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Letter from Erika: Seeing and Making Change

May 25, 2022 11:56 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

“Quiet as It’s Kept” 2022 Whitney Biennial

Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues, 

Two years ago today, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Yesterday, nineteen elementary school children and their two teachers were shot to death in Texas. Eleven days ago, ten Black people were murdered in a mass shooting in Buffalo. In our nation alone, over one million people have died from the coronavirus. Numbers like these can become meaningless without connections to people and actions that move us to change.  

As our cultures, institutions, and educational systems attempt to respond to the devastation wrought by the pandemic and systemic racism, every one of us needs to play a role in changing our society and our museums. Our museums need to promote truth and dignity, to encourage every person on staff to take ownership of their work, and to respect the work of their colleagues no matter their position or title. 

Lately, more people are talking about uplifting people, not objects. I understand the purpose but question a distinction that removes contemporary and historic makers, scientists, and artists -- those who are named and those whose names are not remembered -- from the products of their hands and their minds. Implementing human-centered values in our workplace does not require the exclusion of the art and material culture of our world. In fact, centering and being inspired by art and culture can lead to embracing diversity in all its forms. 

So how can museums - with collections, without collections - push back against the darkness of our times? We can take one step at a time. We can create budgets that align to strategic plans, value our staff, fund professional development, and allow for the purchase of job-appropriate tools. 

In the May 2022 issue of This Month in NYS Museums we launch our reformatted job board that will require employers to post salary ranges. It took us a bit longer than some, but not as long as others, to make this change. New York City will legally require salary transparency in job postings on November 1, 2022. I am proud that MANY did not wait for a law to catch up to our values.

This week we also announced the recipients of the NYSCA/MANY Capacity Building Partnership Grants. The review panels were particularly struck by the requests from dozens of museums for technology because they had been “operating” with decades old hardware and software. We are pleased that we were able to help NYSCA distribute over $500,000 to 102 museums. We know that those who were not awarded grants or did not qualify as museums using NYSCA’s guidelines were very disappointed. We will announce new opportunities for grant funding soon. 

Yesterday, A9710 (Barrett D-106) “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State” unanimously passed the Assembly. The study will identify and collect data about all museums in the state to inform policy making and recommend systems of support to ensure equitable distribution of state funds regardless of discipline, budget size, or location.

The bill is now moving through the Senate. Your New York State Senator needs to know that they have museums in their district that need help to serve their communities and preserve their collections for future generations. Please send an email today and ask them to support S.8934 (Cooney D-56). You can find your Senator here and use this document as a template for your email

We are approaching change for our museums in so many ways. This one step will help us get closer.

With sincere thanks, 

Erika Sanger, Executive Director

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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