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Read original articles written by MANY's staff about Resources, Community, and Exhibits/Collections. Check out the Letters From Erika to learn about what is going on here at MANY!

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  • April 28, 2021 12:38 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Map of 2021 State of NYS Museums respondents

    Dear Members, Colleagues, and Friends,

    When I looked out my window this morning, I saw maple leaves unfurling, sunlight on the river, and men fishing from small boats floating south on the falling tide. After living with uncertainty for so long, I have stopped trying to see beyond what is in front me while keeping the pursuit of a more inclusive, sustainable museum sector tied to my optimism for our future. 

    We await word from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Humanities New York, and the New York State Council on the Arts about the dispersal of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and the New York State Legislative Appropriations. Applications to the National Endowment for Humanities are due May 14. When we know more, we will share it with you. 

    With data from 207 museums in NY, we are working to create a picture of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our state’s museums. The top line data from the survey shows us that half of the respondents received PPP loans and a third lost full time staff in 2020. In 2018, 32% of the museums that responded to our survey reported closing their fiscal years in a deficit position. We are pleased to report that despite the financial impact of the pandemic, that number remains relatively stable with 37% reporting a deficit position in 2019 and 34% in 2020. Once we are done with the analysis, I believe that the data will show us a picture of a sector that is creative, resilient, and committed to preserving and sharing our state’s history, art, and culture.

    The two speakers for our May virtual programs– Rob Fields Former President & Executive Director, Weeksville Heritage Center and Hannah Fox Director of Projects and Programmes for Derby Museums, UK– prevailed and succeeded in the face of tremendous adversity by connecting deeply with their communities. On May 7, Rob will share how in 2019, he spearheaded a crowdsourcing campaign that raised over $700,000 to help save the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. On May 14, Hannah will join us from the new Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill, which will open to the public on Friday, May 21. Hannah will share the journey they’ve been on to embed co-production and human-centered design methodologies into a major museum development. 

    We hope you can join us on May 7 and 14 to listen and learn from these deeply passionate museum professionals who have much to share about how community partnership can secure and fuel a museum into the future.

    With thanks, e

    Erika Sanger

  • April 28, 2021 12:29 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Upon receiving a request for historical LGBTQ+ artifacts from a local Pride group, the Fenton History Center discovered that they did not have much in their collection. The Center then committed to build a community archive by crowdsourcing materials for the exhibition Protest and Pride: The LGBTQ+ Community in Chautauqua County. The exhibition, which opened on March 31, 2021, features stories and artifacts that document the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in Chautauqua County. 

    The Fenton History Center, photo courtesy of Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau

    Initiative to Document the LGBTQ+ Community in Chautauqua County

    In 2019, Fenton History Center Executive Director Noah Goodling was approached by Jamestown Pride who were looking to include a historical connection for their June Pride Celebration in 2020. “So I said sure, of course and went to the Fenton History Center to see what I could find on the LGBTQ+ community and found nothing,” said Goodling. “It was shocking. It was more than a simple gap, it was a complete absence.” Goodling decided that the Fenton History Center would build a community archive and exhibition dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community in Chautauqua County.

    Goodling began by attending Pride meetings. “I had to tell them that we [Fenton History Center] didn’t have anything in our archives but we wanted to start by documenting the planning and implementation of Pride 2020.” 

    He wrote two grants to support the project, a Humanities New York Action Grant and a Greater Hudson Heritage Network Creativity Incubator Grant (a grant partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts). “I wanted to have an exhibit that would help promote that we were seeking donations to our archives for LGBTQ+ stories and artifacts,” said Goodling. 

    Community Support

    The Fenton History Center received in-kind support and volunteer help from a number of local organizations including Jamestown Pride, the local PFLAG chapter, the Mental Health Association, Preservation Works/HOPE Chautauqua, the Jamestown public Market, the Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown City Historian, local news stations, individual professors from SUNY Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia, and more. “Many of these organizations came to us to ask how they could help before we even thought to get them involved. It was one of the things that made this project special, and helped me feel that we were on the right track in serving our community.” Fenton History Center’s Curator Victoria Parker also played a key role in executing the creative and technical aspects of the exhibition. 

    Crowdsourcing the Exhibition

    “In the beginning, we were focusing on documenting the planning process for Pride 2020 but because of the pandemic, we had to shift,” said Goodling. After Pride 2020 was canceled, the exhibition shifted to focus on all of the interviews Goodling conducted throughout 2020 and into 2021.

    “Our goal was that we wanted to be sure that we represented as many people as possible from the LGBTQ+ community and allies,” said Goodling. “We wanted to have a mosaic of different voices and by talking to a number of different people, we‘ve put together a chronology of experiences from the early 20th century to present day about what it has been like to experience being part of the LGBTQ+ community in Jamestown.” 

    The Fenton History Center continues to receive donations for the collections and the exhibition.  Goodling hopes that with the opening of the exhibition, more people will donate and share their stories. “We’re starting to get some more supplemental things and we’re hoping that it’ll continue to grow,” said Goodling. Donations include written stories, audio recordings, videos, photos of places and events, and physical items. One person donated their wedding dress. Another Jamestown resident wrote a poem based on her experiences in the LGBTQ+ community. A professor at SUNY Fredonia offered to create an interpretive dance to reflect on his own experiences. 

    “Part of what I wanted to do with this project was to open it up, maybe further than we usually would, with what we were collecting. There’s all sorts of ways that people connect with being LGBTQ+, so we wanted people to contribute something that is representative of how they have connected with their identity.”

    Reaching and Engaging New Audiences

    Since the start of this initiative, the Center has reached new audiences. “We have stronger partnerships with LGBTQ+ groups and we have new school groups visiting us to see the exhibition,” said Goodling. The other week a class from Jamestown Community College that is studying the intersection of identity and gender identity visited the exhibition. “There is a whole new group of people that we are reaching; before, they just didn’t have a reason to associate with the museum.”

    Goodling wants this exhibition and archive to educate people and help strike down prejudice. “I want to get a community dialogue going and get people thinking in new ways by introducing them to different aspects of their community that they might not have thought about before or even encountered.”

    Protest and Pride exhibition entryway

    Identifying Priorities

    “We’re a small museum with a small staff and limited resources,” said Goodling. “Some people might be intimidated by a project like this or choose not to do a project like this because they think that it’s going to take up too much time or that it might not give them a return on investment.” In terms of taking up a significant amount of time, Goodling says yes, but this project became a priority for the Center. “It’s something that we chose to focus on and I would encourage other museum professionals like us to ask themselves; are we doing work that is just supporting a narrative that is already in place and reaching the same people? Or are we doing work that is pushing our organization forward by asking our community to consider new perspectives?”

    Learn more about the Fenton History Center: https://fentonhistorycenter.org/
  • April 28, 2021 11:08 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Shortly after New York’s cultural organizations closed to the public due to the pandemic, Dr. Sarah Litvin, the Director of the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History, reached out to Sarah Wassberg Johnson at the Hudson River Maritime Museum to discuss how local museums might help each other promote digital programs and resources or even create a new digital projects. Several history museums and historic sites in the Kingston area came together to form the History Alliance of Kingston, a collaborative group that shares local history through events and activities that reflect and promote a deeper understanding of the diverse social and cultural history of the Hudson Valley.  

    The Beginning 

    In May 2020, Litvin contacted Kingston area organizational leaders Troy Ellen Dixon at the African Roots Center and Jane Keller at Friends of Historic Kingston. “I was interested to see if they wanted to do something together,” said Litvin. “I reached out to a couple of folks because I was so new and I was lucky enough to get the support of people like Jane Keller who is so well connected and respected. She reached out to her network and I thought okay, this was really going to happen.” 

    A core group of seven to nine people representing the same number of organizations meets every week over Zoom: The Reher Center, D&H Canal Historical Society, Century House Historical Society, AJ Williams-Myers African Roots Center, Ulster County Archives, Senate House State Historic Site, Hudson River Maritime Museum, and an independent contractor. “It’s pretty remarkable to have this many come every week.”

    Map of participating organizations on the History Alliance of Kingston’s website

    Joining the Alliance is fairly organic. “You show up, share your skills or resources, and contribute,” said Litvin. Not all museums or historic sites participate every week and some only join for one meeting. “We want to connect organizations together to form new partnerships and share resources so we try to be as flexible as possible. We all have a piece of it [the Alliance]...whether it's history knowledge or specific skill sets. We can all contribute.”

    A key goal for the group is to include the public in local history activities. Group members assist each other in the promotion of events, shared or separate. “We really like working together,” said Litvin. “We came up with community agreements and we’ve been meeting with each other once a week for almost a year.” 

    In early meetings, the group discussed three potential ideas for collaboration: combining forces by merging Zoom lectures into one local history series, creating a mobile app for a Kingston history walking tour or creating a local history digital scavenger hunt. “The last one really stuck,” said Litivin. In order to accommodate as many people as possible who might be interested in the scavenger hunt, the Alliance launched an in person and a virtual hunt. 

    Hudson Valley History Hunt

    The concept for the Hudson Valley History Hunt was to promote local history to the public in a new way and help participants discover online collections where they could learn more. The first hunt focused on historical figures in local Kingston cemeteries, Montrepose Cemetery, and the Old Dutch Church Cemetery.  A series of clues guides participants to find specific gravesites on the History Alliance of Kingston’s website. Some clues are linked to further information about the person. The D&H Canal Historical Society’s YouTube Series: Virtual Museum Episode 8  includes information on the gravesite of Louis Hoysradt, a paymaster for the canal. Once a grave is located, participants can take a photo and share it to social media tagging #hvhistoryhunts.

    “There was no literature about Montrepose Cemetery and no signage despite the fact that some very important people are buried there,” said Litvin. “We included key people that can help the public understand the history and diversity of Kingston. We brought together the story of a famous planter with a Jewish immigrant baker and an African American chauffeur. Each of these people and their stories could not be told by any one organization and this became the model for future programming.”

    Promotion for the Hudson Valley History Hunt

    The History Alliance of Kingston also created a Map Hunt to promote Kingston’s historical buildings and a Q&A Hunt in which participants had to answer a series of questions using online resources to help find the answers. 

    The Black History Project of the Hudson Valley Collaborative Research Project

    The History Alliance of Kingston’s next (and ongoing) project is their Hudson Valley Black History Research Project. The Alliance is designing a digital guide to compile existing Black History of the Hudson Valley resources and collect new ones for researchers and the public. This effort builds upon ongoing work done by the region's Black community including Dr. AJ Williams-Myer’s research, the creation of the African Roots Center, the Conference on Black History in the Hudson Valley, and other community projects. “Too little has been written about the Black history of our region, and our institutions did not consciously collect or catalogue items focused on these stories,” says a written statement on the Alliance’s website. “Now, as our member institutions independently undertake Black history research projects and respond to requests from researchers who are eager to learn more, we decided to pool our resources in an effort to share the source materials that can help tell a more complete story.” The History Alliance of Kingston wants to make these resources available and more accessible for researchers and the public.

    The Alliance announced this project to the public via a Zoom presentation as part of Black History Month in February where they shared an early draft and the start of their resource collection.

    “Part of the February presentation was us also sharing work in progress about Black History that we’ve been researching. That was something that the public was most interested in hearing more about,” said Litvin. “We were so focused on creating this resource and it was great to hear that the public wants to also know more about the history itself.” About 60 people attended the presentation. “Our goal was to share the idea, share why we’re doing it, and ask the community for their support and participation.” 

    Ultimately, the Alliance hopes to create a resource guide where the community also contributes. “It’s an ongoing project,” said Litvin. “We’ve identified what we need to do next, but it’s going to be a long term project.”

    Strength in Partnership

    The History Alliance of Kingston created an ecosystem to provide support and share skills. “We (the Reher Center) received funding from the Hudson River Greenway to create outdoor signage that tells a people’s history of Kingston’s Rondout neighborhood and I probably had five members of the Alliance review the signage text,” said Litvin. “The D&H Canal Historical Society loaned me images to use as well. I have learned so much from my colleagues.”

    Zoom screenshot with a few History Alliance of Kingston Members discussing their Hudson Valley Black History Collaborative Research Project in February. 

    Upcoming plans and Goals for the Future

    Since January, the group has been offering a biweekly column about local history in the online news service KingstonWire. Starting this month, the group plans to add more clues several times each month to the Hudson Valley History Hunt via their Facebook page. They are also working together to cross-promote each others’ sites and events through rack cards and a digital calendar.

    “My hope for the History Alliance of Kingston is that it is a mechanism to tell a more holistic story,” said Litvin. “I can’t speak to the structure and future of this specific organization but the legacy I hope will be to put together small pieces into a tapestry that really tells a rich socially, culturally, and diverse narrative of what happened here. The D&H Canal Historical Society knows everything about the canal, but the canal workers lived in the Rondout so I can share that piece of history. The Friends of Historic Kingston know so much about architecture and can tell the story of why the canal workers lived in these types of housing in the Rondout and the significance. That type of filling in the gaps requires humility and curiosity. I think that’s what organizations need, curiosity and humility, in order to work together.”

    Learn more about the History Alliance of Kingston: https://www.historyallianceofkingston.com/ 

  • April 08, 2021 9:28 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Pomeroy Fund for NYS History, a partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and Museum Association of New York (MANY), awarded an additional $50,000 to 14 history-related organizations to assist with urgent capital needs projects.

    In this highly competitive fourth round of urgent funding, 167 museums and historical societies submitted applications to support projects such as window replacements, new HVAC systems, technology upgrades, roof repairs, and accessibility for people who use wheelchairs.  

    ”This was an overwhelming response from history organizations, which underscores the incredible need that remains across New York State,” said Deryn Pomeroy, Director for Strategic Initiatives at the Pomeroy Foundation. “Capital improvements are essential to help these important organizations reopen and stay open.”

    “This round helped us see the vast challenges New York’s museums face in the wake of deferred maintenance, limited municipal investment in cultural properties, and the deep financial setbacks incurred through pandemic related revenue reductions,” said Erika Sanger, MANY Executive Director.


    Pomeroy Fund for NYS History round four grantees (listed alphabetically):

    Association for a Buffalo Presidential Center will create an educational space within the museum and will use funding to purchase media technology, chairs, tables, a speakers’ podium, and presentation easels to equip the museum for programming for adult and youth audiences.

    Candor Historical Society will expand accessibility to its research center with the purchase of a computer to send monthly newsletters and a document scanner to digitize the collection.

    Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society, Inc. will extend its collection digitization project with a new scanner and computer to offer greater numbers of archival materials on their website.

    Franklin County Historical and Museum Society will upgrade access to archives and collections that will allow staff and volunteers to provide virtual programs to the community.

    Friends of the Three Bears, Inc. will upgrade their technology to better record visitor statistics, capture and store images, allow for on-site donations, and improve outdoor programming with pop-up tents, chairs, and an outdoor A/V system.

    Heritage Foundation of Oswego County, Inc. will complete a rehabilitation project of their structure with a roof replacement that will allow for the installation of new digitization equipment and reopen the space to the public for educational programs and services.

    Historical Society of Saratoga Springs (DBA Saratoga Springs History Museum) will improve their popular virtual programming with the purchase of a new camera, iPad, and computer.

    International Percy Grainger Society/Percy Grainger Society will complete the restoration of the first floor of the Percy Grainger House with the renovation of the dining room to allow the museum to strengthen interpretive tours and programming space.

    Madison County Historical Society’s side porch roof was heavily damaged in an ice build-up from 2020 winter storms. The Historical Society will use funding to repair interior and exterior water damage and install a sealant to prevent future damage.

    Roosevelt Island Historical Society will purchase a printer, scanner, and computer to continue to reach and engage its audience with a daily publication, From the Archives, and virtual programs. 

    Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy Inc will improve public access to the historic Saugerties Lighthouse by constructing a boardwalk extension. The lighthouse is located in the tidal estuary of the Hudson River and the boardwalk is prone to tidal flooding, making access to the lighthouse impossible during high tide.

    Spencerport Depot and Canal Museum is updating and expanding its museum exhibitions and will purchase new frames for exhibitions, a microcomputer and TV mount to create engaging visual presentations for museum visitors, and a computer and kiosk stand for an interactive kiosk.

    The Westhampton Beach Historical Society will complete access to the front entrance of its circa 1735 Foster-Meeker House, the oldest remaining structure in the community. Funding will allow the Historical Society to create a walkway and handrail for public accessibility that will make the structure a usable public space.

    Wilmington Historical Society will purchase new technology including a laptop computer to help volunteer staff to digitize the collection and increase efficiency for entering data as well as creating digital copies of documents and photographs off-site with a portable wand scanner.


    The Museum Association of New York and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation are proud to partner in creating the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History, which has rapidly distributed $197,808 to 83 history-related organizations across New York State.


    #  #  #


    About the Pomeroy Foundation 

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. One of their initiatives is helping people to celebrate their community’s history. They meet this by providing grants to obtain signage in the form of roadside markers and plaques. Since 2006, they have funded over 1,300 signs across the United States, all the way to Alaska. Visit: https://www.wgpfoundation.org/

    Twitter: @wgpfoundation

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WGPFoundation

    YouTube: William G. Pomeroy Foundation

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/william-g-pomeroy-foundation


    About MANY

    The Museum Association of New York inspires, connects, and strengthens New York’s cultural community statewide by advocating, educating, collaborating, and supporting professional standards and organizational development. MANY ensures that New York State museums operate at their full potential as economic drivers and essential components of their communities. Visit https://www.nysmuseums.org

    Twitter: @nysmuseums

    Instagram: @nysmuseums

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysmuseums

  • March 31, 2021 9:05 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Student Installation, Teacher's College, Columbia University, April 8, 2017

    Dear Members, Colleagues, and Friends,

    At an exhibition opening almost twenty years ago, I was chatting with a group of people when a woman I didn’t know asked me what I did all day while my husband was at work. When I replied that I was the director of education at the museum; her face broke into a big smile and she said that it sounded like I had the best job because I got to spend my days making art with children. I smiled back and agreed that was part of the job, unsure of how to make the real answer comprehensible. Her comment was a familiar disconnect between what many people think museum professionals do and what our jobs actually encompass.

    Around the time of the abovementioned exhibition opening, the Oxford American magazine was in crisis. They were losing readers, sponsors, advertisers, and donors and eventually they were forced to stop publishing. When the magazine found a new home, its rebirth embraced all of Southern culture, no longer relegating the contributions of people of color and native nations to the last paragraphs of articles about musicians, chefs, writers, artists, and preservationists. They gained new sponsors, supporters, and a much bigger following.

    A legislative aide recently told me that museums don’t have a lot of friends in Congress. His comment launched a cycle of thoughts about how we might take a page from the lessons learned by the Oxford American to help us recover from the multiple crises we face and make more friends. I believe that we need to find a better way to make museums and the work of museum professionals comparable and comprehensible so that when a legislator questions federal funding for museums, we can clearly articulate how museums are essential components of our communities and valuable contributors to our economy.

    Part of the solution will be found in the ways we choose to move forward. Last week someone asked how a museum was supposed to fight racism, sexism, gender bias, and discrimination when their deficit was growing and their access to earned revenue was cut off by pandemic restrictions. I responded that I thought the fight for inclusion, equity, access, and social justice offers a path toward sustainability, that we have the opportunity to take action to create the future we want to see.

    In the past five years I have read innumerable mission statements, vision statements, statements of need, and statements of solidarity. I remain unsure that these successfully communicate why our museums are important to our audiences and funders. Today I would be able to say to the guest at the opening that I work with teachers, artists, families, and community leaders to make the museum a significant part of their lives. I could have offered insight into my work without going into the details of planning meetings, grant applications, and budgets.

    With the data shared by colleagues in our 2019 State of NYS Museums and Covid-19 Impact surveys, I am learning how to tell the story of NY’s museums in compelling ways by comparing our museums to other non-profit sectors and sharing the ways in which we make a difference in our communities. If you haven’t contributed to the 2020 State of NYS Museums survey yet, click here to participate and help us tell the stories of NY’s museums more inclusively.

    With thanks for your support, 

    Erika Sanger

  • March 30, 2021 2:25 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    There is a saucepan that is slightly dented from the nightly 7 o’clock clapping sessions to thank the health care workers in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pan was one of the first objects included in the Museum of the City of NY’s New York Responds exhibition. More than 20,000 objects, photographs, artworks, and stories were submitted through  the Museum’s open call for items that help to reflect on the changes and challenges of life in New York City from March through August 2020. These items document and interpret the COVID pandemic, the uprising for racial justice, and how New Yorkers fought to cope, survive, and build a better future. 

    Inside the main exhibition space. Photograph by Brad Farwell, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    Rapid Response

    “We wanted to start quickly,” said Sarah Henry, Deputy Director and Chief Curator for the Museum of the City of NY. “It was important for us to document for the future and also play a role of service in the crisis itself.” The Museum has been collecting for almost 100 years and has done public and responsive collecting before, including open calls for exhibition objects around historical and contemporary events like Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Wall Street, and September 11. 

    On July 23, MCNY unveiled the first phase of New York Responds, an outdoor installation featuring 14 images that were submitted as part of ongoing collecting efforts. This outdoor exhibition captured the early days of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. “There was a powerful sense when we were creating the first phase of this exhibition,” said Henry. The Museum built upon the outdoor installation in the summer to open the full exhibition in December. “We included a phrase on the outside of the building, ‘history is happening now’ and it was palpable that this was living history and a moment like no other.” 

    Collecting and Exhibiting

    There were two parallel processes: collecting for the Museum’s permanent collection and selecting items for the exhibition. Lindsay Turley, Vice President of Museum Collections, wrote the collecting plan and led the museum’s collecting efforts to review crowdsourced items and targeted outreach. “We were accepting submissions not only through the open call but also through email,” said Henry. “[Turley] contacted people and other institutions about offering items for the collection.” 

    As Chief Curator, Sarah Henry planned the exhibition with her curatorial team and reviewed the items that Turley was accessioning into the museum collection or considering. “Separately, my colleagues and I went through the submissions from the open call. At the end it was a combination of items that were solicited for the collection or in some cases had been promised gifts. We also borrowed and licensed materials that were not being considered for the collection, including my team approaching artists about lending for the exhibition.” Both processes intersected with one another but the selection for either the museum collection or for inclusion in the exhibition remained independent.

    A pan used during the nightly 7 o’clock clapping for healthcare professionals. Meyer Corporation, c. 2015, Museum of the City of New york. Gift of Majorie Rothenberg, 2020.16.1. Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York. Photography by Brad Farwell.

    Open Call

    In addition to objects that were nominated through the open call, more than 18,000 posts were submitted using the hashtag #COVIDStoriesNYC and more than 5,000 using #ActivisitNY on Instagram. “We had our marketing and communications team work with our photography curator and social activism curator to help monitor and review these hashtags throughout the year,” said Henry. Marketing and Communications and curatorial staff selected highlights to re-post on the Museum’s social media channel. Curatorial staff also monitored the hashtags to either include them into the collection or for consideration for the exhibition. 

    Among the photos that made it into the exhibition is of a window, full of toilet paper rolls titled “Toilet Paper Hoarder” submitted by photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel. Another is a photograph of the question, ‘what is essential?’ graffitied onto the side of a wall captured by Russ Rowland. Included in the exhibition are the photographer’s reflection who recalled how strange it was to see how few people were outside despite it being a beautiful day. “It was a people-less vision of NYS I’ve only seen during snowstorms in the middle of the night. It was strange, and kind of a delight.”

    Ruben Natal-San Miguel, Toilet Paper Hoarder, Manhattan, NYC 2020 

    Courtesy of the photographer

    There were physical objects too that were submitted including a COVID pinata.“Early in the pandemic the New York Times posted instructions of how to make a pinata of the COVID virus to bash at home,” said Henry. Material items like these reflected on how New Yorkers endured and coped with the pandemic. “Coping became one of the themes of the exhibition.” 

    Masks were also submitted and included in the exhibition. “Masks became a big interest and so for the exhibition we were able to represent artistic uses of masks as pieces of self expression and personal protective equipment.” There is an N95 mask from the collection of the Mount Sinai Health System and a hot dog face mask. The hot dog face mask was a People’s Choice Award winner at Maskie Awards in Coney Island, and was donated to the Museum’s permanent collection by Suzie Sims-Fletcher. 

    Masks on display [far left] an “Enough Is Enough” face mask, –Sheila Stainback / CAMBA [bottom] a face mask used by counselors for the Greenwich House Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program, courtesy of Sally Young/Greenwich House [top] Suzie Sims-Fletcher, the HOT DOG! Mask- Gift of the artists; and [far right] N95 face mask from the Mount Sinai Health System Collection. Photograph by Brad Farwell, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    Three plywood artworks were loaned to the museum for the exhibition.These were part of a massive art project launched by Art 2 Heart and SoHo Social Impact, transforming the neighborhoods of SoHo and NoHo into an “open-air museum.”

    Entrance to the exhibition. On the left hand side you can see the three plywood artworks on loan to the museum. Photograph by Brad Farwell, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    Items like hand sanitizer produced from a Brooklyn distillery illustrated the different ways that manufacturing pivoted to provide materials. “There’s an improvised ventilator made from a respirator by medical personnel at The Mount Sinai Health System that reflected things that medical personnel had to do in order to do their jobs and serve the people affected by the crisis,” said Henry. “Items like these were sometimes mundane in their physical appearance but powerful in the stories they captured.”

    Above is the improvised ventilator made from a respirator by medical personnel at The Mount Sinai Health System. Photograph by Brad Farwell, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

    Targeted Outreach

    “We tried to be open minded about the criteria in order to see what themes were emerging,” said Henry. “As people were submitting, we began to create a rubric of what was being brought forward and began to see patterns. When we saw people nominating things in a certain genre, we wanted to make sure it was represented in the exhibition.” Some themes like “Art as Response” and “Masks” emerged organically, others like “Mutual Aid” that focuses on New Yorkers who launched initiatives to help their communities during the pandemic and “The New Normal” that illustrated empty streets and playgrounds, required more targeted outreach. 

    Sébastien Vergne[In the absence of city resources, volunteers from the community group Echoed Voices clean up their Greenpoint neighborhood] July 2020 

    Courtesy of the photographer 

    “We created a concept document of what were the stories that we wanted to make sure were represented so we could then do further outreach and make sure there were materials representing those stories even if it hadn’t come through the open call,” said Henry. 

    The Museum invited a jury of twelve people to make selections and recommendations for the exhibition. Jury members represented a range of backgrounds and perspectives of the city from across the five boroughs. 

    “We wanted to keep it [the jury] small so that they could really talk qualitatively with each other and just have a voting process with a majority rule,” said Henry. “We wanted jury members to have a substantive conversation.” The jury also looked for what was missing. 

    “We would use their comments to go out and look for other materials to tell stories that they felt should be represented but weren’t present from the crowdsourced items,” said Henry. During the first meeting, the jury discussed issues such as the demonstration at City Hall that felt very iconic. “So we went back into the social media streams to look for materials that captured that moment.” 

    Other things like portraits of essential workers did not emerge from the open call. “We did a targeted outreach to fill that gap. It was kind of like a dialectic process between following the crowd sourced materials and letting themes emerge organically versus identifying thematic gaps in what people were bringing forward but were still important to include. People definitely gravitate to certain kinds of images to share on social media but there were other things happening in the city that people weren’t thinking of to submit.” 

    Moving Forward

    The Museum of the City of NY made the exhibition available online in its entirety. It is organized into 19 thematic sections including an interactive timeline. “The timeline originally covered the first six months and was only available to those who visited the exhibition,” said Henry. The timeline, curated by Azra Dawood, the Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, was expanded to capture the entire year and can be viewed on the museum’s website. “It weaves together the stories of COVID and the movement for Black lives in a powerful way.” More than a year after the pandemic began, the Museum continues to mark important anniversaries. 

    Francesca Magnani [Juneteenth protest crossing the Brooklyn Bridge] June 19, 2020 

    Courtesy of the photographer 

    The Museum continues to collect stories through an oral history project in partnership with StoryCorps that allows people to submit their experiences online. Stories are saved at StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. 

    “We know that this is a really important story for our city and the world where central characteristics of urbanism were brought into question,” said Henry. “The Museum of the City of NY is dedicated to the past, present and future of the five boroughs of NYC and urbanism. We know that we are going to be contending with the repercussions of these events for years to come.”

    Explore New York Responds online: https://www.mcny.org/new-york-responds-online

  • March 30, 2021 2:22 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is a 50-acre site overlooking Canandaigua Lake that features gardens, a historic mansion, and a greenhouse complex. Sonnenberg’s Queen Anne-style mansion was built in 1887 and is the former summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. Mary Clark Thompson’s utility garden produced food that was donated to the Ontario County Orphanage and Thompson Hospital for decades. In the past six seasons, Sonnenberg has donated over 6,000 pounds of fresh produce to the local community. 

    Lasting Legacy

    The utility garden is formerly the kitchen garden and is in the area of the mansion grounds that was the working end of the farm where all of the food was grown. “Mrs. Thompson has a garden here that she used to feed people in need in Ontario County,” said Executive Director David Hutchings. “We’ve reinvented that starting back in 2010 or 2011 with replicating Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden.” By 2015, Sonnenberg then moved on with a revamping of Mrs. Thompson’s utility garden. “The garden today is 70 by 100 square feet with raised garden beds to help make the garden accessible for day camp participants from the ARC and YMCA.” Sonnenberg utilizes its historic greenhouse to display its horticultural collections and grow thousands of annual and perennial plants and vegetables each year. The 13,000 square foot greenhouse maintains its original frame and is climate controlled year-round.

    Community of Volunteers

    “The garden is planted each year with volunteers,” said Hutchings. Pat Hutchings, David’s wife, is the lead volunteer and designer of the garden. Other key volunteers include David DeMallis, Jun Lui, Kerry Mette, Laura Mauser, and several others including workforce development program personnel. In addition to being Sonnenberg’s Executive Director, Hutchings is also the Horticulturalist, overseeing all the gardens. 

    Before COVID, other volunteer groups included parishioners from the Church of Latter Day Saints. In the early days of COVID, student interns from Finger Lakes Community College helped plant the garden. During the pandemic, Nate Wendroff was awarded his Eagle Scout Merit Badge as he led his troop with many COVID-19 safety restrictions to help plant the garden for the 2020 season.

    Feeding the Community

    The seeds are donated by Seedway and All-American Seed Selection and the planting begins in March in the greenhouse and then in the ground each May. The food is harvested in the summer through Thanksgiving. “In the summer we harvest squash, eggplant, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers, herbs, beans, and corn,” said Hutchings. Flowers are also grown for visitors to enjoy and as a companion crop for natural pest control. “The herbs from the garden are grown and used at the specific request of Gleaners Kitchen to enhance the fresh flavoring of the meals made for the community they serve.” 

    In 2020, Sonnenberg donated nearly 1,000 pounds of produce to Gleaners Kitchen to meet the 90 meals per day as well as donating to the Zion Church which recently opened up a county-wide food bank. Gleaners Kitchen is a community kitchen that opened in Canandaigua in 1987. It takes the name “gleaning” from the act of collecting crops leftover from farmers’ fields after a commercial harvest. “One of the cool things is that any leftover produce at the end of the week is included in the other end of the week leftovers for people to come and take,” said Hutchings. “Now there are fresh vegetables to go with it so we’re rounding out people’s diets for those who need it.” Gleaners Kitchen partners with Wegmans and Tops grocery stores to receive food donations that would otherwise go to waste.


    Sonnenberg received support from The Mary Clark Thompson Community Health Grant which previously funded the site’s wheelchair accessible greenhouse work area and multi-level handicap work benches. Other funding partners include the Canandaigua Rotary, the Sonnenberg Garden Club, and Walmart Community grants. “The Canandaigua Rotary donated $3,000 for an updated irrigation system. We’re grateful for the community’s support.”

    Future Goals

    Sonnenberg recently received funds for their restoration project for the West Display Greenhouse to make the space safe for visitors. The greenhouse, called Gardenia Greenhouse, will become an educational area greenhouse for students to work with their local schools to develop science programs at Sonnenberg. “We have six greenhouses and we’re trying to use all of them,” said Hutchings. This grant will help with the operational sustainability of the greenhouse that is currently not utilized because of physical deterioration. 

    Hutchings is also looking to partner with area colleges to further develop their Horticulture Program. “We are continuing to be the only institutions in the Finger Lakes introducing a Vocational Therapeutic Horticulture Program for continuing education,” said Hutchings. “Area colleges like Nazareth and FLCC are exploring how to develop this aspect of their horticulture field.” 

    Sonnenberg is one of just two public gardens in the New York State Parks system. “In 2021, we plan on donating another 1,000 pounds of fresh produce and continuing the legacy of the Thompson and their property to the local community,” said Hutchings. “We feel like we are fulfilling the lasting legacy of the garden’s original purpose.”

    Learn more about Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park: https://www.sonnenberg.org/

  • March 30, 2021 11:03 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Federal Funding

    MANY thanks Senate Majority Leader Schumer for including museums in the Shuttered Venue Operating Grants and non-profits in the March 2020 CARES Act, the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA included additional funding for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) which now totals over $16B in funds available. It also added $7.25B for the PPP program and extended the application deadline to May 31. The SBA will begin accepting SVOG Applications on April 8. Eligible museums may apply for the PPP prior to applying for an SVOG as they await the application. The SBA would then reduce any SVO grant award by the PPP amount received.

    The ARPA also included $135M each for the NEA and the NEH; application portal will open in late April. Humanities NY and NYSCA will soon announce how they will distribute those funds allocated to them for regrants. $178M of the $200M allocated to the IMLS was directly distributed to State Libraries. The NY State Library received $6.2M; they also received $1.7M in CARES Act funding. We await guidelines on distribution of remaining funds and are monitoring the IMLS website. 

    Representative Paul Tonko (NY 20) is circulating a letter in the House of Representatives in support of robust funding in 2022 for the Office of Museum Services at the IMLS. The request is for $80 million in FY 2022, an increase of nearly $40 million, including $2.5 million to fund a pilot project to establish a museum Grants to States program that could parallel the long-established Library Grants to States program. The request also includes a waiver of required matching funds for grants in 2022 and to once again allow OMS grants to be used for general operating funds.  

    The deadline for Representatives to sign is Friday, April 16.

    In 2020, sixteen of NY’s Representatives signed onto the OMS letter. The four representatives below are the only ones from NY to have signed on as of March 24. 

    Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19)

    Joseph Morelle (D-NY-25)

    Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21)

    Paul Tonko (D-NY-20)

    Please help us secure more signatures from NY’s Congressional Representatives. The easiest way is to use the AAM’s template to ask your Representative to sign on before the April 16 deadline. 

    New York State Funding and COVID-19 Restrictions

    MANY commends members of the Assembly and the Senate for including significant funding to arts and cultural organizations, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquaria, in the 2021-2022 budget. But as I write, the negotiations between the Governor, the Assembly, and the Senate continue and final allocations will not be known until the budget is passed.

    Budget proposals included in the Assembly and Senate one-house bills provided an additional $100M to NYSCA for grants to non-profit cultural organizations and $10M for the Arts and Cultural Facilities Improvement Program to provide facility enhancement grants to arts and cultural organizations, administered by NYSCA. 

    The Assembly budget also included $100 million for a new Arts Recovery and Revitalization Program. This public arts initiative will assist with reopening efforts of various arts organizations, employ artists and others in the creative economy, and provide financial support for the conversion of new outdoor venue spaces.

    MANY has been working with legislators to update the COVID-19 capacity restrictions imposed upon NY’s museums which have not been substantially revised since June 26, 2020. The recent announcement that capacity restrictions on arts and cultural venues can increase to 33% on April 2 established a conflict within the guidelines that apply to museums. A theater or event space in a museum can accommodate 33% capacity, but the galleries in the same building remain limited to 25%. We have requested an increase in occupancy levels to 50%.  

    A 25% capacity restriction at museums is a capacity restriction on every community that depends on museum visitors to thrive and limits the community’s ability to move towards economic recovery. Be it Cooperstown, Corning, Rochester, the Adirondacks, or Jamestown, these communities cannot recover until the museums can welcome more visitors. The limit on museum capacity limits traffic to local retailers, eateries, hotels, craft beverage producers, and secondary activities like golf that depend on the draw of the bigger institutions to bring visitors into their communities. 

    Social distancing, mask wearing, adequate space, and thorough cleaning procedures have allowed museums to ensure a safe indoor environment. The air exchange systems in most museums are filtered with MERV 14 filters and the air is exchanged more than 6 times an hour. 

    With a loss of more than 75% of earned income and fewer than 10% of NY’s museums securing PPP, EIDL, and direct federal agency funding, one in four NY museums are in danger of permanent closure without an increase in capacity as soon as possible. 

    In 2020 New York’s museums continued to serve audiences virtually despite being closed to the public with educational resources, lectures, digital access to collections, and interpretive programs. Without an increase in capacity, 65% of museums envision further layoffs and cutbacks in public service. 

    NY’s largest museums are already turning people away on a daily basis. The majority of people surveyed by the American Alliance of Museums, Culture Track, and ArtNet intend to visit museums as soon as they are able. They believe that museums are safe and play an essential role in their communities. 

    As the number of people in NY who have received vaccinations increase, the number of people who feel safe to visit museums will increase. Continuing to suppress museum gallery capacity will increase financial losses beyond the point of sustainability.

    Look for more to come as we try to effect positive change for our museum community. 

  • February 24, 2021 12:22 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Museum Association of New York to Accept Online Applications Beginning February 24 

    Troy, N.Y. — The Pomeroy Fund for NYS History, a partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Museum Association of New York (MANY), will provide $50,000 in grants to assist 501(c)(3) history-related organizations with capital needs expenses in 2021. MANY will accept applications through a portal on their website starting on Wednesday, February 24.

    In this fourth round of the Pomeroy Fund, a total of $50,000 will be distributed for capital needs in individual grants not to exceed $5,000. Grant requests will be considered for technology equipment, facility maintenance equipment, furnishings, major material purchases, renovations, refurbishments, remodeling and rehabilitation. If your organization received funding from the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History in 2020, you are eligible to apply, but preference will be given to those who have yet to receive funding.

    Eligible organizations must be a history-related organization located in New York State and have an annual operating budget of $150,000 or less.

    Pomeroy Fund applications will be accepted through Monday, March 22. Funding notifications and assistance grants will be issued in April 2021.

    “The first three rounds of the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History granted over $147,000 to 69 history organizations across the state,” said Bill Pomeroy, Founder and Trustee of the Pomeroy Foundation. “However, an urgent need for further support remains during these difficult times. In response, we are opening a fourth round of funding to make additional financial support available to these irreplaceable assets in our communities.”

    “In 2019, more than half of the history-related organizations with budget sizes under $150,000 indicated in their response to the State of NYS Museums survey that they were located in a historic structure,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director for the Museum Association of New York. “These small organizations located in historic structures, as well as those in more recently built museums facilities, have unique capital needs that are not being met by other funders. We are grateful to the Pomeroy Foundation for their ongoing support to help meet the needs of these organizations.”

    To begin an application starting February 24 or to learn more, visit the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History webpage at: https://nysmuseums.org/Pomeroy-Fund-for-NYS-History/


    Grant applications will be reviewed by a panel that includes MANY Board members, MANY staff and Pomeroy Foundation staff. Grants are available to all qualified organizations; an organization does not have to be a member of MANY to receive funding, nor will preference be given to MANY members.


    #  #  #


    About the Pomeroy Foundation

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. One of their initiatives is helping people to celebrate their community’s history. They meet this by providing grants to obtain signage in the form of roadside markers and plaques. Since 2006, they have funded over 1,300 signs across the United States, all the way to Alaska. Visit: https://www.wgpfoundation.org/

    Twitter: @wgpfoundation

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WGPFoundation

    YouTube: William G. Pomeroy Foundation


    About MANY

    The Museum Association of New York inspires, connects, and strengthens New York’s cultural community statewide by advocating, educating, collaborating, and supporting professional standards and organizational development. MANY ensures that New York State museums operate at their full potential as economic drivers and essential components of their communities. Visit https://www.nysmuseums.org

    Twitter: @nysmuseums

    Instagram: @nysmuseums

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/nysmuseums

    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/museum-association-of-new-york

  • February 23, 2021 12:37 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear MANY Members, Supporters, and Colleagues,

    I’ve had an awful case of cabin fever for a couple of weeks and I know I’m not alone. The past year has left those of us who have dedicated their work to the museum field tired, isolated, and grieving. 500,000 Americans have died, an estimated 30% of New York’s museum professionals lost their jobs, and our physical and mental health has deteriorated. The vaccine is the hope on the horizon, but I am concerned that in our haste to recover financially, we will lose the opportunity to make the changes necessary to reach our audiences with relevant content whether they are on site or in their living rooms, to deepen our role as essential community partners, and to develop a workforce that reflects all New Yorkers. 

    Lately, a friend is texting me things like “did you read that awful thing about that museum on Instagram?” And since I consume museum social media omnivorously, I can usually reply, “yes, I did.”  In return, my friend texts something like, “do you remember when we had to leave work by the loading dock so the major donors at the party in the lobby wouldn’t see the staff?” and “when they threatened to fire me if I didn’t come to work when my child was in the hospital.” As young white women entering the museum field, we were taken advantage of by older colleagues in positions of authority, but were told our mis-treatment was the price we had to pay to work in museums. The dues we paid are small compared to the intolerance and racial bias people of color continue to face as they advance their museum careers. 

    As we prepare to launch the State of New York State Museums survey, we asked colleagues to contribute questions. The most frequently submitted question was “How are museums addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce?” Over the next decades, the demographics of New York are going to change. We will become older and more racially and ethnically diverse; crossing the line to become “majority minority” by 2035. Although we are already one of the most diverse states in the nation, we are far from immune to disparities by race, ethnicity, and geography in access to resources of all kinds. Museums need to prepare today for tomorrow by bringing more voices to the planning table, and finding ways to sustainably diversify staff and audiences. 

    To help New York’s museums move from intent to action, I am proud to share the news that MANY’s board of directors has approved the launch of a New York Latinx Museum Professional Network later this spring. The light of earlier sunrises, later sunsets, initiatives like this, and your support for MANY’s work brings me hope for a better year ahead. 

    With thanks for your support,

    Erika Sanger, MANY Executive Director

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The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. We provide advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

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

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