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Letter from Erika: I think I can I think I can I think I can

December 20, 2023 11:43 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

NYCRR Train Engine #999 Scale Model, 1952, Frank DeSantis, Painted metal, glass, woodAlbany Institute of History & Art

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters,

When I close my eyes, I can picture the small bookcase in the corner of the apartment bedroom I shared with my brother when we were young. It sat behind a low, round, brown, Formica table held up by chipped chrome legs. At unexpected moments, the words of the authors and pictures by the illustrators will still bubble up in my thoughts. I was fortunate to be raised in a home and a culture where education was valued, books were gifted on holidays, and our weekends included a trip to the public library. I strongly suspect that many museum people were raised in similar environments.

2023 has been a difficult year for many friends, family, and colleagues. Social, political, humanitarian, and climate crises are converging to make civil discourse and media consumption a challenge. I know I had perhaps too many batons to juggle on unsteady feet this year, but I am grateful to those who lent me the strength I needed so that when I did drop one (or two) I was able to pick them up and try again. 

I know I owe a debt of fortitude to “The Little Engine That Could,” a children’s book written 96 years ago by a man who immigrated from Hungary to the United States. The 1954 edition with bold black text and a blue train engine printed on a cream fabric hard cover looks very familiar. Like many immigrants, the author, Arnold Munk, used the pseudonym “Watty Piper” to camouflage his identity. In Watty’s story, an engine pulling train cars filled with toys and treats for children breaks down and needs help. After two strong engines decline requests for assistance, a little blue engine carries the train cars over the mountain repeating the phrase “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

At MANY, we continue to learn and share new ways to overcome adversity while taking time to redefine and celebrate success with as many people as we can. We have made mistakes, but did not let them weigh us down, apologized quickly, and then moved on without allowing fear to guide our decision making. We are getting better at asking for help frequently and specifically and then thanking generously. We encourage people who ask for our help to take time to rest, heal, and realign thoughts, work, and lives to the world in which we now live. Your feedback lets us know we have made a difference and helped plant seeds for future success. 

When I hear people say that MANY is “small but mighty,” I think of Watty Piper’s little blue engine. With your help, MANY can continue to grow, share resources, and connect museum professionals across the state and the nation. If you are not yet a member, please join us, we welcome as many different voices in our community as possible. With exciting plans ahead, we need all the support we can gather to help sustain MANY’s programs and advocacy in 2024. Please donate today and help us get over the mountain that was 2023. 

With thanks and best wishes for the new 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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