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Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility

In November 2020, the Museum Association of New York was awarded IMLS CARES Act funding to support museums in reaching their audiences digitally throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the Project Participants

Building Capacity focuses on increasing the technical capacities of museums and their staff by providing hardware, software, training and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. MANY is currently working with 178 museum professionals at 96 museums to build new technical and program development skills while sharing stories of their collections and communities. Museums of every budget size and discipline across all 10 REDC regions have created virtual exhibitions, walking tours, lecture series, video content, school programs, oral history projects and other digital projects to reach their audiences in new and innovative ways.

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Click here to view the entire project participant list

Capital Region

Transforming placed-based pedagogy to a digital format, participants at The Olana Partnership developed and piloted a new virtual school program to reach their audiences. Leveraging pre-existing and new technologies including Matterport, SkyCam, and Jamboard, these programs created unique, engaging learning opportunities that told new stories and connected OLANA to students’ lives. In the 2020-21 school year, project participants led 15 programs for 326 students and teachers. They served three schools’ entire fourth grade levels, and strengthened their relationships with local school communities. 92% of their programs were from neighboring Columbia and Greene counties.

Long Island

The Long Island Explorium partnered with Stony Brook University lecturer Qin Han and their digital art students to explore environmental issues through an artistic lens.The curated exhibit, A Visual Dialogue on Environmental Issueslaunched in Fall 2021 and received MANY’s Engaging Communities Award ($100,000 - $500,000). This work built a model for community sourced art exhibitions that intersect environmental issues and local community dialogues.


Studio Museum in Harlem partnered with Visual AIDS to develop and publish a digital resource page focused on sharing stories of “activism, belonging, care, leisure, and remembrance in Harlem during the AIDS epidemic.” The page includes an interactive map, oral history interviews, artwork and other resources, and invites community members to contribute to the project by sharing their own stories.

Western NY

Using an artwork not normally accessible to the public, Faith Ringgold’s Sunflower: Quilting Bee at Arles, the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts partnered with the African American Center for Cultural Development in Olean, NY in a virtual object based learning activity for sixth grade students to better understand the prominence of quilts in Black art and culture by making their own story quilt. Museum Educator, Sean Conklin, joined the class virtually for almost three months, leading students through lessons on story structure, emotional learning, art history, quilt design and construction.

Central NY

Introducing new perspectives into discussions on the Erie Canal, the Erie Canal Museum and Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center used Building Capacity to enhance their virtual program series, Erie Eats: Exploring Indigenous Foodways Along the Erie Canal. Reaching 316 virtual attendees across 6 programs, both organizations connected with new audiences while highlighting Haudenosaunee experiences. Program recordings have roughly 3000 views on Youtube.


Percy Grainger House embarked on a project to expand access to the Grainger instrument collection and historic house as a lasting space for musical innovation. Project participants created GLOSS (Grainger Library of Sampled Sounds), a digital sound library published under creative commons licenses. Currently hosting over 118 sounds, the library will continue to grow as more instruments are sampled. Sounds can be integrated into compositions and will be leveraged for composition workshops in schools.

North Country

Participants from the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site developed new skills in video and audio production to reach local and international audiences through new video content. While the US-Canada Border remained closed, staff at Sackets Harbor collaborated with the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada Bridge Annex as part of their 2021 virtual conference. Other video content produced using new technology highlights the staff, site history, historic preservation efforts, and local community events.

Finger Lakes

Diving into untold stories between the inductees into the Hall, the National Women's Hall of Fame developed and launched a new virtual program series called, Interwoven Stories. The series seeks to explore connections and relationships between various people, cultures and traditions that make our nation unique while reaching audiences across the country. In November 2021, NWHF hosted their first program on Harriet Tubman & Emily Howland and featured speakers from the National Portrait Gallery, Library of Congress and Howland Stone Store Museum.

Mohawk Valley

Using a stone monument in front of their building as a launching point, Arkell Museum & Canajoharie Library investigated the history of commemoration and memory connected to the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. With newly digitized collection materials tied to the 150th anniversary celebration in 1929, project participants developed a virtual program to spur reflection and dialogue in the area. 

Southern Tier

Project participants at Schuyler County Historical Society, utilized new technology including TASCAM recorders and iPad Pro to document and preserve oral histories in connection to their exhibit, Echoes in the Valley, focused on the Squires Junior Drum and Bugle Corps. Using social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube, they shared stories from the exhibit digitally and connected with a broader geographical audience. The oral history interviews and digitized photo collections can be found on YouTube where they have garnered over 1442 views.


“This was a huge growth year. We never previously offered virtual programs. Building Capacity trainings allowed us to live-stream/record all of our 2021 public programs. Our tiny staff works efficiently and creates work plans for projects, but circumstances still caused us to fall behind. This experience brought home the fact that some things are just beyond our control and we have to do the best we can do with what we have and accept that as success.”

–Sarah Kijowski, Slate Valley Museum

“Year one of this project has proven to be a difficult but rewarding journey. I had little experience in creating digital content, but in watching the workshops and trainings offered, I was able to expand my knowledge and feel more prepared to take the content being developed and create something digitally engaging with the new resources allocated to me."

–Samantha Mahoski, Hart Cluett Museum

“Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about new technologies and new strategies for creating virtual programs. Technologically, my learning has been focused on video filming and editing. Prior to this program, my experience was limited to the basic functions of iMovie. I have since become proficient in Adobe Premier Rush and now use the software regularly to create dynamic educational videos for a variety of asynchronous programs…I believe my new editing skills, paired with engagement strategies learned from Eli’s Story Structure workshop have helped us produce more engaging virtual programs.”

–Brenna McCormick-Thompson, The Whaling Museum at Cold Spring Harbor

“In the past, I have taken part in online course and workshops, but virtual meetings and live presentation in a virtual setting are completely new to me. I also really enjoyed hearing and learning from other institutions that are part of the grant. Going to the MANY Regional Meeting July was a great way to share our experience in creating a new project and story with our colleagues and to hear from the other institutions and what they were working on as well.”

-Kacey Page, Buffalo Museum of Science

“My goal has been to make the Arnot Art Museum a more inclusive space and this MANY grant has provided me with the tools and training necessary to begin this process. This year I sought to focus on reaching new audiences by launching new accessibility initiatives. I focused my learning on adopting accessibility best practices and how to use technologies to facilitate these efforts.”

-Natasha Bishop, Arnot Art Museum

“When we embarked on this project, my colleague and I set out to produce a series of collections-based programs that explore the intersections of racial justice and historic and environmental preservation. Our goal was to strengthen existing collaborative relationships and reach new audiences through a new digital format for programming. The tools provided to us by the Building Capacity Grant in the form of recording equipment, Adobe Audition sound editing software, and invaluable 1-on-1 meetings with Eli allowed us to achieve this goal.”

-Gabriella Leone, Staten Island Museum

By the numbers...Year One

97% museum participants reported that they built new digital skills

90% of partner museums have applied their technology and learning to create additional programs, improve internal processes and workflows.

17 site visits and 54 trainings delivered

MANY staff and contracted experts delivered 54 trainings virtually between January and September 2021. Trainings included introductory sessions on software –including Google Workspace, Zoom, Adobe Premiere Rush and Pro, and Photoshop and hardware– including the iPad Pro.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [CAGML-246991-OMLS-20]. 

About IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and related organizations. The agency’s mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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