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Letter from Erika: MANY Supports Museums that Support Democracy

August 30, 2022 4:57 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

April 10, 2018 Naturalization Ceremony at the New-York Historical Society. Photograph by Howard Heyman. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

As summer comes to a close and we begin to gear up for a busy fall, I am excited to report on “Museums Support Democracy,” our webinar series produced in partnership with Museum Hue and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Humanities New York. The seven programs featured fifteen museum professionals from around the nation discussing Citizenship, Environmental Justice, Ethical Collecting and Deaccessioning, Expanding Interpretive Lenses, Healing Historical Legacies, Museums and Civil Rights, and Protest Through Visual and Performance Art. 869 people from 48 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, as well as Barbados, Canada, China, Hungary, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom participated in the webinars. 

I encourage everyone to take an hour if you can and listen to one of these conversations. MANY members can access the recordings from the member resource page on our website. The speaker's comments and questions asked by attendees point to ways that museums can sustain and strengthen democracy in their communities. Thoughts and experiences generously shared during these inspiring discussions have been fueling my hope for the role of museums in our nation’s future. I also want to take this space to express my gratitude to Megan Eves, MANY’s Assistant Director for Programs and Communications for her exceptional work organizing and producing this important series. 

Fifty-seven years ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In his timely, open letter to New York’s Museums, Danny O’Donnell, New York Assembly Member and Chair, Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development invites museums to support democracy by partnering with their local election boards to become polling sites. The central location of many museums and their open public spaces can make them ideal polling site locations. Serving as a polling place can also be a wonderful way for museums to welcome people who might not have otherwise visited their spaces. 

MANY will continue to support and amplify the work of museums who incorporate the plurality and multivocality of our nation’s history, art, and culture in their core programs. Earlier this month, we submitted an application for funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a project we are calling “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy.” In Ancient Greek cities an Agora was both an assembly of people and the physical setting in which they gathered. It was an open space in which intellectual and thought-provoking discussions formed the foundation of a civil society. If funded, this humanities discussion series will use the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America as a launching point for twelve museums and their communities to explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American Democracy. We won't receive notification of the NEH’s funding decision until April of 2023, but I extend our thanks to project partners, Humanities New York, the New York State Museum, and OurStoryBridge. We are also grateful to NY Senator Gillibrand, Rep. Tonko (NY-20) and the 100 museums who signed on to a support letter for the project.

Advocacy is a key part of the democratic process and has been part of MANY’s mission since the organization’s founding 60 years ago. As we await the advance of the Museum Study Bill, and plan our 2022-23 legislative agenda, we welcome your input to help guide us. Click here to let us know your interests for our advocacy efforts

I wish you the best as the pages of the calendar turn toward to the end of this year, 

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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