, and other movements that can trace their history back to Hip Hop. 

    Keeping it “Fresh”

    The museum will occupy 52,000 square feet over two-floors in a 22-story building that includes 542 affordable housing units, 2.8 acres of public open green space, and retail space. “It's not a tremendous amount of space so one of the things that we want to do is to keep the museum fresh,” said Silverstein. “Not only by retaining the exhibitions, but we want to make this a technology advanced museum. It’s been part of our goal since the start.” The museum has three areas of interest: physical space, traveling exhibitions, and virtual. “These plans have gained traction at different times and obviously when L + M came along we went forward with the physical plan for the museum but we still have plans for a virtual museum and plans for traveling exhibitions. It’s part of why we are called the Universal Hip Hop Museum because this is a universal culture,” said Silverstein.

    The museum will have an immersive 1970s experience including space where visitors can create and spin their own records in an imitation DJ Booth and visit a recording studio. There will also be a virtual reality theatre where visitors can interact with some of Hip Hop’s biggest icons. 

    “When we get into the permanent space, the goal will to be to exhibit our artifacts but we really want to focus on technology and being able to give people multiple experiences in our space that will change frequently,” said Silverstein. “An element of Hip Hop is to be fresh and if you're not fresh, you’re wack and we don’t want to be that. We want to be cutting edge just like Hip Hop is cutting edge.”


    The museum received funding from the New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Housing Development Corporation, and Empire State Development. The total funding for the entire building is $323.5 million with an additional $27 million for waterfront construction. During the groundbreaking ceremony on May 20, 2021, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced that he would contribute $4.2 million from his office’s capital budget to support the museum’s capital campaign. It's one of the largest single funding allocations made by Diaz. 

    “The groundbreaking for the first phase of Bronx Point is a tremendous step forward for our borough,” said Diaz at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Not only will this project create much-needed affordable housing units, but it will also activate underutilized space, open up more waterfront for public access, create new public spaces and retail amenities for community use. This development will combine two of my favorite things, history and Hip Hop, bringing the Universal Hip Hop Museum to its rightful location in the birthplace of Hip Hop, The Bronx.” 

    The reimagined Harlem River waterfront space

    The groundbreaking ceremony served as the official launch of the museum’s $100 million capital campaign. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Hip Hop legends including Nas, LL Cool J, Fat Joe, and NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joined the event. 

    Empire State Development awarded the Universal Hip Hop Museum $3.5 million in Round IX of funding, citing its community programming and an in-house museum job training program as central components of the project in addition to attracting worldwide visitors and furthering the development of the Bronx/Harlem waterfront. 

    The museum plans on continuing to reach out to individual donors and to the Hip Hop community. “We want everyone to feel included in this,” said Silverstein. In addition to reaching out to local Bronx businesses, the museum is approaching large companies like Adidas, Nike, Sprite, and Gucci. “We’re reaching out to larger companies that are now supporting underserved communities but also because a lot of these companies have profited off of Hip Hop for years and this is an opportunity for them to give back,” said Silverstein. 

    Silverstein said that the museum’s approach to these larger companies is to not only have them donate, but that they also have a Hip Hop story that needs to be told. 

    Staying Engaged: AI and Temporary Exhibition Space

    The Bronx Terminal Market located directly across the street from the museum’s soon to be permanent home  offered the museum space for the public to preview the collection and created temporary exhibitions The first, [R]evolution Exhibition uses a fabricated subway car as display space and focuses on Hip Hop’s emergence from park jams and the projects to nightclubs, national concert tours, TV, and film from 1980 to 1985. This temporary exhibition space will change every six months. It  began with Hip Hop’s origins in the 1970s and will continue with new exhibitions, each focusing on a 5 year period until the museum opens.

    Universal Hip Hop Museum’s temporary exhibition at the Bronx Terminal Market

    This space also features the museum’s first AI project, “Breakbeat Narratives” which is a collaboration with the MIT Center for Advance Virtuality and Microsoft, the museum’s official technology partner. It uses AI to help categorize the complex evolution of Hip Hop to create a personalized experience for every visitor. It’s goal is to help visitors explore various narratives in Hip Hop using their personal taste in music as an entry point. Visitors can take away a personalised playlist. “We’re not using technology just for the sake of technology, but to really empower people so that they get information in a very unique way that they weren’t expecting,” said Bucano. Microsoft has committed both technological resources and $5 million to expand the museum’s cultural heritage program. “Documenting, preserving, and presenting the history of the culture for generations of Hip Hop lovers globally via exciting new tech innovations from Microsoft is thrilling,” said Bucano. “This partnership is truly a milestone for Hip Hop culture.”

    Once the museum opens in its permanent home, it will continue to utilize technology and AI. “Technology changes and so we want to be flexible within the museum,” said Silverstein.

    The museum hoped to open in 2023, Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary but because of the pandemic, the museum is now set to open in 2024. “The heartbeat of Hip Hop culture will live at Bronx Point, the future home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum,” said Bucano. 

    Learn more about the Universal Hip Hop Museum:

  • June 15, 2021 11:23 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York [MANY] is excited to announce the 2021 in-person fall programming schedule for Partnership Forums, Grant Writing Workshops, Museum and Folk Art Forum, and the Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore. 

    Partnership Forums

    MANY will host ten, day-long Partnership forums carrying the theme of The Power of Partnership around the state. In these multi-presentation forums, museum professionals will have the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field and spend valuable time with colleagues in small group settings.

    Each Partnership Forum will be from 10 AM - 4 PM. Registration is $30 for MANY members and $25 for Non-members; includes museum admission and lunch.

    To learn more about these Partnership Forums and to register, visit

    Partnership Forums are sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts, Humanities New York, Aria Strategies, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, NYS Canal Corporation, and the New York Council of Nonprofits. 

    Tell Your Story and Make Your Case: A Workshop to Build Grant Writing Skills

    These workshops are being produced as a program of the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History with support from the New York State Council on the Arts. In these participatory workshops, MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger will guide attendees through the grant writing process to build skills and develop insights, including analyzing guidelines, outlining narratives, writing statements of need, and developing budgets. Sanger will share examples of successfully funded grant narratives, hints for streamlining work processes, and designing visually appealing attachments.

    Each workshop will be limited to 20 people with priority given to employees and volunteers of 501 (c)(3) designated museums and history organizations in New York State with operating budgets of $150,000 or less. There is no charge for the workshop but participants must apply and meet the requirements. 

    To learn more about these grant writing workshops and to apply, visit

    Museum and Folk Art Forum

    On Sunday, November 14 from 10 AM - 5 PM, the Museum Association of New York is hosting the Museum and Folk Art Forum at the Everson Museum of Art. This forum will feature live demonstrations, performances, and discussions to explore and strengthen the ways museums, folklorists, and traditional artists can work together to build community around the interpretation and preservation of traditional arts and shared informal learning practices. 

    Registration is $30 for MANY members and New York Folklore members and $25 for cultural professionals; includes museum admission, lunch, and reception.

    To learn more about the Museum and Folk Art Forum and to register, visit

    The Museum and Folk Art Forum is supported by New York Folklore and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

    The Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore

    The Museum Institute is a retreat for museum professionals held at Great Camp Sagamore in the heart of the Adirondacks. This years’ theme is “Leadership, Partnership, and Mentorship.” Participants will have the opportunity to learn from other leaders in the museum field who will share their expertise to help create solutions, build audiences, and develop institutional management skills. Presenters include Franklin Vagnone (Twisted Preservation and Old Salem Museums & Gardens), John Yeagley (Twisted Preservation), Dr. Georgette Grier-Key (Eastville Community Historical Society), Rob Cassetti (Corning Museum of Glass), and Chloe Hayward (The Studio Museum in Harlem). 

    Registration is $725 for MANY Members and $775 for Non-members and includes tuition, housing, all meals, and activities including a boat tour on Raquette Lake. Space is extremely limited and early registration is recommended. 

    Learn more about The Museum Institute and to register, visit

    The Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

  • May 26, 2021 4:54 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Water Hole, Hall of African Mammals, American Museum of Natural History

    Dear Members, Friends and Supporters,

    Many of my childhood memories were formed in New York City’s museums, zoos, and gardens. In those places I came to know the world outside of my constructed environment - about things that grow in fertile soil, not between cracks in concrete; places where fish swim in rivers unbounded by sea walls; creativity beyond paint on canvas; and how people live close to earth, not in boxes twenty stories above the ground. 

    Some of you know that I have a taxidermy fixation. I consider and reconsider why people choose to live with dead animals and how museums use taxidermy as interpretive vehicles. I admire the skills and imagination of great taxidermists and the juxtapositions created in museum installations. This pursuit has led me to museums I may never have visited aside from their taxidermy collections. I carry a map in my mind of The American Museum of Natural History whose dioramas can still ignite my sense of wonder about the variety of life on earth. 

    As a museum educator, I spent incalculable hours thinking about how people learn in museums, cultivating wonder, sharing knowledge, and helping visitors appreciate different perspectives. Last week The New York Times published Museums: A Special Report that included articles focused on how museums are moving beyond hardships exacerbated by the pandemic through work with their communities. The journalists offered excellent examples and touched on important issues facing our field, but referenced art museums almost exclusively and peppered their text with phrases that generalize museum practice. I don’t believe museum professionals were the intended readers as the articles outlined what many of us already know. 

    It may be tempting to put our memories of the past year behind us, but there is too much at stake to close the door on our multiple national crises. The question before us now is: How can we learn from our history and create professional practices in which centering community engagement is too routine to be the topic of a New York Times special report? The answers will most likely will be found by museum professionals listening, learning, and working in community while sharing their knowledge and experience with each other. We look forward to gathering together in the Fall in Partnership Forums to learn together and inspire the future of museums.

    Registration will open on June 15 for grant writing workshops, Partnership Forums, a Museum and Folk Art Forum, and the Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore where we will explore “Partnership, Leadership, and Mentorship.” You can get a sneak peek of the exciting opportunities in the links above. Attendance will be limited, and all safety protocols established by the museums in which we will meet will be honored. We can’t wait to see you, learn together, and create new collective memories.

    With thanks for your support,

    Erika Sanger

  • May 26, 2021 4:50 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Round 11 applications for New York State Regional Economic Development Council opened on May 11 with a total of $750 million in economic development funding available across New York’s ten REDC regions. The program focuses on projects that advance a region’s long-term economic development strategies, including job retention and recovery in industries disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    This year, the state has changed the process for how the money will be distributed. Rather than one large funding announcement in December, $150 million from Empire State Development (ESD) will be available to fund certain projects on a rolling, competitive basis. To be considered for the first-round of grants, applications must be submitted by July 30. 

    Funding Opportunities for New York State Museums 

    Market New York

    Market New York (Market NY) is a grant program established to strengthen tourism and attract visitors to NYS by promoting destinations, attractions, and special events. In 2021, Market NY has up to $15 million available in funding across the state. Funding will be awarded to projects that will create economic impact by increasing tourism in the state. Funding is available for tourism marketing initiatives, capital and construction projects, and for development of special events (like meetings, conferences, festivals). The REDC identifies two significant tourism initiatives. The first is COVID impacted tourism projects, events, and businesses, and the other are projects that market or promote “New York’s unique, world-class destination and special events, broad array of available activities, and strength in creating family memories through activities, like outdoor recreation, historic sites, and museums.” There are two categories of funding available.

    Up to $7 million is available for regional tourism marketing. This fund supports projects that market NYS regional tourism destinations or attractions. Applicants must demonstrate how their project will promote the tourism goals for the REDC’s overall strategic plan as well as demonstrating increased visitation or increased spending per visitor. It is also noted that successful tourism marketing projects will also complement the goals and strategies of I LOVE NY. 

    Applications must request a minimum of $50,000 to be considered for funding. There is a 25% match of the total project cost. No other state funding can be used and the ESD will pay grantees on a reimbursement basis. It’s advised that the grantee should be prepared to subsidize the project for up to 6 months or more before reimbursement. 

    Explore & More Children’s Museum in Buffalo received $150,000 in Regional Tourism Marketing in Round 9 of REDC funding from Market NY. The grant was used to increase marketing outreach through a campaign that used play to tell the unique story of Western NY through the museum’s exhibits that celebrate waterways, cultures, traditions, architecture, agriculture, and more. 

    The Center for Brooklyn History received $169,950 to launch a marketing, advertising, and PR campaign in Round 9 aimed at increasing Brooklyn tourism by expanding its visibility. This campaign will promote two of the Brooklyn Historical Society’s unique sites, a landmark 1881 building in Brooklyn Heights and a 3200 square feet gallery in the Empire Stores building in DUMBO. The Center for Brooklyn History notes that this project is the most comprehensive campaign of its kind in its 155 year history.

    In Round 8, the Genesee Country Village & Museum used Market NY funds to increase targeted tourism marketing efforts throughout the Northeast United States, Canada, and other selected countries to further promote and expand visitor engagement opportunities through their three core agritourism programs. In their successful application, GCV&M demonstrated that their efforts would grow the number of non-local visitors to their museum and the greater Finger Lakes region, arguing a broad economic impact. 

    Up to $8 million is available for regional tourism capital projects with a minimum grant request of $150,000. Applications will be accepted for projects that include plans to expand, construct, restore or renovate NYS tourism destinations or attractions. Like with regional tourism marketing, applicants for regional tourism capital must also demonstrate how the tourism capital project will work to promote and forward REDC’s tourism goals as well as I LOVE NY’s tourism goals and strategies. 

    Among eligible expenses for this category include pre-development costs, improving accessibility services, acquisition of land or buildings, remediation costs, and administrative costs up to 10% of the total project cost. An 80% match is required in addition to a $250 application fee. Similar to the regional tourism marketing grants, grantees will be paid on a reimbursement basis. 

    In Round 9, Storm King Art Center was awarded $460,000 to support the construction of its 221 Sarah Sze commissioned work, Fallen Sky, and the accompanying exhibition to increase tourism in Orange County and the Mid-Hudson Region.

    The New-York Historical Society received $500,000 in Round 9 to construct an annex to house the new Academy for American Democracy, public galleries with exhibitions for family audiences to increase visitation.

    In Round 8, the Rochester Museum & Science Center used $200,000 to purchase a new star projector for the Strasenburgh Planetarium renovation.  

    Non-profit organizations must be qualified in the New York State Grants Gateway (, be registered and up to date with filings with the NYS Office of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and be registered and up to date with the NYS Office of the State Comptroller's VendRep System. It is also strongly advised that all non-profit organizations register with Grants Gateway during the application process. 

    Applications that will be highly considered for funding should demonstrate that their project will increase tourism to and within NYS and will have an overall positive impact on their region. I LOVE NY will give additional consideration to applications that identify and demonstrate project partnerships, like collaborating with regional partners on the project, especially tourism promotion agencies (TPAs). 

    Market New York Guidelines and additional resources can be found at or email the Division of Tourism at

    Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

    Up to $19.5 million is available from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation via the Environmental Protection Grants Program for Parks, Preservation and Heritage. Grants can cover up to 50% of the total eligible project cost. Grant awards are capped at $500,000, however if the total project cost exceeds $1 million, up to $750,000 may be requested. 

    Under the Historic Preservation Program, funds can be used to acquire, improve, protect, preserve, rehabilitate or restore properties listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places and for structural assessments and/or planning for such projects. 

    This grant program is administered on a reimbursement basis and successful applicants are expected to fund project expenditures upfront and then submit for reimbursement. 

    In Round 9, the George Eastman Museum was awarded $600,000 to restore and repair three original, historic garden structures that are integral to the National Historic Landmark. The Museum also added accessibility features to increase visitation. 

    In Central NY, the Oneida Community Mansion House was awarded $600,000 to complete Phase 1 of its exterior rehabilitation project for the museum, education center, residence and inn buildings. The work includes roof repairs, drainage, masonry, painting, and window restoration. 

    In Round 8, Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park received $500,000 used to secure an additional property once part of the original estate to create a new entrance and visitor center for offices and collections storage. 

    New York State Canal Corporation

    Up to $1 million in funding is available for the Canalway Grants Program. Non-profit organizations that are along the NYS Canal System (Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca) are eligible to apply for special canal related projects. 

    Projects applying for NYS Canal Corporation funding should achieve at least one of the following for the NYS canal system–including the Canalway trail: expand public access, increase visitation and recreational use, stimulate private investment, improvise services and amenities for Canalway land and water trail users, and enhance connections between the canal and the corresponding region consistent with the REDC strategic plans. 

    The minimum grant request is $25,000 and the maximum grant request is $150,000. These funds must be used for capital improvement projects, requires a 50% match, and grant funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis. 

    In Round 9, the Buffalo Maritime Center was awarded $120,000 to construct an historically accurate replica of DeWitt Clinton’s 1825 Erie Canalpacket boat. After construction, the Maritime Center will partner with cultural organizations in villages, towns, and cities where the packet boat can play an inspiring role in helping other communities to identify their unique Erie Canal culture and history and will be central to a grand reenactment of Governor DeWitt Clinton’s opening voyage from Buffalo to New York City in 1825.

    For more information, visit or email

    Helpful Next Steps

    To be considered for the first-round of early grants, you must get your application in by July 30. Be sure to read the CFA Resource guide, watch the program webinars that are relevant to your project, and attend public meetings held by your Regional Economic Development Council. 


    Click here to learn more about REDC Funding including the 2021 REDC Guidebook, 2021 Resource Guide (including more details regarding the funding opportunities listed above) and for upcoming webinars. 

  • May 26, 2021 4:48 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In May 2021, nearly eight months after the Seneca Nation made a formal request, the Buffalo History Museum returned the 200-year old Red Jacket Peace Medal to the Seneca Nation in a ceremony at the Onohsagwe:de’ Cultural Center. The medal is an object of cultural patrimony and a symbol of peace, friendship, and enduring relationships among the United States and the Six Nations. The petition for return was made by the Seneca Nation under the aegis of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA was passed in 1990 to provide a process for museums and federal agencies to return items such as human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, etc. to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Native Americans. 

    Buffalo History Museum Executive Director Melissa Brown with Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels with the Red Jacket Peace Medal in a ceremony at the Onohsagwe:de’ Cultural Center

    The Red Jacket Peace Medal

    The Medal was awarded to Chief Red Jacket, the Seneca statesman, by President George Washington in 1792 as a symbol of peace between the Six Nations and the newly formed United States. It commemorated the discussions that eventually led to the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, one of the earliest treaties between a Native Nation and the United States.

    The medal passed through Chief Red Jacket’s family and descendents including Colonel Ely S. Parker, secretary to General Ulyses S. Grant during the United States Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was said to have held the medal the day before his assassination. Although the medal was the cultural patrimony of the Seneca Nation, it was acquired by the Buffalo History Museum in 1895. 

    The Buffalo History Museum

    The Buffalo History Museum has been a collecting institution since 1862 and is one of the largest history museums in New York State with nearly half a million objects. “During the Civil War, Buffalo History Museum curators wanted to make sure that global history was being documented for the museum to serve as a wider educational function, ” said Melissa Brown, Executive Director of the Buffalo History Museum. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that collecting shifted to focus more on local history. 

    Repatriation and Reconciliation

    Dr. Joe Stahlman is the Director of the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum. In January 2020, then Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong reached out to Stahlman with the idea of repatriating the Red Jacket Medal. Stahlman reached out to the Seneca community for feedback. “I discussed the idea of the Seneca Nation doing this and no one had objections.” The Buffalo History Museum quickly responded to this request and immediately participated in the detailed procedure prescribed in NAGPRA to determine that the rights to the medal were not held by any other Native Nations. “We wanted to follow the federal process and we wanted to be sure that we were doing our due diligence,” said Brown. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the overall process, but the medal was formally returned to the Seneca Nation in early May. 

    The 200-year old Red Jacket Peace Medal

    “For us, we don’t want to diminish anyone’s stewardship or their contemporary roles in our communities,” said Stahlman. “We simply want to reclaim what is rightfully Seneca.” Stahlman commended the Buffalo History Museum for their stewardship. “Museums do offer a service to all of humanity and I really do believe that, whether a native museum or a non native museum. That’s the role of museums and I appreciate it.” Stahlman described that these discussions between nations and museums are difficult because there are a lot of emotions and sensitivities on both sides. “But there has to be some kind of reconciliation,” said Stahlman. “One of the things we do in our culture is called polishing the chain.” An idea where two parties enter an engagement that ends in an agreement that is supposed to hold up over time. Stahlman explains that you have to “polish the chain” so not to forget. “We can’t let the chain get rusty from disuse. For millions of Native Peoples living within the boundaries of the United States, history is something that we are trying to keep alive and remind everyone else who has forgotten these commitments.” 

    The Treaty of Canandaigua established peace and friendship between the US and the Six Nations. It specifically acknowledged the lands of the Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga. In the treaty, the United States agreed never to claim nor to disturb any of the Six Nations living on the lands described in the treaties. Although relations between the United States government and the Six Nations have been strained and there have been violations of the treaty, the treaty has never been broken and is still actively recognized by the Six Nations and the United States governments.

    Stahlman hopes that as museums continue to review their collections through the lens of NAGPRA, they will look closely at objects and work with Native Nations to determine if they are sacred or items of cultural patrimony. Stahlman explained that some items like the Red Jacket Peace Medal, fall into the realm of both spiritual and patrimony. “So it gets a little fuzzy on what is what.” Some institutions like the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) have taken the guidelines from NAGPRA and have adapted them to their own repatriation policy. NMAI lists five categories eligible for repatriation: human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony, and illegally acquired items. Moving forward, Stahlman would like to see more museums come forward with lists of potential items in their collection for repatriation. His advice to museums is to reach out to local Native Americans to establish a relationship and help identify what these objects are and what should be returned. NMAI works closely with Native peoples and communities on repatriation cases and proactively conducts casework to address items of cultural patrimony under its stewardship. 

    Despite identifying other objects at the Buffalo History Museum, the Seneca Nation does not want everything to leave the museum. “We don’t want everything, not because we don’t care, but some of it has to be out in the world. I mean that’s what a museum is,” said Stahlman. “The Buffalo History Museum should educate and inform everyone about the Western Region across time and across the landscape. Native peoples fall into that space and there should be objects that represent us within those collections so that people can be inquisitive and learn more about the places they live and visit and who lived there before them.”

    Strengthening Relationships for the Future

    “We have always struggled with maintaining, what I would describe as a relationship, with the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum,” said Brown. “I think we had a lot of transactional engagements that had nothing to do with repatriation, but if we were working on a Native American exhibit we might reach out for consultation, but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a relationship.” 

    Brown’s goal moving forward is to establish a more meaningful relationship with the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum through partnerships and collaborations. “Whether it’s with the Native American community and repatriation or it’s just with the Native American community, we really need to engage both perspectives and how we share this history,” said Brown. “There’s a big difference from when I started working at the museum in how we always talked about how we told history. Now we’re definitely sharing the story through different experiences and perspectives. So I think this was a really solidifying and good first action.”

    Stahlman wants to be sure that when sharing Native histories, those stories should not just be within the Euro-American viewpoint. “The conversation has to change and if we're talking about equity, then let’s talk about the subjects that we want to talk about.” 

    Moving Forward

    The Buffalo History Museum will continue to reassess its collection in order to ensure that any objects of cultural patrimony are rightfully returned. “I do expect there to be more...I wish if anything that I had prompted the conversation first.” Prior to the return of the Red Jacket Peace Medal, there were no conversations about it being an item of cultural patrimony. “That conversation had never happened, but then again no real conversations were happening. So I think that being proactive and making that time is important.” Brown hopes to ensure that the museum has a relationship with the Seneca Nation. “To do that work that we need to do right now –both with DEAI and sharing stories from multiple perspectives— we need to meet people where they’re at, which is really important.” 

    Brown stated that the repatriation of the Red Jacket Peace Medal represents a sign of friendship and connection between the museum and the Seneca Nation. “We plan to collaborate with the Seneca Nation for future exhibitions, programs, and events in order to ensure the legacy of Red Jacket.”

    Stahlman wants to see more museums have these conversations. “When museums begin to think about protocols and policies, their next exhibits, and future steps, especially when thinking about how the pandemic has changed how they operate, this is the space where they have the opportunity to think about how to be more inclusive and not just with native folks.”

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