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Letter from Erika: Pathways

July 27, 2021 6:32 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

Glacial Erratic Trail, Settlement Quarry, Stonington, ME*

Dear Members, Friends and Supporters,

From March 22 to April 26, 2021, MANY gathered data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on NY’s museums. The report that we will publish later this fall will paint a picture of a field grappling with tremendous change. Like the way glaciers deposited boulders from afar onto the granite ledges of the Maine coast 16,000 years ago, COVID-19 dropped into our society and caused us all to change direction. 

More than 80% of respondents agreed that the pandemic will make a lasting impact on the way their museums operate and serve audiences. Respondents shared that their museums are looking for post-pandemic pathways to financial stability, routes to advance relationships with their communities, and steps to create healthier institutions. 

As we emerge from the pandemic and people begin to feel safe to gather, I know museums are looking forward to welcoming visitors. Although we are seeing tremendous potential for growth and transformation on the horizon, the problem of how museums will achieve sustainability is keeping me awake long past moonrise. 

  • With limited time and money, how do we create success and connect it to social value? 

  • How do we create new spaces and structures that work for everybody, and not just part of the population? 

  • How do we center the voices of people from historically underrepresented and marginalized communities? 

  • How do we redefine our needs to our constituents, legislators, funders, and donors so that museums can be seen as truly essential partners? 

I believe our long-term success will be connected to the ways in which we keep our learnings from 2020 relevant. I also believe that museums should not have to choose between financial stability and social engagement. Some answers will lie in the ways we build capacity and embrace change. Earlier this year, the Institute of Museum and Library Services published the report Market Analysis and Opportunity Assessment of Museum Capacity Building Programs. It has been my touchstone as we seek ways to leverage MANY’s strengths to support and sustain New York’s Museums. I wouldn’t call it summer beach reading, but in its pages you may find inspiration and the beginning of a new path forward.

With thanks for your support,

Erika Sanger

*Stonington, Maine was settled on the traditional lands of the people of the Penobscot Nation, members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, who have stewarded the land for generations. I respect the traditional values of these Tribes and affirm their inherent sovereignty in this territory. I support their efforts for land and water protection and restoration, and for cultural healing and recovery.  

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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