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Museum News

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!

Email meves@nysmuseums.org 

  • May 02, 2023 1:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    Museum Association of New York awarded $499,988 from the National Endowment for the Humanities and $120,000 from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation  to support a state-wide humanities discussion program series

    [Troy, NY]—The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce a new initiative to help museums in New York State amplify the role that our state and people have played in the development of American democracy as we approach the Semiquincentennial. 

    In the latest grant funding for humanities projects, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded MANY $499,988 to support “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy,” produced in partnership with Humanities New York (HNY). The series will use the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America as a launching point to support the work of twelve museums and their communities to explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American Democracy and envision the future of our nation.

    “These 258 newly funded projects demonstrate the vitality of the humanities across our nation,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “NEH is proud to support exemplary education, preservation, media, research, and infrastructure projects that expand resources for Americans, support humanities programs and opportunities for underserved students and communities, and deepen our understanding of our history, culture, and society.”

    “The lives of New Yorkers are richer because of our commitment to education, humanities, the arts, and preserving the history and culture of our state,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This $499,988 in federal NEH funding will keep this proud tradition alive and help ensure our communities can continue learning from New York’s many wonderful educational and research institutions. I will always fight to support these essential community institutions and to make educational and cultural opportunities more accessible for all.”

    “Our state’s museums are integral parts of our communities, serving as educational, historical, and cultural resources for residents in every part of our state,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20). “With that in mind, I’m thrilled to celebrate this significant infusion of federal funding that will allow the Museum Association of New York (MANY) to create museum spaces where visitors can explore the context and controversies behind our democratic system. This investment will allow MANY to install a Smithsonian exhibition at twelve museums across New York State that will help communities facilitate thought-provoking discussions about the roots and responsibilities of our democracy. Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve been a strong supporter of museums in our region and beyond. I’m proud to lend my support to this worthy and timely project.”

    Adapted from American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Voices and Votes includes historical and contemporary photographs; educational and archival video; engaging multimedia interactives; and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material. 

    MANY is New York State’s representative of the MoMS program, an outreach program of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service that brings traveling exhibitions, educational resources, and programming across America to communities through local museums, historical societies, and other cultural venues.

    “We’re excited to collaborate once again with the Museum Association of New York, to share the wealth of the Smithsonian’s research on democracy in America,” said Carol Harsh, Director of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. “As one of the original thirteen colonies, New York was at the heart of the American experiment to create a government of, by, and for the people. The support from the NEH will expand the reach of Voices and Votes and help communities amplify their own local history.” 

    The exhibition will open at Preservation Long Island in March 2024 then travel to Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, National Women’s Hall of Fame and Museum, Robert H. Jackson Center,  the Munson in Utica, Alice Austen House, Long Island Museum, Onondaga Historical Association and Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center, Genesee Country Village and Museum, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Chemung County Historical Society, and concludes at the Underground Railroad Education Center in Albany in January 2026.

    Each museum will display the Smithsonian exhibition and produce an exhibition drawn from their own collection that relates to their community’s role in the development and advancement of democracy in America. Smithsonian resources available to the twelve museums will include digital learning curricula and communication tools. MANY staff will organize the exhibition travel, and help each museum plan, implement, and evaluate the exhibitions and interpretive programs.  

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation will add $120,000 to the NEH’s award for this 30-month-long project that will support public events, community exhibitions, free public lectures, workshops for teachers, and community for discussion programs at the twelve museums. “As we look forward to the U.S. Semiquincentennial in 2026, the Smithsonian’s Voices and Votes exhibition is an exciting and relevant opportunity to engage people in the history of democracy in America,” said Deryn Pomeroy, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Pomeroy Foundation. “We are thrilled to provide a grant to MANY in support of bringing the exhibit to twelve host sites throughout New York State. This initiative will further enhance the ways in which these outstanding organizations serve their audiences and communities with meaningful conversations related to history, democracy, and our nation’s 250th anniversary.”

    The project will help the museums build their capacity to engage with their communities with access to consulting and advising scholars, a project fellow dedicated to program support, New York State Museum education and curatorial staff, AASLH’s Vital Resources program, training by HNY staff in leading Community Conversations, and a subscription to the OurStoryBridge virtual platform to collect and share oral histories about voting and democracy in their communities. 

    HNY is an instrumental project partner who will share their expertise in developing and leading community conversations and their deep connections to humanities scholarship and audience development. “The New Agora invites New Yorkers to revive and redefine democratic practice in the twenty-first century,” said Joseph Murphy, Director of Grant-Making at Humanities New York. “Humanities New York is proud to join The Museum Association of New York in revitalizing the experiment in self-government, offering all New Yorkers a space in which to exercise the habits of democracy and reflect—in critical and respectful ways—upon our past, present and future. We wanted to support this opportunity to strengthen the public humanities across our state.”

    Teacher training workshops will be organized by New York State Museum Senior Historian and Curator of Political and Military History Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator of Social History Ashley Hopkins-Benton, Museum Instructors James Jenkins and Kathleen Morehouse, and Director of Education Kathryn Weller. Workshops will connect exhibition content to New York State Learning Standards and create a teacher training program that encourages hands-on and inquiry-based classroom learning. 

    “Museums have a crucial role in society’s civic education,” said Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator of Political and Military History at the New York State Museum. “The New York State Museum looks forward to collaborating with the Museum Association of New York and cultural organizations across the state on this exciting initiative to highlight museums as critical gathering spaces for civic engagement and conversations about American democracy.”

    "OurStoryBridge is honored to contribute to MANY's upcoming project for the Semiquincentennial,” said Jery Y. Huntley, Founder and President of OurStoryBridge Inc. “Our methodology is a great fit to help share America's personal narratives on democracy online and to reach wide and diverse audiences. Thank you MANY for all that you are doing! So proud to be a part of this!" 

    Each site will host the Voices and Votes exhibition for six weeks. To learn more about A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy and the Voices and Votes MoMS exhibition, visit nysmuseums.org/Voices-and-Votes

    For exhibition images, visit https://museumonmainstreet.org/VoicesVotes

    For host site images, visit https://www.dropbox.com/t/4pigrZhNfZgc8cYP 


    Project Participants and Host Sites

    (in exhibition tour order)

    Preservation Long Island

    Preservation Long Island works with Long Islanders to preserve the cultural heritage of the region. They were founded in 1948 in response to intense post-World War II development with a mission to preserve individual historic buildings and artifacts through the creation of house museums. Today, Preservation Long Island advances the importance of historic preservation in the region through advocacy, education, and stewardship. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be on view March 24 to May 3, 2024 at Preservation Long Island's Headquarters, an 1842 re-purposed church in Cold Spring Harbor that now serves as their office, library, and exhibition gallery. 

    Sackets Harbor Battlefield, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

    Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. Today the Sackets Harbor Battlefield is interpreted to the public with exhibitions, guided and self-guided tours, and a restored 1850's Navy Yard and Commandant's House. During the summer months, guides dressed in military clothing of 1813 reenact the camp life of the common soldier.

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed May 17 to June 28, 2024 in an 1817 limestone structure that originally functioned as the Union Hotel. 

    National Women's Hall of Fame

    The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the nation’s first and oldest nonprofit organization and museum dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women. In August 2020, the National Women’s Hall of Fame moved into the historic Seneca Knitting Mill which operated from 1844 until 1999. Their comprehensive programming and beautiful museum on the banks of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal uses the stories of its 302 Inductees to inspire and engage all who visit.   

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented from July 12 to August 23, 2024 on the newly renovated second floor of the Hall. 

    Robert H. Jackson Center

    The Center advances the legacy of Justice Robert H. Jackson through live presentations, exhibitions, multimedia, research, and scholarship that demonstrates the relevance and applicability of Justice Jackson’s ideas to present and future generations. Their programs are based on Jackson’s views on international law, constitutional law, and human and civil rights with special emphasis on educating youth on issues of justice and the rule of law.

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented from September 6 to October 18 as part of their annual Constitution Day programming.

    Munson

    Founded in 1919, Munson’s Museum of Art features a renowned permanent collection, rotating exhibitions, and education programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. Munson believes in the power of the arts and serves their entire community with essential experiences that inspire personal and cultural transformation. Munson will partner with the Oneida County History Center to produce their local exhibition. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed November 11 to December 13, 2024 in the 1960 Philip Johnson-designed Museum of Art building.

    Alice Austen House Museum

    The Alice Austen House keeps the bold spirit of the early American photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952) alive by presenting changing exhibitions of her pioneering historic photographs, providing education programs for students, and offering a range of cultural programs for the public. The museum is a New York City and National Landmark, on the Register of Historic Places and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s distinctive group of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios. In 2017, they were designated a National site of LGBTQ History.

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed December 27, 2024 to February 7, 2025 in newly renovated galleries within the Victorian Gothic Cottage that served as Austen’s home. 

    The Long Island Museum

    The Long Island Museum cares for significant regional art and historic collections and maintains one of the most important museum collections of historic horse-drawn vehicles in the nation. A leading cultural institution and the only Smithsonian Affiliate in the region, the Museum is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages through the heritage of Long Island and its diverse communities. Historic buildings from the Stony Brook community were gathered by the museum’s founders onto the site to create the foundation for its current multi-structure complex. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented in the Visitor Center/History Museum’s Cowles Gallery from February 21 to April 4, 2025.

    Onondaga Historical Association / Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center

    The Onondaga Historical Association’s archives and collections give perspective on significant social, political, and religious movements in Central New York. The historical association operates a history museum in the urban center of Syracuse and a Haudenosaunee Cultural Center, the Skä-ñonh: Great Law of Peace Center, in Liverpool. The Center is focused on telling the story of the native peoples of Central New York through the lens of the Onondaga Nation, the keepers of the Central Fire. The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaunee, where American democracy began.

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the Skä-ñonh: Great Law of Peace Center from April 18 to May 30, 2025.

    Genesee Country Village and Museum

    Opened to the public in 1976, America’s Bicentennial, Genesee Country Village and Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State and the third largest in the United States, covering 600 acres with 68 historic buildings and more than 20,000 artifacts telling the story of New York State and 19th-century America. The museum's interpretation includes the contributions of women, religious groups, and the Black and Indigenous communities. Since 1999, the museum has partnered with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host Citizenship and Naturalization ceremonies. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the John L. Wehle Gallery from June 3 to July 25, 2025. 

    Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission

    The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission is the gateway to resident and visitor experiences about Buffalo’s rich African American history. The Commission illuminates its vibrant neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, people, and institutions, as well as its significant impact on local, national, and international history and brings attention to the resilience of Black communities across our nation. From the Buffalo Anti-Slavery Movement and the Niagara Movement to the Civil Rights Movement and the Jazz Age— leaders in the Corridor understood the importance of democracy and the need for African Americans and women to have the power to vote. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at The Michigan Street Baptist Church, the oldest church built by African Americans in Buffalo from August 8 to September 19, 2025.  

    Chemung County Historical Society

    Founded in 1923, the Chemung County Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the history of the Chemung Valley region. First chartered by New York State in 1947, today CCHS operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library. They are the largest general history museum in the Southern Tier telling the history of Elmira and Chemung County with interactive exhibits, educational programming, and lectures for visitors of all ages. Their collections include records that document voting, elections, and politics. They are also the repository for the records of the local NAACP. 

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the Chemung Valley History Museum from October 3 to November 14, 2025. 

    Underground Railroad Education Center

    Inspired by the reclamation of the voices of the Underground Railroad activists written out of American history, the Underground Railroad Education Center (UREC) seeks to empower multi-age, diverse audiences through education, dialogue, and program experiences to learn about the work of historic justice activists and explore their relationship with us today. Located in the history Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, a headquarters for Underground Railroad activity in the Caption Region in the mid-1850s, UREC places the work of the Black abolitionists in their national and international context and relates their work to today's justice efforts.

    The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented in the newly built Interpretive Center of Underground Railroad Education Center from November 28, 2025 to January 9, 2026. 


    # # #


    About the Museum Association of New York

    The Museum Association of New York is the only statewide museum service organization with more than 700 member museums, historical societies, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. MANY helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.organd follow MANY on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 

    About the National Endowment for the Humanities

    Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov

    About the William G. Pomeroy Foundation

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation® is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and working to improve the probability of finding appropriate donor matches or other life-saving treatments for blood cancer patients. Established by Trustee Bill Pomeroy in 2005 to bring together his two greatest passions, the Pomeroy Foundation is a private, philanthropic organization located in Syracuse, N.Y. As the nation’s leading funder of historic roadside markers, the Pomeroy Foundation has awarded more than 2,100 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 48 states and Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.

    About Humanities New York

    Using dialogue, reflection, and critical thinking, Humanities New York applies the humanities to strengthen democratic society. Established in 1975 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities New York is a private 501(c)(3) organization that may receive federal, state, and private funding. To learn more about Humanities New York, visit humanitiesny.org.
  • March 28, 2023 12:25 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    In 2022, MANY adopted a new strategic plan, revised its by-laws and personnel policy, and changed the board of directors’ terms to align with the organization’s fiscal year. In April, Brian Lee Whisenhunt became President of the Board of Directors and Dr. Georgette Grier-Key and Bruce Whitmarsh Co-Vice Presidents as part of an organizational shift to support future leadership transitions. 

    We welcomed six new members of the Board of Directors:

    Beth Ann Balalos, Access and Inclusion Program Director, Long Island Children’s Museum

    Samantha Hall Saladino, Executive Director, Fulton County Historical Society

    Dr. Callie Johnson, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Buffalo AKG Art Museum

    Nick Martinez, Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives, American Museum of Natural History

    Victoria Reisman, Curator, Bureau of Historic Sites, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation 

    Joshua Ruff, Co-Executive Director, Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages

    In January, we reorganized our staff structure and in March hired Amelia Whitworth, a highly experienced business administrator who has streamlined processes and enhanced tracking and reporting capacity. Our social media continues to grow under the expertise of Megan Eves, Assistant Director for Programs and Communications. The number of followers across four platforms grew to 25,812, a 20% increase over 2021 and a remarkable 72% growth since the end of 2018. The American Alliance of Museums awarded Executive Director Erika Sanger the 2022 Advocacy Leadership Award for her work on behalf of museums in New York and across the nation.  

    The annual conference “Envisioning Our Museums for the Seventh Generation” was held in Corning April 9–12. It was the first time many museum professionals gathered in-person since March 2020 and the organization’s first full conference since 2019. Despite the challenges producing this event, it was sold out with Covid-restricted attendance of 300 people.

    Virtual programs continue to allow us to expand our service to the field. NY museum professionals comprise 40-60% of the audience for virtual programs and 80% of attendees were not MANY members. From January to August, we partnered with Museum Hue to produce “Museums Support Democracy” a 7-part webinar series attended by 869 people from 48 states and 8 countries. The series was produced with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Humanities NY. 

    From October to December, we produced a 6-part webinar series “Meet MANY Online” that featured six of the highest-rated presentations from the 2022 annual conference. The series was attended by 722 people from 45 states and 8 countries.

    The regranting partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts allowed MANY to reach 102 museums with a total of $500,981 in grants. We are grateful for the Pomeroy Foundation’s continued support for the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History that allowed MANY to grant 20 museums $5,000 each towards education programs. 

    MANY also served 96 museums and their 179 staff members through the IMLS Cares Act funded project “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” with hundreds of hours of training and program support. 

    The Museum Study Act passed the New York State legislature unanimously (minus one) in 2022 with overwhelming support from several state agencies. The Governor’s veto noted that the legislature would need to appropriate funds for it to be signed. Actions to that end are already in motion. 

    We closed 2022 with 733 members, a 6% increase. This growth and the generosity of our donors and industry partners helped us to achieve a net income of $22,112.59.  With the support of our board of directors that now more closely reflects the diversity of those who call New York home and thousands of museum professionals who rely on our services and programs, MANY is stronger today than anyone could have imagined. 

    With thanks for helping to make 2022 such a success,

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

    Museum Association of New York

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt

    President, Board of Directors

    Museum Association of New York

    Executive Director, The Rockwell Museum


    Click here to download the 2022 annual report.

  • March 15, 2023 9:45 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York [MANY] is proud to announce that 25 museum professionals from across New York State will attend the 2023 annual conference “Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement” in Syracuse, NY, April 15-18 with full scholarship support. Scholarships include conference registration, travel, workshop or special event registration, and complimentary individual MANY membership for one year. Most scholarships include hotel accommodation.

    Awardees were selected through a competitive application process. Applications were reviewed by a panel that included members of MANY’s board of directors. We look forward to welcoming these exceptional professionals to Syracuse and with the support of our donors, expanding MANY’s service to the field with the growth of our scholarship program. 


    2023 Scholarship Awards


    BIPOC Museum Professional in Museum Administration

    Awarded to a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color working in museum administration who has played a leadership role in advancing the capacity and sustainability of their museum.

    Sophie Lo, Deputy Director, Museum at Eldridge Street

    John Sapida, Manager of Digital Initiatives, American Museum of Natural History


    Cassetti Scholarship

    Awarded to a museum professional who has demonstrated creative leadership and has affected significant, positive change in the ways in which their museum engages with audiences.

    Ran Yan, Executive Director, Lewis Latimer House


    William G. Pomeroy Foundation Scholarship

    Sponsored by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for museum professionals working in a history-related NYS museum with an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and who have not attended a MANY annual conference in the past.

    Carol Anne Barsody, Operations Manager, The Three Bears Historic Complex, Ovid

    Carlene Bermann, Interim Executive Director/Collections Manager, St. Lawrence County Historical Association

    Jennifer Corby, Executive Director, The Phelps Mansion Museum

    Jamie Dangler, President, Homeville Board of Trustees, Homeville Museum

    Zachary Greenfield, Archives & Collections Coordinator, Chenango County Historical Society

    Nicole Herwig, Executive Director, Chapman Museum

    Melissa Kiewiet, Interim Director, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance

    Emily Malley, Assistant Director, Tinker Homestead & Farm Museum at Tinker Nature Park

    Cole Mullin, Office Manager, Lewis County Historical Society

    Joanne Weir, Vice President/Curator, Nanticoke Valley Historical Society



    Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation Scholarship

    Sponsored by the Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation for museum professionals employed by museums and historical societies on Long Island with an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and who have not attended a MANY annual conference in the past.

    Courtney Chambers, Director, Sea Cliff Village Museum

    Jonathan Cope, Assistant to the Executive Director, Montauk Historical Society

    Ariana Garcia-Cassani, Assistant of Communications and Development, Montauk Historical Society

    Mari Irizarry, Director, Three Village Historical Society

    Lindsey Steward-Goldberg, Education Coordinator, Three Village Historical Society

    Ayelet Pearl, Community Engagement Coordinator, Voelker Orth Museum



    Central NY Community Foundation Scholarship

    Sponsored by the Central NY Community Foundation for museum professionals working in Onondaga, Cayuga, Oswego, Cortland or Madison Counties.

    Emma Dailey, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, Seward House Museum

    Kate Grindstaff, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Seward House Museum

    Derrick Pratt, Director of Education & Public Programming, Erie Canal Museum

    Karyn Radcliffe, Collections Manager, Cayuga Museum of History and Art


    Museum Professional in a Facilities Position Scholarship

    Sponsored by Fireline Corporation, this scholarship is awarded to a museum professional working in a facilities position at a NYS museum. 

    Colin Brady, Director of Operations, Poster House



    Syracuse University Alumni Museum Professional Scholarship

    Sponsored by the Graduate Program in Museum Studies, School of Design, Syracuse University, this scholarship is awarded to a museum professional who is a graduate of Syracuse University and working at a NYS museum. 

    Emma Rathe, Manager of Programs and Exhibition Production, George Eastman Museum



    Following the conference, scholarship recipients will share their conference experience which may be selected to be included in MANY's This Month in NYS Museums e-newsletter.

    The 2023 annual conference will be hosted in Syracuse, NY from April 15 to 18. To learn more, please visit: https://nysmuseums.org/annualconference


    # # #

    About the Museum Association of New York

    The Museum Association of New York is the only statewide museum service organization with more than 750 member museums, historical societies, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. MANY helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 

  • February 22, 2023 8:43 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Eleanor Roosevelt voting in 1936, less than twenty years after the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. FDR Library Photo

    Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues,

    I don’t remember who was on the ballot the first time I voted, but I remember the challenge of finding my polling place - a community meeting room in the basement of an apartment building - on a rainy night in New York City. The room was lit with flickering fluorescent bulbs and the floor was covered with gray linoleum tile. It took the poll volunteer who sat on a metal folding chair behind a metal folding table a long time to find me in a very large register. I signed my name and waited behind a stanchion until a booth with a curtain opened up and someone walked out. Only then was I allowed to cross the room and enter the booth. I remember pushing all the little levers and then pulling the big lever that recorded my vote and opened the curtain. 

    Those machines are long gone. Now I vote using a black marker on a printed form scanned into an electronic reader. My polling place is the back room of a volunteer fire station located at the second of two traffic lights in my hamlet. My vote feels very meaningful in this purple district and I have been known to be among the first at the polling site. My faith in our nation’s democracy is tied to my commitment to vote. 

    MANY wants to help museums draw connections from their communities to the history of Democracy in America and build their capacity to commemorate the Semiquincentennial by hosting Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, an exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service program, Museum on Main Street. The exhibition includes historical and contemporary photographs, archival and contemporary video, engaging multimedia interactives, games, and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest materials. It is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith. It also includes a section where visitors can record stories about their first voting experience. 

    I believe this project has the potential to change the way we all tell the story of New York’s contribution to American Democracy. With this exhibition on view, New York’s museums can become places where people can participate in discussions about the history and future of our nation. Museums selected to host Voices and Votes will also produce a small, responsive exhibition drawn from their collections. It could tell the story of how someone in their community created positive change for our nation or re-contextualize an important event. Exhibitions may be installed in the museum together or separately in a partner space like a library or school.  

    2019 was the first time New York State participated in the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program. MANY traveled the Water/Ways exhibition almost 800 miles to six museums where 24,000 people saw the exhibition and learned about New York’s relationship with water. Participating museums saw a 40-60% increase in the number of visitors, equally divided between community members and tourists. 

    Participation is by application due March 17. You can learn more about how to apply on our website. We do ask for a financial commitment to help us travel the exhibition professionally, but we are committed to raising funds to help offset expenses. We have also applied to the NEH for a Humanities Discussion grant titled “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy.” The project is connected to the NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative and based on the concept of an ancient Greek Agora - both an assembly of people and the physical setting in which they gathered. 

    Between now and March 17, Megan Eves and I will be attending a national planning meeting with the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street program and visiting A Great Leap of Faith exhibition at the National Museum of American History. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about Voices and Votes, the proposed Humanities Discussion programs, and the museum selection process, but in exchange, I may ask you to tell me about the first or last time you voted.

    With thanks, e


  • February 22, 2023 8:41 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In 2022, the Louis Armstrong House Museum was awarded $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create Mapping Jazz and Hip-Hop in Queens, an interactive digital project that explores the history of jazz and hip-hop. The project will use a multi-platform digital experience including a museum exhibition and a web/mobile interactive to examine how Queens’  prolific jazz community significantly influenced the rise of hip-hop.  The platforms will facilitate individual visitors’ experiences as they explore the neighborhoods that cultivated jazz and hip-hop for over a hundred years. 


    Digitization

    The project follows the massive digitization in 2018 of the museum’s entire archives supported by a grant from the Robert F. Smith and the Fund II Foundation. Smith, who is on the Louis Armstrong House Museum’s board of trustees, approached the museum in 2015 about creating a digital archive that would offer an online glimpse ino Louis Armstong’s daily life and continue Armstong’s mission to preserve African American history. The museum applied for a grant in 2016 through the Fund II Foundation and was awarded a total of $3 million. $2.7 million was allocated to digitization efforts and $300,000 supported the hiring of two full-time museum fellows from historically Black universities to help with digitization. The fellows worked alongside Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections and Sarah Rose, Manager of Research Collections.

    “It was a huge process but now our entire collection is publicly accessible to anyone 24 hours a day, ” said Regina Bain, Executive Director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. The museum’s collection is comprised of eleven different collections totaling more than 60,000 items, making it the largest archive of any jazz musician. 

    “The biggest collection is the Louis Armstrong Collection, which is comprised of all of the things that were in the house when Louis lived in the house including past recordings, and pictures -  all of those things have been digitized,” said Bain.

    The Louis Armstrong Collection also contains Louis and his wife Lucille’s personal collection of 1,600 recordings, 650 home-recorded reel-to-reel tapes, 86 scrapbooks, 5,000 photographs, 270 sets of band parts, 12 linear feet of papers, letters and manuscripts, 5 trumpets, 14 mouthpieces, and 120 awards and plaques. When Louis Armstrong passed away in 1971, Lucille continued to live in the home and worked to ensure that it would become a National and New York City Historic Landmark, with the goal that the home and its archives would become a museum. When Lucille died in 1983, the home and its contents went to the City of New York which designated the City University of New York, Queens College to oversee the process. The archives became accessible to the public in the 1990s and the house opened as a museum in 2003. 


    Storytelling Legacy

    “This grant really helped us through the pandemic because we had all of these digital assets and could build out digital storytelling through virtual exhibitions,” said Bain. “It really gave us a facility. We have archiving experience and now we have digital archiving experience. We have digital storytelling experience.”

    Following the digitization of the archives, the museum began to think about how digital storytelling applies to one of the organization's core mission –sharing archival materials that document Armstrong’s life and legacy with the community.

    “Community was important to Louis and Lucille Armstrong,” said Bain. “They lived in this community of Corona, Queens for thirty years and they loved their neighbors. They invited kids over to sit on the stoop and play the horns…watch TV and eat ice cream. What does it mean for us as an institution to live in those values, to live in that legacy, and care enough to be curious to share our resources with the community. One of the resources that we have is our archive and ability to archive.”

    Armstrong is widely considered to be responsible for shaping jazz into the music it would become in the 1930s. “Louis Armstong was a jazz musician but he was also a pop musician. He was a Black cultural icon in many different genres,” said Bain. “Usually when we talk about the story of jazz in New York it’s focused on Harlem, but there’s a story about jazz and Queens that I think needs to be told.” 


    Digital and Community

    The story about jazz and Queens began to be told through the Flushing Jazz Trail Map created by Ephemera Press and commissioned by Flushing Town Hall. The map shows places of interest and the homes of jazz legends including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and Louis Armstrong. “When I started at the Louis Armstrong House Museum two years ago, I saw this map on the wall at Flushing Town Hall and I was inspired,” said Bain. “I reached out to the Town Hall and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts and we started dreaming about what this could be.” The conversation between Bain, the Flushing Town Hall, and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts evolved into a conversation about hip-hop. “We started to think about familiar genealogical storytelling connections between jazz and hip-hop in Queens and wouldn’t that be an amazing story to tell.” Stories like hip-hop artist Nas whose father was a jazz cornetist in Queens. “We looked at Louis and Lucille’s story and values of community, looking at the resources and expertise that we have as an organization and putting them together into a new idea that celebrates Black music in the borough of Queens.”

    The museum is working with its community, musicians, and academics to develop what this digital storytelling will look like. “Through this series of conversations where we’ve landed so far is that there is going to be a website, an app, and a physical installation throughout the borough of Queens.” The museum is working with jazz and hip-hop historians, artists, and practitioners to help document the oral history of jazz and hip-hop to include within an interactive digital map. “So many of these folks who have been really important have already been doing the work of historians, especially musician and historian TL Cross,” said Bain. Cross has been sharing his research on hip-hop on his Instagram feed with the “Cross in a Minute” series including a video  which hip-hop artists have sampled piano from Aretha Franklin, one of the most sampled musicians in hip-hop history. In addition to the Flushing Town Hall and Kupferberg Center for the Arts, other partners include Indiana University, Yale University, Duke University, Queens College, Trinity University, University of Bristol, New York University, and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.


    Next phase

    “We’re still in the discovery phase of this project…exploring the genealogy of connection, including neighborhoods, familial and friendship ties, as well as listening and sampling patterns,” said Bain. “We plan on applying for the next two phases of funding from the NEH for prototyping and production. But we will also need additional funding since the NEH only supports about 50% of the total project cost.”

    The museum is in the process of creating materials to share with its donors and stakeholders that includes long-term goals and community impact including stories from older musicians in the borough. “We’re conducting these interviews now and creating videos that can be shared with the community and potential donors.” The next phase will include convening teams of digital experience creators to develop storylines and determine appropriate platform designs and strategies for interactive engagement. “There will also be a multimedia exhibit at the new visitor center where people can gather to discuss the days of jazz and hip-hop. It’ll include a live performance venue with flexible seating and spaces for workshops. We want to bring the community together to listen to music and have these discussions. 2023 marks our 20th year open to the public and we’re excited for what’s next.”

    The museum also recently launched “Armstrong Now” an artist-in-residence program that contextualizes Louis Armstrong’s contributions within historical and 21st-century arrangements of Black making, thinking, and vitality. The residency provides emerging artists with a platform to create new work inspired by the collection. “Each artist receives a $10,000 stipend to research the archives and create new works,” said Bain.

    “I think it’s critically important that we have multiple modalities for connecting with our communities and these digital modalities can act on their own,” said Bain. “There will be people who will never step in our museum physically, but they engage with the story of Louis Armstrong. They will engage with this story of jazz and hip-hop in Queens. They live across the country or the world and they may never make it to New York but they are able to engage with our mission and with our stories. That’s the legacy that we promote at the Louis Armstrong House Museum through these digital means. It’s important that we invest in engaging in this type of work as museums.”

    Learn more about the Louis Armstrong House Museum: https://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/ 

  • February 21, 2023 7:29 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Nickcoles Martinez is an educator, producer, podcaster, and activist, with over a decade of experience working at the intersections of museum education, youth, and workforce development, mentoring, and science. His passion is to engage and support BIPOC students to pursue interests and careers in science and develop strategies for the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in traditionally non-inclusive spaces. 

    He began his museum career as an undergraduate intern at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in the Museum Education and Employment Program, designing and leading tours of museum halls for visiting school and camp groups. After graduation, he returned to AMNH as an internship supervisor, helping to support the new cohort of college interns, and was later hired to teach genetics, human evolution, and neuroscience in the Hall of Human Origins Teaching Lab, first as a Lab Facilitator and then in a full-time role as the Coordinator of the Lab.

    Martinez is currently the Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives and manages middle and high school programs, internship experiences, and alumni engagement. He also leads recruitment, community-building, and partnership efforts to increase diversity and promote equity and inclusivity across Youth Programs at the AMNH. 

    Photo by Matt Shanley

    Where did you begin your museum career? 

    I applied for my first position at the American Museum of Natural History in 2009 for an internship in the Anthropology Collection. I was an anthropology major at SUNY Stony Brook and was thinking about what I wanted to do with this degree, especially after switching majors from pre-med. I ultimately didn’t get it. This internship was highly competitive because it was one of the few paid internships. I found another internship at AMNH called the Museum Education and Employment Program (MEEP). It’s an internship program specifically designed for college students where you learn about being facilitators and gain tour guiding experience including how to create your own unique tour. It was my first experience working at a museum. I led anthropology focused tours in the Hall of Human Origins and Hall of Primates. 

    Can you tell us about your journey from an intern at AMNH to the Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives?

    My internship at AMNH was during the summer of 2010 between my junior and senior year of college. After I graduated, I knew that the museum liked to bring back former interns to be supervisors and help guide the next group of interns. I applied for that position and began working at AMNH again the summer after I graduated. The position ended in August but I realized that this was what I wanted to do career-wise. I continued to volunteer at AMNH in the Hall of Human Origins and in the Human Evolution Teaching Lab on weekends. I worked with some of the scientists who were also the facilitators, leading discussions with visitors that would come into the lab to learn about human evolution. At the same time, I started working at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, specifically with their high school internship program. I worked with a small group of students that were doing educational projects at the museum for a few months before I was hired at AMNH as a facilitator who would lead the discussions with visitors on the weekends, and come into the teaching lab. Eventually, I was hired to be the lab coordinator.

    My museum journey was as an intern, volunteer, part-time employee, and then full-time employee. My goal was always to find a full-time position at AMNH. It was different from the sort of science research that I originally saw myself doing, but I realized that I enjoyed working with people and engaging them in conversations and helping them understand large science concepts. It was a cool experience and it was what led me down this path to continue to work in education in this capacity. 

    What other experiences in your career journey have you found most helpful in your role now?

    I joined the Citywide Council on High Schools (CCHS) which is a group of volunteer parents that advocate on behalf of all public NYC high school students. CCHS serves as an advisory board providing input to the Chancellor and commentary to the Panel on Educational Policy regarding the needs of public school students. The main interest and goal is to improve the educational system in NYC. I was appointed by the public advocate’s office and I joined while I was doing my Masters at Baruch College. I was part of CCHS for almost two years.

    At this point, I started to shift my thinking about what my career was going to look like, what I wanted to focus on, and I was learning how to manage organizations,  institutions, and projects on a large scale. My masters degree is in nonprofit management. I wanted to understand what these larger organizations needed. What were the policies that I needed to understand to advance my career and take more of a leadership role. By joining CCHS, I got an inside look into how passionate parents are about education for their young people, because I’m not a parent. I got to understand how challenging and bureaucratic systems can be, how they’re designed, and what changes need to be made in order to have a real impact on the educational system in NYC. 

    What are some of the things that motivate you in your current role? 

    I think one of my main motivations is to help support young people who are like me. I didn’t grow up visiting museums that often. I was interested in science, but museums weren’t on my radar. I would go to the botanical gardens or the zoo occasionally but I don’t remember visiting a museum like AMNH in elementary, middle school, or even high school. Having representation in spaces like AMNH is really important to me. I want to develop the partnerships and relationships that get young people of color into spaces like this and to design experiences that will be really relevant and resonate with them. Experiences that validate both their cultural identity and their scientific and natural interests.

    What are other goals at AMNH for you and for your team?

    A lot of it is about rebuilding from the pandemic because there were a lot of staff and programmatic changes. We’re finding how to build things in new ways that connect with young people, bring in their natural passion for advocacy, and their desire for action. One of my goals is to design these new experiences that are focused on policy and equity issues and to make sure that every experience that we design touches on the interplay of science, society, and culture.. We’re not just talking about the science for science's sake, yes bats and understanding skeletal morphology is great, but how does that matter and why does that matter to someone’s everyday life and their lived experiences? We want to make sure those connections are clear for young people. 

    Rebuilding community has also been tough for a lot of our young people because virtual learning has been tough. Re-building and re-establishing that community from before the pandemic is important. It’s hard because you can’t go back to what you were doing in the pre-pandemic world. We’re making sure that we give space to educators as we navigate back to in-person learning. We’re being flexible and more empathetic in our work. There is much more cultural competence in the way we engage with young people. We didn’t have that focus at the  intersection of science and society before, but young people are really engaged around issues of social justice and equity and issues of inequality. We want to make sure that we are tapping into those things whenever we design a curriculum. We’re thinking about whether we can include young people’s voices and how we can build that space for us to test out ideas before we’re implementing them in the classroom and get feedback from young people along the way. It’s an opportunity to be better and to be more intersectional.

    Would your 18 year old self imagine that you would be where you are today?

    No, I wouldn’t have imagined it mainly because I was so introverted. I didn’t imagine myself giving tours in a museum or engaging with people in conversation. When I was younger I really kept to myself. I read books, played chess and video games, and would be in my own little bubble. I thought that I was going to be a pathologist because that was something that was interesting to me. Once I got to college I started to become more interested in why people do what they do and understanding behavior. That was the anthropology connection that allowed me to understand behavior while also allowing me to go into a hard science where I got to think about evolution, anatomy, and skeletal morphology. It was the perfect mesh of all of the things I was interested in. Then finding an opportunity to push myself out of my introverted nature when I had to do tours and work on the floor of a museum was life changing. It put me down a completely different path. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

    Can you tell us about where you grew up? What was it like growing up there? Where did you go to school?

    I’m from New YorK City. I grew up in BedSty in Brooklyn in the 1990s and it was a completely different place than it is right now. It was a largely impoverished neighborhood and I grew up in public housing. I grew up with a single mom but I had my grandmother and my aunt. I was raised by three really important and influential women in my life. That sort of guided the way I saw the world. We didn’t have a lot but they always made sure that I had the stuff that I needed. 

    In middle school I started playing chess, which was important for my development. Later I went to Brooklyn Tech, which is a specialized high school. 

    I was always curious and motivated. I always had a desire to learn more. Whenever anyone told me anything, I questioned it because I wanted to understand why. I continued that curiosity today in my work. How do we take all of those “why questions” and make them visible for young people?

    What was the first museum experience that you can remember?

    I remember coming to AMNH when I was 19. My girlfriend’s brother was in a program that would give him vouchers to visit museums that you could give to family members. We went on a date to AMNH. We went to a lot of museums during this time period and it got me used to going to museums like The Met or the Guggenheim or the Whitney and others that I didn’t remember going to as a kid. 

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    One of my favorite days is when we host our alumni parties. It’s an opportunity for alumni to come back to the museum to reconnect and re-engage with each other. The last one was in the Hall of Ocean Life with about 300 alumni. It’s great to see other alumni because I am an alum but also because helping to design the event and creating the experience. These moments are special. 

    We’ve also had team game night where we had a lot of young people come and play video games in the Hall of the Universe. Also our Teen SciFi Cafe which are interactive science discussions where students can meet researchers and scientists to learn about different career paths and all the different ways to become involved with science.

    Do you have any key mentors or someone who has deeply influenced you? Has there been any advice that they’ve given you that you’ve held onto?

    At the beginning of my museum career it was one of my supervisor Samara Rubenstein. She was one of my first supervisors who guided me and helped me understand how to work in an institution like AMNH because I was fresh out of undergrad and I didn’t know what to do every day. 

    Another mentor is Preeti Gupta, Senior Director of Children and Youth Programs at AMNH. She’s had a similar background to me working as a young person at a museum and then moved her way up. I look to her for guidance. One thing she told me early on was not to be a martyr. She said that because I was only someone who took on extra work and tried to do everything myself and that it’s helpful because you burn out. Not being a martyr is something that I try to remember even though it’s hard for me because I’ve always been a person who tried to do everything. It’s important for me to understand that there are times where I need to collaborate or let a project go and let someone else take over. I can’t do everything and I have to be willing to relinquish some of that control. 

  • February 21, 2023 7:22 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    Museums and museum professionals will be recognized at the 2023 annual conference “Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement” in Syracuse, New York this April for their exceptional achievements. The fourteen awards made in 2023 celebrate unique leadership, dedicated community service, transformational visitor experiences, community engagement, and innovative programs that use collections to tell stories of everyone who calls New York home.  

    “New York’s museums and museum professionals are reimagining and reinventing their roles within their communities, how they interpret their stories and collections, and the visitor experience,” said Natalie Stetson, Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum and MANY Program Committee Co-Chair. “This year’s award winners are outstanding examples for the museum field.”

    “We were incredibly impressed with the quality and quantity of award nominations this year, which made the review process highly competitive,” said Clifford Laube, Public Programs Specialist at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and MANY Program Committee Co-Chair. “Museums and museum staff across the state are demonstrating creative thinking and are inspiring institutional change.”

    2023 Awards of Distinction Winners

    Excellence in Design

    This award acknowledges extraordinary achievement in design in three categories: Publications/Graphics, Media/Marketing Campaigns, and Exhibition Design.

    Publications & Graphics

    Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society

    ”WWI: The Home Front –Our Community Takes Action” Exhibition Catalog

    The catalog reflects how people on Long Island experienced the home front during the First World War. It is illustrated with primary source materials, newspapers, pictorial magazines, photographs, images, artifacts, and letters from soldiers. The designers color coded sections to correlate to the exhibition installation. 

    Media & Marketing

    NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center

    “Celebrating Harriet Tubman’s 200th Birthday”

    To celebrate and commemorate the bicentennial of Harriet Tubman’s birth, the City of Auburn, the Cultural Sites Commission, and the Equal Rights Heritage Center partnered with TGW Studio, Rochester, to create a unique logo and promotional materials including forty street banners placed along South Street in Auburn, eight billboards across the Finger Lakes, as well as digital and print assets.

    Exhibition

    The Wild Center

    “Climate Solutions”

    “Climate Solutions” is a 3,000 sq ft exhibition designed to change the dialogue and shift people’s mindsets about climate change. Constructed of upcycled and repurposed materials, the exhibition features hands-on interactives, multimedia storytelling, interactive learning, immersive experiences, and large scale portraits of individuals who are working on climate solutions. 


    Engaging Communities

    These awards celebrate organizations that use exceptional and resourceful methods to engage their communities and build new audiences. Awards are made based on the size of an organization’s operating budget.  

    Volunteer - $99,999
    Bird Homestead and Meeting House Conservancy
    “William Voris Archaeological Site Excavation”

    This project consisted of eight archaeological workshops for the public, organized and conducted by professional archaeologists that focused on excavating and preserving materials from the life of William Voris, one of the first Black entrepreneurs in Westchester County.  

    $100,000 - 250,000
    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance
    “Growing Uptown”

    “Growing Uptown” is a free, bilingual (Spanish and English) environmental program initiative of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum that benefits Upper Manhattan and Bronx residents. They have served more than 100 families with virtual and in-person workshops in partnership with New York Common Pantry, Green Thumb, and Root to Rise.

    $251,000 - 499,999

    Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art

    “Benjamin Wigfall and Communications Village”

    This first retrospective of Benjamin Wigfall’s art documented his early career in Virginia in the 1950s to his arrival at SUNY New Paltz as the first Black professor in its Fine Arts Department. In the 1970s Wigfall founded the community art space “Communications Village,” in a former mule barn in Kingston. The exhibition, created in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the related program series engaged multiple community organizations and attracted the largest attendance in the Dorsky’s history. 

    $1,000,000 - 4,999,999

    Burchfield Penney Art Center

    “LEROI: Living in Color”

    “LEROI: Living in Color” was the first museum retrospective of the work of internationally acclaimed artist Le Roi Johnson. The Museum partnered with Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, Just Buffalo Literary Center, and the Buffalo Public Schools. Partners developed responsive multimedia artworks including video projections, digital collages, sculptural installations, and poetry that brought voices of the next generation into important conversations around identity, community, culture, social justice, and the environment.

    Over $5M

    Intrepid Museum

    “Making History Accessible: Toolkit for Multisensory Interpretation”

    The Intrepid Museum partnered with New York University’s Ability Project to create “Making History Accessible: Toolkit for Sensory Interpretation” that offers a range of digital and physical/tactile solutions designed to improve and increase access, enjoyment, engagement, appreciation and understanding of historic sites through their spaces and collections for all audiences, but especially audiences with disabilities. As a joint research initiative with the Occupational Therapy Department and the Interactive Telecommunications Program, NYU’s Ability Project eliminates barriers for people with disabilities at the intersection of disability and technology.


    Individual Achievement

    The Individual Achievement Award honors a dedicated museum professional or volunteer that played a significant role in advancing their organizations. 

    Mia Certic

    Executive Director, Montauk Historical Society

    The Montauk Historical Society hired Mia Certic as its first Executive Director in 2020. She guided the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding its online presence, creating new school curricula, producing a virtual lighthouse tour, and designing new QR- code activated “History Spots” that allowed anyone with a smartphone to explore Montauk’s past. Certic expanded the museum team by creating two new full-time positions and summer internships for high school and college students. Certic also launched a capital campaign for restoration work to the Montauk Lighthouse Tower that raised $1.8 million in its first year. 

    Bill Merchant

    Deputy Director for Collections, Historian & Curator, D&H Canal Historical Society

    Over the last eight years, Bill Merchant has grown the D&H Canal Historical Society from an all-volunteer organization to a museum with two full-time and five part-time staff. Through his research, Merchant recognizes and shares the stories of historically marginalized peoples that were significant to the success of the D&H Canal. He expanded the Historical Society’s audience through outreach and virtual programs and played a significant role in the acquisition and restoration work of the building that is the new location for the D&H Canal Museum and the Mid-Hudson Visitor Center. 


    Rising Star

    The Rising Star award celebrates museum professionals with five years or less experience who think creatively, inspire change, spark innovation, and exemplify leadership. 

    Peter Fedoryk

    Curatorial Fellow, Preservation Long Island

    Since of July 2021, Peter Fedoryk has worked at Preservation Long Island (PLI) as a full-time Curatorial Fellow charged with the management of PLI’s The Art of Edward Lange Project, a collaborative, multifaceted initiative focused on the life and work of German immigrant and landscape artist, Edward Lange (1846-1912). In this position, Fedoryk created a pop up exhibition and initiated a partnership with the Town of Huntington to develop a “Looking for Lange” community scavenger hunt that encouraged the public to use a website to find the places Lange painted around town, and share their visits on social media. 

    Olivia Khristan

    School and Education Partnerships and Programs Supervisor, Corning Museum of Glass

    As the first staff member to focus on teachers and students Khristan quickly built relationships with teachers and the Corning community to champion DEI within and outside the museum. She chairs the Museum’s DEI Matrix Team and is a leading member of multiple DEI subteams. She is part of Diverse FLX, a group of emerging leaders from the community who work together to build a diverse, equitable, and sustainable future for the region. She is a board member of the Elmira-Corning NAACP, a member of the ED&I Committee of the New York State Art Teachers Association, and volunteers for the African American Read-In of the Southern Tier.


    Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership Award honors a museum professional who made significant contributions to the museum field or to their organization. Award winners are selected for their commitment to accessibility, equity, and inclusion, and their dedicated work towards community engagement, relevance, and sustainability.

    Neil Watson, Former Executive Director, Long Island Museum 

    Under Neil Watson’s leadership, the Long Island Museum reopened the History Museum, initiated a new outdoor sculpture program, and partnered with local organizations such as the Sunday Street singer/songwriter series and North Shore Pro Musica, to bring a chamber music series to the community. During Watsons tenure, the museum’s annual operating budget grew to nearly $3 million. Exhibitions during Watson’s career at the LIM include the Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island, the first major museum project to examine slavery from a Long Island regional historical perspective, Walt Whitman’s Arcadia: Long Island Through the Eyes of a Poet & Painters to mark the American bard’s 200th Birthday, and Fire & Form: New Directions in Glass.

    Prior to his nine-year stint as Executive Director at the Long Island Museum, Neil built a distinguished career as an artist and curator and held directorships at several other museums, including at the Katonah Museum of Art. Beyond his transformative leadership, Neil has impacted and aided museums and cultural institutions with dedicated service to the field. 


    Board of Directors Special Achievement Award

    The Board of Directors special achievement award is given to individuals or museum projects that deserve exceptional attention.

    Suzanne LeBlanc

    President, Long Island Children’s Museum

    For the past 18 years, Suzanne LeBlanc has been President of the Long Island Children’s Museum, where she has led the Museum to achieve national recognition.  When hired, Suzanne was charged with raising LICM’s national profile, expanding access and community engagement, and pursuing accreditation. As Suzanne prepares to retire from a 49 year career in the field, not only did she achieve those goals, but she did it while navigating three major challenges - the financial crisis of 2008, the aftermath of SuperStorm Sandy in 2012, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. With each of these challenges, she led with an eye on the big picture, and secured essential financial support, including $3 million in federal relief funds during the pandemic. In 2021, Suzanne led LICM through the American Alliance of Museums’ rigorous accreditation process.

    Throughout her career, she has been instrumental in the development and oversight of major initiatives which have addressed issues of diversity, equity, access and inclusion. Under Suzanne’s leadership, LICM was heavily involved in the development of a Cultural Competence Learning Institute and was in the program’s first cohort. This involvement and Suzanne’s commitment to DEAI resulted in a new Museum program, LICM4all, which serves visitors with disabilities and makes LICM accessible to all. Suzanne’s dedication to providing these community outreach programs led to LICM receiving the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2012. Other recognition awarded to LICM during her tenure includes the Education Partner Award from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services of Nassau County, the Excellence in Exhibition award from the American Alliance of Museums, the Neighborhood Builders Award from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and the Association of Children’s Museums’ Promising Practices Award. 

    Award winners will be honored during the 2023 annual conference “Finding Center: Access, Inclusion, Participation, and Engagement” at the Syracuse Marriott Downtown on Monday, April 17. 

    Awards of Distinction are supported by Hadley Exhibits, Inc.


  • January 30, 2023 9:16 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    I admit to being one of those people who perhaps overly prepares for winter in Upstate New York. We have a generator for our 200-year-old home because we live in a place where the power goes out. I have a “winter bag” with blankets, flashlight, water, and granola bars as well as a very large brush and ice scraper in my car. In the MANY office, we keep extra jackets on hand and cover the windows with plastic to hold back wind blowing off the Hudson River. 

    We learn each winter about weather-related disasters that have damaged museums, historic structures, and collections. I have spoken with museum directors dealing with flooded basements because nearby creeks overflowed their banks; fire and smoke damage because electrical systems were compromised, and roofs that caved under the pressure of snow or fallen branches. 

    Today I spoke with someone whose museum was damaged because of a water pipe valve failure. They lost their furnace, electrical and communications systems, program supplies, files, exhibits under fabrication, computers, and many historic artifacts. The building is closed for the foreseeable future. Their road to recovery will be long and will require substantial funding from a wide range of sources. 

    If you work at a museum and do not have a current emergency or disaster plan, please take the time to create a plan and train your staff, board, and volunteers to use it. A plan will help you face emergencies whether caused by weather or mechanical failure. Walk through collection evacuation routes and safe assembly areas for visitors and staff. Include a floor plan of your building and contact information for emergency responders and collections recovery services.

    If it has been a while since first responders and legislative representatives visited your museum, reach out and invite them. Find the leaders who represent community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis and invite them too. Last year I learned about fraternities and sororities who are dedicated to public service and offer their assistance in emergencies. If you are located near a university, see if there are any of these social organizations on campus and plan annual visits.

    The New York Capital Region Alliance for Response has great information on their website, including who to contact first in an emergency. They also have resources on disaster preparedness, disaster response, and free training webinars. The Getty Conservation Institute, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, and The Library of Congress also have free resources to help you develop a plan. 

    We are fortunate in New York to have several private, independent conservators and businesses that can help with disaster recovery. Not all disasters are preventable, but all are equally heartbreaking. MANY staff and board are also here to connect you to people who can help. 

    With thanks from someone who occasionally wears a belt and suspenders,


    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

  • January 30, 2023 9:15 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Andrew Saluti is assistant professor and program coordinator of the Graduate Program in Museum Studies at Syracuse University. Before joining the faculty of the School of Design, Saluti was the chief curator of exhibitions, programs, and education for the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Libraries (2016-17), and the assistant director of the Syracuse University Art Galleries and Collections (2010-2016).  

    Andrew collaborates with the diverse community voices and cultural heritage collecting institutions that populate both academic and professional sectors of the Central New York region. Together with colleagues, faculty, and students, Andrew considers equity, inclusivity, and accessibility core and vital aspects to museum practice and pedagogy. This commitment is reflected in the broad scope of teaching, mentoring, curricular design and professional practice that he facilitates, as well as through an ever-expanding network of emerging and established museum professionals from around the globe. He is an active member of numerous museum boards and advisory committees, including Vice President of the Board for the Seward House Museum.

    We spoke with Andrew to learn more about his career path, his advice to the next generation of museum professionals, and what he’s learned throughout his career in the museum field.


    Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an Assistant Professor at SU’s Museums Studies Program Coordinator?

    I’ve been very active on the Syracuse University campus in a variety of different capacities within their collections and within academic collections. I have also been teaching in Museum studies for the past 6 years as a full time faculty member. Before that I worked at the Syracuse University Art Museum for 14 years, working my way up to the role of assistant director.

    My background and degree are in printmaking. Syracuse University Art Museum’s collection has a very direct focus on works on paper. When I started I was a preparator. It was a job I loved. I was doing a lot of the installation work, and gradually moving up as the institution grew. I would also dive into other things. I have a little background in design work, so then exhibition design became one of my responsibilities. I later did more curatorial work, especially with the print collection and  took on more of a leadership role at the Museum. Until 2017, I worked closely with the Director of Special Collections, a new position was created within special collections, and I was promoted to Chief Curator of Exhibitions. I was able to be the guiding voice, directing the curatorial staff, and developing a vision for special collections exhibitions. Through my research at the Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center we found some very exciting things including a previously unknown Norman Rockwell drawing.

    Then my previous colleague and mentor, who was running the museum studies program retired. I decided that I would put my name in for the position not thinking that I would be hired but I was. I had been working in collections since 2002 and now took on the role of guiding the next generation of museum professionals.


    What other experiences in your career have you found most helpful for your role now?

    Even before becoming a faculty member, I was very active in museum governance. I was previously on the MANY board in 2015 which was my first time ever on a major non-profit board. I found it very fulfilling and went on to join the Seward House Museum board. I’m currently their Vice President. I’m also on the board of the Light Work Photography Center and now I’ve been able to rejoin the MANY board of directors. I’m also very active in an advisory capacity to other art institutions including Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia. 

    I have learned so much and really get excited about the importance of board work, especially with governance work. It’s found its way into my teaching quite a bit…including in classes like museum management and advocacy where we discuss the relationship between a director and board. I think it’s important and I get excited to share the experiences from my own board work with students who usually have not yet had that perspective. 


    What are some of the biggest motivations to do what you do? 

    As a teacher, it is all about students. It's about training that future generation, and it’s not always easy. It’s a challenging field but when you can inspire someone, teach them something that they can take into their first museum job or help open the door to an internship or new position it is really rewarding. There is a whole new landscape now for museum work, a whole new series of best practices, and new challenges that museum professionals are going to face. I really like being a part of that. I really do.


    What advice would you give to the next generation of museum professionals to know about entering the field? 

    I think how fast the landscape is changing for museums.. The biggest thing is to always be learning and to not get stuck. It can be easy to get into that automatic mode of ok this needs to happen today…this exhibition opens here, or this inventory has to happen here, or these objects need to be prepped, and you just get into that rhythm where your head is down and you’re getting it done. I want my students and others to have that space to keep thinking and asking questions. Is there a better way? Is there a new innovation? Is there something that I can bring to this? One of the things that I’m really proud of is that we don’t only teach the hard skills and soft skills that are core to our program but we’re also thinking about what could change.  What else is happening?  What can the next generation of museum professionals bring to the field?

    That is something that I think is important for any museum professional especially in 2023. There are a whole host of new opportunities, challenges, and tools. You have to remain open and be a lifelong learner. I don’t want to speak for everybody but it’s kind of built into our field, investing in our own professional development. Especially when we’re telling stories through objects or creating a program that gives new context. We, as a field, need to constantly explore and learn in order to meet the challenges of the next century. We need to think broadly and creatively. 


    Would your 18-year-old self imagine that you would be where you are today?

    No. My path, like so many others in the field, was very circuitous. I was going to go to art school, and I didn't know what I was going to do with my degree, but it's what I was always passionate about. I went to school to study industrial design but within the first few weeks I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Then I attended a lecture in the printmaking department about making books. I found myself really enjoying watching and learning this very technical thing. But then I had thoughts about my future. I thought well if I’m going to be in the arts, I’ll be an artist but I also wanted to teach. Which made sense since I come from a family of teachers. I chose LSU for my MFA because I knew that they were going to  commit to rigorousteaching that included an  assistantship with the program which excited me. I wanted to hone teaching skills along with my art making skills. From there I started doing a lot of gallery work, and I started to really like the process of building an exhibition and telling a story that way. I'm not an art historian. I may have taken art history, obviously, but that is not my that is not my background. That is not my skill. But I learned a lot going through that process during graduate school and that’s where I realized that I really love doing this. So I went on to be a preparator in a collection and worked my way from there.


    Can you tell us about where you grew up and what was it like growing up there?

    I’m from New England and I grew up on Cape Cod. I grew up in a town called Sandwich. It’s the oldest town on Cape Cod. Growing up, I didn't go to a lot of museums, but I was always very good at art, and that was really my passion growing up. My entire family was from the Boston area, and they were all teachers. I would go to the MFA Boston. 

    I really loved a lot of the local history centers. We have a wonderful glass museum in my hometown of Sandwich. Every time we go to the Corning Museum of Glass, I always point it out to my kids –you know that’s Sandwich glass right there. It's always present. It's always there. That idea of history, that idea of longevity and being able to live through history while you're growing up, in retrospect, was really influential. You don't notice it as a 16 year old, but you know that was really that had a lot of impact on me.


    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    I've been very lucky that in 2008 I was a part of the small team that organized the Michelangelo exhibition that came to Syracuse. This was curated specifically for Syracuse, and I designed that entire exhibition. It was that kind of holistic experience of what you hope this job is always going to be about. Yes, of course I'm going to go to Italy and get my inspiration for the exhibition and then come back and you see it realized in the museum space. It was a massive success and it started the Art Museum on campus on the path to where it is to today. It was one of those groundbreaking experiences.

    I’ve also had the opportunity to curate and to meet with quite a few people who have become really influential friends.

    There's a print shop on Long island called Universal Limited Art Editions, and I got very close, very active with them, especially with their master printer, Bill Goldston, and I did a couple of exhibitions with Bill. That's been a really important and impactful experience for me. I learned a lot about leadership and the importance of collaborations.

    Then there are those situations where you can bring students into the experience. I’d been working for a long time trying to write the catalogue for the artist Louisa Chase, who passed away in 2016. She was an SU alum, and was somebody I followed and started to work with over 10 years ago when we did a small exhibition in New York City. I had students writing labels and doing research. We brought them down to the reception, and we went to the IFPDA Print Fair in New York City. It was a moment where they could see how the research and label writing all came together to create this exhibition. It was definitely a ‘this is why I do this’ moment. 


    Has there been anyone who you’ve seen as a mentor in your career? If yes, can you share one piece of advice they gave you?

    There have been two important mentors in my career.

    The first is my predecessor in the Museum Studies program. He was the faculty member who ran the program since the eighties. His name was Dr. Edward Akin, or Teddy Akin. And what has always stuck with me that he said was that you do all this work, you invest yourself within a collection or a museum, but it's not yours. And he told me to remember that it's not yours. You are handing it off to the next director, to the next generation, to the next student and to the next. It was a little thing at the time, but it was actually he was helping me decide whether or not I wanted to continue at SU. He said, just remember that you do all of this work, and you pour yourself into your museum and your job, but it's not yours. It's for someone else, and that small nugget has stayed with me throughout my entire career. It was a really important conversation, because it changes the way you approach things, it changes the way you invest in the project or invest in what you're doing, but it definitely changes it. 

    The other person who was really influential was my first boss, the first director of the SU Art Museum, Domenic Iacono who is a print specialist. He really shepherded me and taught me the ropes of curatorship and managing a collection and museum space. 


    Why do you like living and working in Syracuse? And why do you think it might be important for museum professionals to attend the MANY conference?

    Syracuse is central and if you think about the history of Syracuse, you think about the Erie Canal being that central hub. We are rich with history. We are rich with creativity and innovation, and there's a wonderful community of people. One of the things that we're working on right now is a small exhibition that talks about Syracuse as a sanctuary. Syracuse is that place where people came historically to find their way, and I think that's a concept you'll see in our institutions like the Everson or the Erie Canal Museum. 

    There’s so much to do and to see. It's rich with history. It's rich with the arts, and I think that anybody who comes to the MANY annual conference in April will see how much Syracuse has to offer.

  • January 30, 2023 9:12 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In 2021, the National Park Service (NPS) selected the Bowne House to join the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. It is the first location in Queens to join more than 700 other sites admitted to the Network since the National Park Service founded the program in 1998. The Network to Freedom program reviews applications from sites, research facilities, and programs with verified connections to the Underground Railroad. The program was created via legislation titled the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998 to honor, preserve, and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight. 


    The Bowne House

    The Bowne House was the home to nine generations of abolitionists and prominent New York Quaker activists. Built around 1661, it is the oldest house in Queens and is the best preserved example of Anglo-Dutch residential architecture in the country. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated New York City Landmark. “We’re best known for John Bowne, the founder of the house and the patriarch of the family who emigrated from England in 1649 and his later non-violent protest against Governor Peter Stuyvesant –his courageous defense of religious freedom,” said Rosemary Vietor, Vice President of the Bowne House Historical Society’s Board of Trustees. “Recently, we’re focusing on the connection with the Underground Railroad and the Network to Freedom. The program designated us as a facility, not a site. The house originally had 400 acres, and within our archives we believe that we located a place where freedom seekers were concealed, but that site no longer exists. Therefore it is on the strength of our archives that we were awarded this designation.” 

    The Bowne House archives includes thousands of documents, letters, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, and more that span over 300 years, from 1661 to the museum’s founding in 1945. “Nine generations of the Bowne and Parsons families safeguarded the house and its contents,” said Charlotte Jackson, Archival Consultant to the Bowne House Historical Society. The archives offer a unique look into the history of the house, families, and community over the centuries. Many of the documents are original to the property and were carefully handed down through generations of Bowne and Parsons families. “We have almost everything in our archives that documents historically significant events,” said Veitor. “We have archival materials of the family discussing their views on the American Revolution as Quakers. They were reluctant to participate…some did and some didn’t. Others were involved in spearheading the move for public education in New York State in the early nineteenth century. Our archives are really like a repository of all sorts of different facts of Queen’s history.” Other stories that can be found within the archives are about horticulturists, political and religious leaders, artists and writers, and Walter Bowne, who was the 59th mayor of New York City from 1829 to 1833.

    “We don’t know precisely where the Parsons hid enslaved people seeking freedom so although Underground Railroad conductors definitely lived at the Bowne House, we cannot claim that the house itself was a station in the sense that freedom-seekers were sheltered within its walls,” said Jackson. The Parsons ran a nursery business and family farm that occupied over 200 acres. “It would have been more discreet to hide people in remote outbuildings or even in the woods and marshes adjacent to the Flushing Creek,” said Jackson. Most of this land was sold and is no longer part of the Bowne property. The property now belongs to the NYC Parks Department and to be designated as a site under the Network to Freedom rather than as a facility, the NYC Parks Department would need consent and involvement to apply as a site. “However, the Bowne House Historical Society still owns the museum collections, including the archives, so the Society was able to apply for status as a research facility.”


    Archives

    One of the documents discovered within the archives was a letter of introduction carried by a enslaved person seeking freedom which as Jackson describes was discovered by chance in 2016 during a research project on the Parsons nursery. It was the first documentary evidence that confirmed a long-rumored status of the Bowne House as a stop on the Underground Railroad. “Part of what made the experience so moving was that I didn’t discover the letter in a large university or government archive. The charm of the Bowne House is that due to the nine generations of continuous ownership by the same family, we encounter its collections –artifacts and documents– in the same setting where they were originally read and collected,” said Jackson. “I read the letter sitting in the very house where the letter had almost certainly been handed to and read by William Parsons and then preserved for decades.” 

    From the Bowne House Archives, Letter, S.S. Jocelyn to William Parsons, Sept. 28th 1850. 

    The letter is addressed to William Parsons, Esq. at Flushing and signed by Jocelyn with a request to care for a Person of Color and get him to safety but keeping him hidden before he can continue onto his journey east or north. Jackson notes that the signature was done by a shaky hand, so much that the document was mistakenly labeled “L.I. Jocelyn” when the museum inventoried the collection in the 1980s. L.I. Jocelyn was determined to be S. S. Jocelyn, short for Simeon Smith Jocelyn, a prominent abolitionist and social reformer and is also best known for his role in the Amistad Affair. The letter itself was carried by the freedom-seeker. “Knowing that makes the experience of handling this letter seem more intimate. But the letter still contains a mystery that likely will never be solved –its bearer’s identity and his story,” said Jackson. “The words ‘this is a strong case and great care and caution are required’ suggest a dramatic backstory, even by the standards of the Underground Railroad. It’s surprising to me that the Underground Railroad letter was preserved at all. Most such notes would have been discarded as soon as they had served their purpose—maybe even destroyed. After all, they constituted evidence of a crime and could potentially endanger all parties involved.”

    The Bowne House archives includes obituaries for Samuel and Robert Bowne Parsons that describe their long-term involvement in the Underground Railroad but any real time documentation was usually not kept nor advertised. “These activities were conducted below the radar and they did not publicize the work that they were doing,” said Vietor. “The Quakers were opposed to slavery early on where there was actually a prohibition against enslavement where if you did not free those you had enslaved, you were excommunicated.”


    Application Process

    The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom accepts applications twice a year (January and July) which go directly to the NPS Underground Railroad Regional Manager. The main components to the NPS Network to Freedom program are to educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad, provide technical assistance to organizations that are identifying, documenting, preserving, and interpreting sites, travel routes and landscapes related to the Underground Railroad or that are developing or operating interpretive or educational programs or facilities, and to develop a Network of sites, programs, and facilities with verifiable associations to the Underground Railroad.

    One of the principal objectives of the program is to validate the efforts of local and regional organizations and make it easier for them to share expertise and communicate with the NPS and each other. 

    “We reached out to the Regional Administrator as early as possible for guidance in understanding the application,” said Ellen Spindler, a Bowne House volunteer who led the application process. “I would encourage other applicants to start as early as possible, read the application, decide what category best applies since it impacts the kind of evidence required (site, facility, educational program), read the extensive instructions and map out a strategy of compiling all of the known evidence and how to research for additional information in support of the application.”

    Any element (site, facility, educational program) nominated to the Network must have a verifiable association to the Underground Railroad. These associations must be verified using professional methods of historical research, documentation, and interpretation. The supporting evidence must be documented in the application using specific citations that would allow the reader to recreate the research. “The instructions for the application describe the difference between primary sources, secondary sources, etc. and the weight which might be given to various kinds of evidence,” said Spindler. “We needed to include both historical and geographical information and a bibliography which took some time to compile, in addition to the other evidence. Geographical information and historical maps were quite important.” 

    To be nominated to the Network of Freedom as a Facility, the Bowne House had to exceed a minimum level of accuracy and professionalism. Under accuracy, the NPS attempts to ensure that the history of the Underground Freedom Network is portrayed accurately by members of the Network to Freedom. Therefore the source material on which interpretation and presentation of information are based must be precisely described in the application. Sources should include primary materials and should be as specific to the story presented in the program or facility as possible. 

    The Bowne House submitted three primary sources of direct evidence. The first was the letter describe above and “a letter of introduction of Robert Bowne Parsons, another Bowne resident, by Lewis Tappan, a well-known abolitionist, to Gerrit Smith, an Underground Railroad agent upstate, on a letter with an engraving of a kneeling enslaved person on it,” said Spindler. The third evidence submitted was a letter to Robert B. Parsons by the treasurer of the New York Vigilance Committee about his fundraising and safeguarding the funds for the organization in the Queen Library. The Bowne House also submitted obituaries about the third brother Samuel B. Parsons, who lived across the street after marriage, that describes in detail how he assisted in numerous escapes after hiding freedom seekers on his property. “We were very fortunate to have our archives and relevant correspondence preserved in books and other repositories, and newspaper articles/obituaries,” said Spindler. 

    Under professionalism, the NPS does recognize that many facilities and programs operate on a volunteer basis with limited resources. Therefore, rather than requiring professional qualifications for the staff, the Network to Freedom focuses on a professional approach to activities such as interpretation or curation that will indicate a high-quality presentation of the history of the Underground Railroad. 

    Another goal of the Network to Freedom is to increase public knowledge and understanding of the Underground Railroad, so providing access to information is a critical component of facilities. Facilities must demonstrate a willingness to share information with the general public and researchers. Facilities also must be able to demonstrate that key staff members have an appropriate level of training and a record of operations through a measurable output such as a past and ongoing production of a journal or reports. 

    “I was initially worried that having such a small number of items that directly relate to the Underground Railroad would be insufficient to qualify us as a facility,” said Jackson. “However, in our application I emphasized that our documents illustrate the broader context within which the Parsons made their decision to participate in the Underground Railroad.” In the Bowne Houses’ application to the Network for Freedom, it cites that while the Parsons did not make the decision to participate in a vacuum; their choice arose from nearly 200 years of lived experience and evolving Quaker philosophy which left traces in the archives. “Quaker descendants and scholars draw explicit connections between all these experiences and the Quakers’ anti-slavery activism, and our documents can illustrate such connections.”


    What’s next

    A year after the Bowne House received Network to Freedom membership, staff and volunteers continue to work to make their archives and research accessible to the public with a mapping project that will expand on the Brown House’s role in the National Underground Railroad and the Underground Railroad occurring in Flushing. In September 2022, the Bowne House received a grant from the National Underground Railroad to Freedom to research, identify, and map Underground Railroad networks and escape routes used by freedom seekers through relatively unknown channels of Queens and Long Island. 

    The project, Mapping the Underground Railroad at the Bowne House: Flushing & Beyond will document the museum’s ties to various Underground Railroad networks, the broader abolitionist movement, and other Black history sites throughout Queens and Long Island. “We want to map out the network of sites and other grounds that freedom seeks passing by the Bowne House would’ve used,” said Vietor. “This software will allow us to include archival media like photographs, documents, audio and visual recordings, and text to different locations as well as superimpose historical maps on present day maps.” This project will also allow staff to continue research in the museum’s archives, interview Black history scholars and New York City historians, and create multimedia programming including story maps and walking tours. 

    “This place is an amazing place,” said Vietor. “I knew very little when I got involved but you are always finding something. It’s remarkable and never static. It brings great joy to rediscover things that have been hidden. This house and its archives is a survivor and I’ll quote Margaret Mead (cultural anthropologist) “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

    Learn more about the Bowne House: https://www.bownehouse.org/ and read more about the archival document that was the first documentary evidence that confirmed a long-rumored status of the Bowne House as a stop on the Underground Railroad https://www.bownehouse.org/ticket-for-the-underground-railroad 

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