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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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  • 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

  • February 23, 2021 11:29 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    By Miranda Peters, VP of Collections & Digital Production, Fort Ticonderoga

    Like museums across the country, Fort Ticonderoga prioritized virtual engagement over the past year to remain connected with our stakeholders and audiences throughout the pandemic. Over this time, we launched and expanded the Center for Digital History, and tackled numerous practical, technical, and methodological challenges along the way. Recently, Fort Ticonderoga Museum staff discussed their practical tips and lessons learned creating programs for an online audience, developing a virtual studio, sharing videos on social media, and engaging with educators in a webinar. You can watch the full webinar here (and discover why tip #3 is so critical 6 minutes and 45 seconds in). This webinar is suited for museums who are new to virtual programming, or who want some real-world advice as they seek to expand their reach. Below are a few takeaways from the program.

    1. Make a plan

    You have to think through why you want to virtually engage with your audiences. Is this just a short-term solution? Something your institution has been planning for a while and will continue after the pandemic? Who are your audiences and what are their needs? Fort Ticonderoga’s strategic plan set forth goals to increase access and awareness and expand educational impact.  This work began in earnest in 2019 when we invested significantly in a new website and made museum collections accessible on-line for the first time.  This foundation made it feasible to launch the Center for Digital History in 2020.  Thanks to Covid-19, staff were able to take the opportunity to pivot time and resources from the front-line on-site experience to invest heavily in developing on-line program content.  

    2. Who are your audiences? Invite them to participate!

    Once you have a new program developed that you think is ready for launching, invite others to participate in a dress rehearsal. Fort Ticonderoga staff invited educators, volunteers, co-workers, and family members to watch their programs and solicit commentary. It can be hard to receive constructive criticism, but getting feedback results in a stronger program in the end. Really thinking through programming with educators led to staff delivering programs beyond the 9-5 workday so more teachers could attend after school.  

    3. Have a moderator! 

    All things in moderation—or in this case—all things moderator. Fort Ticonderoga staff discovered very quickly that it is essential to have a moderator for every live virtual program they do. The moderator is there to let guests in from the virtual waiting room, reply to any discussions in the chat box, oversee the tech-side of the program, lead tech-tests 30 minutes before a program begins to ensure good connectivity, lighting, staging, etc. Having a moderator ensures that the person who is delivering the program can focus on the content. Depending on how you set up a program, the moderator can also be the voice of the audience during moments where there is feedback from the chat box, or during a Q&A session. 

    4. Equipment

    You don’t need to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to deliver engaging live virtual programming. Tech gadgets don’t make the program—YOU do. The basics you need to have if you or your institution are new to virtual programming are: 

    • A reliable internet source. This can be a strong WiFi signal, or ethernet connection. 

    • A camera. The video for your program can come from multiple sources, including a cell phone, laptop, or desktop with webcam. 

    • Good lighting.  Good lighting directly correlates to better video quality during a program. A very clear overhead light or some lamps that you can find in your house or in your office to set up so that you have clear lighting

    • Good audio. Make sure that the microphone that your computer or phone has is close enough to the person delivering the program that the audience can hear them clearly. 

    5. A virtual sandbox for experimentation 

    Fort Ticonderoga uses both Facebook Live and pre recorded videos that we share on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, primarily. For Facebook Live, we created a private Facebook page for staff to be able to practice the process of going live, and for sharing feedback and tips. This was especially vital as we practiced going live while sharing PowerPoint presentations, or when testing out new locations where we weren’t sure of the internet quality. It takes the pressure off of making technical mistakes in front of a large audience. The team also develops a schedule every month for digital programming that is shared through the website and with media outlets. Each month the team revisits lessons learned from the previous month and can experiment with new ideas or refine existing ones.

    6. Be kind to yourself

    Expanding digital engagement can be hard. Fort Ticonderoga spent years prioritizing hands-on tactile experiences and shifting that to a screen was a difficult process. In-person programs don't necessarily directly translate to a virtual audience. There isn’t the same energy or real-time feedback from speaking to guests in a room with you. Take breaks, try to remain positive, and think about your end-user. Your virtual program can reach people who need museums now more than ever. You are doing a great job and you can do this!    

    Fort Ticonderoga’s approach isn’t simply digital or on-site – it’s an integration which will continue far into the future beyond the current constraints of the pandemic. In fact, a site visit is an extension of the digital engagement which has tremendously expanded this year. We see this moment in time as an opportunity to embrace new opportunities, learn new ways and methods to engage, and test concepts to better serve our audiences. 

    For any questions about the Center for Digital History or the webinar, Fort Ticonderoga’s staff are available to assist.

    Miranda Peters, VP of Collections & Digital Production, mpeters@fort-ticonderoga.org

    Stuart Lilie, VP of Public History, slilie@fort-ticonderoga.org

    Matthew Keagle, Curator, mkeagle@fort-ticonderoga.org

    Rich Strum, Director of Academic Programs, rstrum@fort-ticonderoga.org

    Kaitlin Long, Museum Education Coordinator & Fife Major, klong@fort-ticonderoga.org 

    The “From Fort to Screen” webinar was made possible through the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES Act grant. 

  • February 23, 2021 9:52 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Located on Albany’s South Pearl Street, Historic Cherry Hill is a 1787 wood-frame structure that was home to five generations of the Van Rensselaer family. Its last resident, Emily Rankin, bequeathed her house and its thousands of artifacts and documents that spanned three centuries to “the people of New York State.” The house opened as a museum in 1964, a year after her death. For the past twelve years the site has undergone an extensive $2 million restoration to preserve the historical structure and is now undertaking a NEH CARES Act grant funded project to digitize and interpret more inclusive stories of underrepresented narratives and perspectives. 

    Historic Cherry Hill, photo courtesy of Discover Albany

    Structural Issues

    Staff began seeing evidence of facilities deterioration in the 1990s and brought in a structural engineer to help with the assessment. The engineer discovered that while the house was likely designed to hold about 30 pounds per square foot in the attic space, it was now holding an excess of 100 pounds per square foot. The weight was coming from the 70,000 collection items stored on-site that were threatening the museum’s largest artifact, the house itself. To save the house, the engineer recommended relocating the collection to another structure. 

    Historic Cherry Hill under restoration. Photo courtesy of Historic Cherry Hill

    “We’re a tiny museum, so the idea on how to accomplish this was a bit mind blowing,” said Deboarah Emmons-Andarawis, Historic Cherry Hill Director. “But the staff and board were on board and were able to raise the fund needed to build a collections center that opened in 2003.” 

    The Edward Frisbee Center for Collections and Research is a 3,500 square foot state of the art facility with environmental controls. Historic Cherry Hill received IMLS funds to improve the management of and access to collections by upgrading the museums’ collections database. With the move of museums’ historical objects, manuscripts, textiles, books, and photographs into this new space, both physical and digitally accessibility for staff and researchers became a possibility. “Once the Center was opened and the work of moving collections over to that new space began, it opened up new opportunities to make our collection accessible to students and researchers that wasn’t possible. Once most of the collections were moved out of the attic, it was at that point that we were able to consider undertaking how we fix this [the house]. It’s been a decade in the making.”

    Inside the Edward Frisbee Center for Collections and Research. Photo courtesy of WAMC.

    In 2012, Historic Cherry Hill received $575,00 from the National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” Challenge Grant as part of an initiative to strengthen public access to the humanities that not only included funds towards the restoration of the house, but also to an endowment for the curatorial and research department. “Gaining intellectual and physical control of the collection was such a big endeavor,” said Emmons-Andarwis. 

    The museum received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts to:

    work with an architect and structural engineer to plan for the interior repairs and restoration based on the findings of an existing conditions survey 

    • restore thirty three windows, 

    • address the environmental issues within the structure, and

    • reinstall 1,863 objects and furnishings within the historic structure–including paintings, prints, photographs, wall-mounted cremains, carpets, and furnishings. 

    Collections Relocation and Accessibility

    With the relocation of the collection and improvements to the museums’ collections database also came a discovery of collections items long stored away. 

    “One of my big moments of discovery when I was curator was when we were immersed in moving the textiles from the historic house to the collection center. We were dealing with infestation issues when we saw this 18th century textile, made in India that was a wow moment for me,” said Emmons-Andarawis. “It was this magnificent morton dyed piece and it was just hidden away in a trunk for many years. It was pristine because it was packed away for so long.”

    The creation of the collection center supported the museum’s efforts to serve a broadening audience of users and its transformation into a center for the study of American social, political, and economic history. 

    “Because we’re a small staff, [this relocation project] consumed most of our resources,” said Emmons-Andarwis. Access to the collections was through in-person visits and now, during the pandemic, by appointment only. The massive project of digitizing the collection only happened recently. “It was a project that was, ironically, possible because we are in a pandemic. There was this extra funding source available and we were able to take advantage of that.”

    Staff on-site re-installing furniture. Photo courtesy of Historic Cherry Hill.

    Opportunity in a Pandemic: Digitizing the Collection

    In June 2020, the NEH announced $40 million in CARES Act Grants to support essential operations for cultural institutions across the country. Historic Cherry Hill was awarded $30,000 for the retention of two staff members to expand remote learning opportunities about African Americans at the historic site. The project, “Historical African American Experiences at Cherry Hill: Lessons for the Digital Age,” focuses on slavery and emancipation and 19th and 20th century African American siblings who were taken as orphans in the mid 1800s and occupied a “quasi-family” status as servants and wards of the Van Rensselaers. 

    “We were aware of some really wonderful collections that have and had been wanting to learn more about these stories for sometime but were looking for the opportunity for the right grant,” said Emmons-Andarwis. “When we originally conceived how we were going to tell these stories, it was not going to be digital. We were going to work on school programming and imaging on-site programs. When the NEH CARES opportunity came up, it seemed obvious that the right way of focusing on these stories during the pandemic and this historical period that we find ourselves in was exploring them digitally.”

    Staff began photographing and digitizing historical objects and documents belonging to these siblings including toys, photographs, letters, and other ephemera all intended to expand on their neglected lives. 

    Training session with consulting digitization librarian Jennifer Fairall and interns working to digitize Historic Cherry Hill collections on Black life including scanning and transcribing letters, assigning metadata, and marking the connections between Cherry Hill and the broader world. Photo courtesy of Historic Cherry Hill

    “It was a very fascinating relationship that we were aware of but it was an opportunity to explore more of the stories related to these siblings and there was a lot there,” said Emmons-Andarwis. A series of papers associated with one of the siblings emerged, William James “Jimmy” Knapp who resided at Cherry Hill over sixteen months over four years from 1880 to 1884. Knapp was a musician, a piano tuner, and worked in a music store. He also was a composer and some of his sheet music was published locally across today’s capital region including Troy and on State Street in Albany but most of his work was published in major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. “We were able to piece together most of his life because he was the most documented of all of his siblings. We have his letters, which are a big part of this collection and about 150 pieces of his sheet music.” Emmons-Andarwis initially believed that staff would be digitizing 200 or so documents associated with Knapp and his siblings, but currently staff has digitized more than 600. “It’s exciting about where we can take this project next and going further to contextualise these stories. These are the stories that are not well documented elsewhere.”

    Staff has uploaded hundreds of this digitized collection to NY Heritage for public access, created a 3D model of the house, and is currently developing teaching prompts. “A key part of this project is creating tools for teachers to use these digitized collections in their classroom.” In 2018, the museum evaluated its school programs. The museum partnered with Claudia Ocello of Museum Partners Consulting to conduct an evaluation of past and existing programs and launch an online survey of hundreds of kindergarten through Grade 12 teachers in the Capital Region and conducted focus groups with teachers from public and private schools. One of the main recommendations from the evaluation was the creation of inclusive, hands-on programming using primary source materials to make local connections to larger historic events, including the perspectives of African Americans and women. “Many of them articulated that they wanted local resources that they can use to talk about slavery and African American history. We’re thrilled to be able to answer that request.”

    One short term goal that the museum has is to continue to build more digital and virtual programs. “We’re working on some school programs in addition to the NEH funded resources. We have worked to convert one of our outreach programs called the Cherry Hill Case to a virtual program,” said Emmons-Andarwis. In the Cherry Hill Case, students work in groups to investigate the lives of household members using educational props. The virtual program will use new research to better represent the makeup of the household and perspectives of its members using recently digitized collections. 

    Re-Interpretation and Vision for History Cherry Hills’ Future

    Before the pandemic forced the Historic Cherry Hill to close its physical doors to the public, restoration work had already interrupted on-site tours. “I think that having to stop giving our core tour forced us to explore other things and other stories,” said Emmons-Andarwis. 

    Historic Cherry Hill was awarded $46,979 in federal funds from IMLS’s Inspire! Grants for Small Museums for museum staff to work with a consulting interpretive planner, designer, and evaluator to develop a new interpretation plan. “Our main goal is to present a story that is more inclusive of underrepresented narratives and perspectives,” said Emmons-Andarwis. Early on, the museum recognized the importance of immigration in Albany as a key theme of the house’s history as it related to Catherine Rankin’s story, but not all perspectives were presented in that theme. “It was all told from Catherine’s perspective and how she experienced the change in her community. We strive to create an emotional connection and critical distance, but what we are really keen on is making sure that our interpretation is told from many different angles.” The new plan will incorporate insights from a newly formed Community Advisory board, audience research, and a panel of interpretive specialists and scholars. 

    Emmons-Andarwis and Education Coordinator Shawna Reilly are both project participants in the Museum Association of New York’s IMLS Building Capacity Project who are utilizing the resources and training to develop more content and share more perspectives into the main narrative of Historic Cherry Hill. “That’s what we’re finally after all this research and digitization,” said Emmons-Andarwis. “To be able to really build out those perspectives that wasn’t possible before.”

    Learn more about Historic Cherry Hill: https://www.historiccherryhill.org/ 

    Explore their digitized collection on NY Heritage: https://nyheritage.org/contributors/historic-cherry-hill 

  • February 23, 2021 9:18 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    By Aaron Bouska, Secretary, Coalition of Living Museums

    From the Buffalo Zoo to the Old Westbury Gardens and everywhere in between, the Zoos, Botanical Gardens, and Aquaria (ZBGA) line of New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) directly supports essential staff caring for living collections of 95 zoos, botanical gardens, nature centers and aquaria in every corner of NY State. Now in its forty-third year, the ZBGA program is unique to the Empire State and thanks to the State Assembly and Senate, the program has thrived and the benefits to New York residents have multiplied. 

    NY Botanical Garden Conservatory, photo courtesy of NY Botanical Garden

    Despite the program’s successes, living museums now face a State budget challenge. The SFY  [State Fiscal Year] 21/22 Executive Budget proposes a $300M EPF, a dedicated source of funding for dozens of programs like ZBGA that are critical to protecting clean water and air, preserving open space, creating jobs and preserving the State’s environment. For reasons that are not clear, the Executive Budget also disproportionately cuts the ZBGA appropriation by 19%, reducing the statewide fund from $16M down to $13M.  

    A $3M cut to ZBGA may result in proportionate cuts to each grant recipient—a reduction too severe for any non-profit organization—even in the best of times. Like every cultural organization and non-profit, living museums face unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety of staff and visitors always comes first, but essential staff need to care every day for living animals and plants—one cannot just quarantine the palm trees in the basement until the pandemic passes.

    Animal Encounter at The Wild Center, photo courtesy of The Wild Center

    Living museums have proven they are safe experiences for the public and families by enforcing behavior that science has shown to be effective – social distancing, outdoor experiences, and mask wearing. Yet one year into this crisis, living museums remain subject to an outdoor 33% capacity restriction. This capacity mandate, while understandable in the early days, severely restricts earned income while keeping us from welcoming more families seeking safe activities in the outdoors. 

    Red panda cubs at the Utica Zoo, photo courtesy of the Utica Zoo

    Here are just three reasons why restoration should be a priority: 

    1. Restoring ZBGA to $16M helps keep living museums accessible to the public at a time when families need outdoor experiences:

    New Yorkers yearn for safe outdoor experiences as evidenced in the audiences welcomed since our collective re-openings in July. Local residents want a curated experience, with timed entries and capacity limits that keep their family safer than alternative outdoor experiences without such controls and safeguards. We receive appreciation every day for our enforcement of mask wearing, social distancing practices, and careful, daily monitoring of our employees’ health. 

    Access to safe green space, particularly in urban areas, is an issue of equity and fairness. Our visitors are often our neighbors, many of whom are not able to travel to one of our magnificent State Parks. In staying close to home, many also experience large crowds and the lack of safety enforcement in our municipal park systems. Even though living museums’ earned income has been curtailed by the 33% capacity restriction, all of us have created new programs for reduced or no-cost admissions.  In short, botanical gardens and zoos help to meet demand for outdoor space at a time when New Yorkers’ mental and physical health need the extra boost resulting from time outdoors. 

    2. Restoring ZBGA to $16M maintains employment and fuels local economic development:

    Living museums provide more than quality environmental education and uniquely beautiful tourist destinations; they are strong economic engines during difficult times.  Leveraging ZBGA funding awarded through a competitive grants process, living museums employ more than 210 full-time and 2700 part-time New York State residents and generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the State in tourism dollars and economic development.    

    Institutions like the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, the Utica Zoo, and the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center on Long Island are core to stabilizing local economies by providing good paying jobs and supporting local businesses. Wildlife Conservation Society and the New York Botanical Garden both have a major economic impact upon the Bronx and New York City – generating significant amounts of employment, purchasing goods and services, and drawing visitors and visitor spending to the city. This impact benefits not just the private sector, but also generates substantial tax revenues through sales and income tax receipts from employees. 

    3. Restoring ZBGA to $16M maintains quality environmental literacy programs statewide:  

    While living museums advance their missions by helping to breed and protect endangered species, addressing the impacts of global climate change, and fighting the spread of invasive species, we are most proud of educating and inspiring thousands of public school teachers and millions of school children, literally growing the next generation of conservation stewards. It is not a stretch to say that living museums are the state’s heartbeat of ecological literacy. Critical to the goals of the EPF, living museums educate the next generation of conservation stewards and create an informed electorate that values and understands the severe threat to our planet posed by climate change. 

    In the time of COVID, living museums have pivoted to providing rich, educational experiences online for classrooms and teachers. Education has not stopped, and audiences have expanded for our free online activities for children and families. 

    Living Museums are extremely grateful to the NY Assembly and NY Senate for growing and protecting this program over the last decade. Now is the time to maintain this historic investment, and we are very grateful to have leaders like Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Senator Todd Kaminsky, Senator Jose Serrano, Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell leading restoration efforts in the Legislature.

    If you are interested in helping to restore ZBGA, you may take direct action by visiting: https://secure.wcs.org/campaign/tell-albany-restore-nys-zbga-funding?ms=M_REF_ADV_13_F02_2102-NYS-ZBGA-CLM

  • February 23, 2021 9:07 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Corning Museum of Glass has been part of a globally popular Netflix series, Blown Away for two seasons. For former Senior Creative Director Rob Cassetti, the show’s popularity is not a surprise. Cassetti originally pitched a live glass blowing demonstration as part of the museum’s public programming thirty years ago and it quickly grew to be one of the museum's most popular experiences. Now the Corning Museum of Glass is part of a prominent glass blowing competition series that features expert glassmakers from the museum. The grand prize package includes a residency in the museum’s Amphitheater Hot Shop. For Cassetti, the show is a culmination of innovative public programming in his career and his efforts to connect people to the world of glass blowing at Corning.

    On the set of Blown Away. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Glass blowing as part of the museum experience

    “I never imagined that I would join the museum staff,” said Cassetti. In the mid 1990s, he was working for Corning Incorporated and was recruited as Project Manager to develop exhibitions  for a massive museum expansion project. “It was a major multi-million dollar project and in my mind I was going to work on this project and then go on to something else.” The project included new gallery space, a science center, and the development of a live narrated glass blowing demonstration– the Hot Glass Show. “Part of the product of the demonstration was the demonstration itself... the experience of seeing live glass blowing and understanding what’s happening,” said Cassetti. One of the assistant team members provides a live narration throughout the show. “There was an authenticity about it and just the natural drama of watching live glass blowing. It’s something you don’t normally get to see everyday.” 

    After the museum added its expansion in 1999, the Hot Glass Show captured everyone’s attention. Early on, the museum ran out of space for the audience and ended up expanding the theater and created an outdoor demonstration. “We didn’t know it at the time but that launched a whole sub operation of mobile glass blowing demonstrations that we would end up taking around the world.” Cassetti reflects that during museums’ reopening there was a remarkable freedom to do new, experimental things. “It was a huge burst of creative activity at the museum and I was completely hooked.” Cassetti left the for profit sector and joined the museum community. 

    “We learned that the museum’s audience is really engaged in learning. The first outline of talking points made for the demonstrations included all this esoteric stuff that we found interesting but then laughed because who did we think we were talking to?” said Cassetti. “This isn’t going to be an audience of melting engineers. But we were wrong.” People were fascinated by the details and wanted to learn intrinsic details about glass blowing. What kind of fuel was being used? Why don’t the pipes heat up? “All of this stuff that we had taken out of this demonstration narrative and then we were bombarded with twenty minutes of questions at the end of the demonstration that were all the things that we had taken out of the narration. It was a real lesson. The audience is hungry to learn.” 

    Glass blowing in progress on the set of Blown Away Season Two. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Fast forward to Blown Away and in many ways the core proposition of the show is imparting levels of knowledge to the audience at a fairly high level.  “You’re seeing the artist and the technical challenge of the makers working all under a time pressure, and they don’t hold back. All while telling you the technical details behind everything. So that wasn’t a surprise to me that it would be a winning formula.”

    Blown Away

    When Canadian Production Company Marblemedia were upfront about the concept of the series when they approached Corning Museum of Glass about being involved, sharing details like insights to who the director was going to be, previous programs produced, and shared what kind of camera equipment was going to be used. 

    “One of the things that i learned in my museum career is that the world is organized to say no, but that should never stop a good idea,” said Cassetti. “Anytime someone comes to you with a new project and proposition, the staff is already working flat out. We had to ask is it worth our while, worth the investment and we went through an analysis. Once we had all of those data points from the production company we asked ourselves, is this going to be good?” The fact that the show was going to be distributed by Netflix was a huge validation of the project for the museum, but there was still risk. 

    Corning Museum of Glass Involvement

    Once the museum felt comfortable moving forward, the questions moved to how does the museum participate? “There was this incredible time pressure, which could have been its own TV show. We were talking with them in the summer, they were in the middle of building the studio space where the series was going to be filmed in, and filming was going to begin in the fall. It turned out that this idea of the prize package including a residency and the opportunity for our team of glass blowers to participate in the last episode sealed our participation in the show. 

    “They [Marblemedia] said the gold standard [of reality competition shows] is the Great British Baking Show and many of the things that work in Blown Away are in the Great British Baking Show including camaraderie and the respect that the contestants have for one another,” said Cassetti. The glass blowing world is a tight-knit community. Artists assist one another, take classes together, and know of each other by reputation. “There’s very much a family feel to it that we at the museum have understood for over twenty years by not only doing live glass blowing but by helping guest artists. Our objective is to help artists realize their work at a level that not only meets what they can do but hopefully exceeds that because of the skills of our team and the equipment we support them with.” It’s that sense of goodwill that viewers get in the last episode of each season when the museum’s Hot Glass Demo Team assists the finalists. “There is a huge amount of energy and sort of a cooperative let us help each other to succeed kind of feeling.”

    Behind the Scenes

    Rob Cassetti served as the Season Two finale guest judge, which was recorded just before the pandemic. As the guest judge, Cassetti had no idea who the finalists were, or knew their past performance on the show. “Which is a good way to judge something.” In the finale, the finalists were tasked to make an installation which involved making multiple pieces to fill a gallery space. Cassetti was on set to watch the Season One finale, but watching how the show came together behind the scenes was fascinating to see. “The thing that is so impressive is the director and his crew are so good at filming glass blowing...I think it’s the most impressive part of the show.”

    Rob Cassetti joins judge Katherine Gray and host Nick Uhas in the Season Two finale. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    The Netflix Effect 

    After Season One, the museum saw an immediate interest and uptick in glass blowing classes. “So much so that the beginner classes sold out and we had to add additional classes. Amy [Schwartz, Director of The Studio] was checking in with her colleagues who run glass blowing programs around the world and they were all seeing the same thing happen,” said Cassetti. “Talk about a museum fulfilling its mission. We’re glass-evangelists and we want people to learn about it, including how to make it. So it was a very powerful partnership to be able to have that visibility with Netflix.

    The museum saw more visitors including Season One winner Deb Czeresko fans who visited the museum during her residency to watch her work. Part of the decision making for getting involved with the series was to increase awareness of the museum and to motivate visitors. Following each season, the museum hosts a small exhibit that features work from each participant. “It’s so interesting to see visitors interact with these objects...they are immediately connecting to the person who made them,” said Cassetti. “They talk about the objects in a different way and talking themselves back to seeing that person make it. As a museum professional that just resonates on so many levels...their knowledge of the progress.”

    Rob Cassetti on set of Blown Away. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Full Circle

    For Cassetti, the entire experience was immensely satisfying. “I proposed the idea of a live glass blowing demonstration to the museum in the mid 1990s, knowing the inherent drama that was built into the equation,’ said Cassetti. “To have that energy captured in this easy with Blown Away, distilling so many things I know and love about the process that you see when you visit Corning Museum of Glass but for a global audience to be able to see it just speaks to me so deeply.” Cassetti is passionate about this process, seeing both the artist potential and the challenge associated with it. For him, it never gets old. “Thinking about it as a museum professional where our core reason we exist to get people to see glass differently, it’s just a beautiful culmination.”

    Learn more about the Corning Museum of Glass and Netflix’s Blown Away: https://www.cmog.org/press-release/corning-museum-glass-lends-its-expertise-glassblowing-competition-series-blown-away

  • January 27, 2021 8:57 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Humanities NY (HNY) is the state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The mission of Humanities New York is to strengthen civil society and the bonds of community, using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns. HNY achieves their mission through grants, programs, signature events, and podcasts. To implement humanities projects across New York State, HNY offers three types of grant opportunities: Action, Quick, and Vision grants. 

    Action Grants

    Action grants offer up to $5,000 to implement humanities projects that encourage public audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community. Action Grants have two deadlines per year; October 1 for projects startings January 1 or later the following year, and April 1 for projects starting July 1 or later. Applicants are notified of the Grant Review Committee’s decision approximately 10 weeks after the submission deadline. These grants aim to connect audiences more deeply to their communities where they live and work, solidify community partnerships and diversify audiences, and creatively employ the tools of the humanities to respond to issues and ideas capturing the imagination and passion of New Yorkers today. In 2021, HNY will continue to prioritize women’s history projects. 

    Quick Grants

    Accepted on a rolling basis, Quick Grants are $500 implementation grants for in-person public humanities projects that encourage audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community. These grants are available to organizations whose annual operating expenses are $250,000 or less. Quick Grants aim to support smaller organizations in offering engaging public programming and promote equity in access to the humanities. They help ensure that New Yorkers of all backgrounds and from all regions may engage in cultural programming. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, requests in 2021 related to the U.S. Women’s Suffrage Centennial in 2020 are welcome. 

    Vision Grants

    Also accepted on a rolling basis, Vision Grants offer up to $1,500 in support of brainstorming, researching, and professional development for organizations working collaboratively to develop new ideas and strategies for public-facing humanities projects. These grants aim to support emerging and established partnerships between different organizations on a shared project that may develop into public-facing activities, infuse program design with humanities themes and methodologies from the start, encourage experimentation and build community input into program design. 

    “Applicants should submit their proposal at least two months before their project start date,” said Scarlett Rebman, HNY Director of Grants. The HNY Grant Review Committee meets once a month to evaluate applications. “Applicants can preview the application on our website,” said Rebman. “We don’t require a Letter of Intent, and a phone appointment is encouraged but not required. 

    Grant Support

    HNY works closely with applicants throughout the application process. Applicants can request a phone appointment using the calendar on the HNY website to schedule an appointment to speak directly with a staff member. “Either I or one of my colleagues will call at the requested time, and we are happy to go over the opportunities and/or provide feedback on specific proposal ideas,” said Rebman. “We will also read draft materials. We strive to be transparent and supportive as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out!”

    Advice for Prospective Applicants?

    “Have someone else read your project narrative for clarity and understanding,” said Rebman. “A proposal doesn’t have to be perfectly polished in order to get funded, but it does have to convey what your project will accomplish and why it is important.” Rebman also advises applicants to be sure to explain why the project’s topic or theme is significant to the audience you serve and why the humanities are central to the project.

    Preservation Long Island’s Action Grant

    Preservation Long Island with the NYS Museums hosted a Zoom conversation with “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place” curators Jeremy Dennis and Dr. Gwendolyn Saul 

    Last year, Preservation Long Island received an Action Grant for “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place.” The exhibition features artwork from nine contemporary Indigenous artists as well as collection objects from Preservation Long Island, the New York State Museum, and the Southold Indian Museum. The exhibit places contemporary Indigenous art alongside history objects “offering an inquisitive look at the history and on-going relations between Indigenous people and land, and reminding viewers of the responsibility that we all share to know our common histories with each other and their impact on our connections to place.” It’s a grant project that stands out for Rebman. 

    “The first thing that stood out is the importance of the topic,” said Rebman. “In the past Indigenous voices have often been absent from museums and exhibits that depict Indigenous history. There’s a lot of painful history there, and a lot of distrust. Preservation Long Island and other museums around the state are doing important work engaging communities in thoughtful conversations about the interpretation, and re-interpretation of Indigenous history and culture.” Rebman said that the key to the success of these initiatives is bringing in the right expertise and partnerships. This exhibit is curated by Jeremy Dennis, and Shinnecock Indian Nation artist and Dr. Gwendolyn Saul, Curator of Ethnography at the New York State Museum. “It was clear that they had assembled the right team to approach this topic with sensitivity and care.” 

    In September 2020, Preservation Long Island launched “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place” as a virtual exhibition. 

    Looking Forward

    In 2021, HNY is committed to supporting humanities projects that are timely, relevant, and engaging. “We also recognize that cultural organizations are responding to rapidly changing public health recommendations, and we welcome projects whether they are designed to be virtual, in-person, or a combination of both,” said Rebman. “We will continue to offer our partners flexibility in adapting projects to meet the evolving needs and comfort levels of their audiences.” 

    Grants are just one way to stay involved with HNY. “I invite MANY members to get to know us better,” said Rebman. “We have a lot going on virtually right now, including an ongoing series of virtual community conversations and the Amended podcast, which you can stream on our website or download with a podcast app.” 

    On Tuesday, February 16 at 2 PM, HNY staff is hosting a Grants information Webinar to review 2021 funding opportunities, eligibility, and the application process. Staff will provide tips for preparing successful applications and include time to answer questions. Learn more and register for this free webinar here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grants-information-webinar-tickets-137818182895

    Learn more about Humanities New York at humanitiesny.org

  • January 27, 2021 8:52 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Economic Health of the Field graph from 2019 State of NYS Museums Report

    Dear Colleagues, Members, and Supporters,

    Like most of you, most of MANY’s plans for 2020 changed in ways we couldn’t imagine. One plan that didn’t change was the publication of our State of NYS Museums report that distributed data collected in 2019 from 206 museums of all disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic locations in New York. 

    The report presented new information about New York museums and 

    • fiscal health

    • staff sizes and salaries 

    • funding resources 

    • facilities

    • governance

    • programs

    • outreach

    • school partnerships

    We shared the report with legislators, funders, and members of the press to shine a new light on the ways in which museums were (or weren’t) well positioned to face the challenges of the pandemic and the awakening (for some) of the racial and gender biases in many of our museums.

    We began work on the last survey with a call for questions. We are starting the process for our next survey by asking you to let us know what you want to know about the state of New York's museum field.

    Some of the questions in the 2021 survey will duplicate those in 2019 so we can compare data. Others will reflect our past year’s shared experiences such as:

    • How are museums using digital technologies to reach audiences that can’t visit in person?

    • What strategies are museums using to stay financially viable? 

    • How have staff structures changed with layoffs and work reassignments to accommodate drastically reduced revenues? and 

    • How are museums creating room for the full range of human experience on their staff and in their galleries? 

    Click here to submit a question for our survey panelists to consider including in the 2021 State of NYS Museums survey. We will collect questions through February 5 and launch the 2021 State of NYS Museums survey on March 19 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Governor Cuomo’s NY on Pause Executive Order.  

    With thanks, 

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director
  • January 27, 2021 8:50 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In January 2021, Dr. Annie Polland returned to the Tenement Museum as the institution’s President after previously serving as Executive Vice President of Programs and Interpretation at the Museum from 2009 to 2018, before becoming Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Polland replaces Dr. Morris J. Vogel, who served as the Museum interim President since October 2019. As EVP, Polland launched the Tenement Museum’s “Shop Life” and “Under One Roof” exhibitions which “infused cutting edge interactive projection technology into historically recreated spaces for the first time” and won the Museum the 2013 Multimedia Installations Muse award from the American Alliance of Museums. We spoke with Polland about her return and her future plans for the Tenement Museum.

    Museum Association of New York: Congratulations on your return to the Tenement Museum and your new role!

    Dr. Annie Polland: Thank you! Yes, it has been nice. It’s been a challenging time but there is something really nice about being back.


    What makes the Tenement Museum a New York Museum?

    I think it’s right in the heart of New Yorkers. New Yorkers care about their city’s history. Despite constant change –tearing down buildings and building new ones –New Yorkers feel connected to what came before. New York is almost 40% immigrant, so the immigrant story is the New York story.


    Previously, you were the Tenement Museums’ Executive Vice President of Programs. What made you take the position of EVP when you started?

    In 1998 I was a graduate student at Columbia working for a company called Big Onion Walking Tours and my first gig was to lead a tour of the Lower East Side. At that point, Big Onion Walking Tours had contracted with the Tenement Museum, so I picked up my first Tenement Museum group in April 1998 and gave them a tour of the neighborhood. That’s how I kind of fell in love with the idea of public history. The Tenement Museum’s idea of bringing history to visitors through the stories of ordinary people really captivate me. 

    In 2009 I began working with the Museum at Eldridge Street which is a National Historic Landmark on the Lower East Side just a few blocks away from the Tenement Museum. If I recall correctly, I was giving a tour of Eldridge Street Synagogue and someone from the Tenement Museum who had participated in the tour offered me a job. So in many ways, my transition to the Tenement Museum was an organic and natural extension of the storytelling that I had been doing in the neighborhood.

    There are two things that I find fascinating about the Tenement Museum. One is that unlike most historic houses which kind of root themselves in one moment in time; the Tenement Museum features recreated apartments and family stories for many different time periods. You’re able to experience what it’s like to travel through time just by going from one apartment to another. Because these spaces relate to different moments in time, you have the opportunity to talk about different waves of immigrants who have come to the neighborhood over time. In the 1860s, when the tenement at 97 Orchard Street opened, its primary residents were of Irish and German background. By the time the building’s residential floors were condemned in 1935, 7000 people had called it home and the background of those residents shifts. That’s why we are able to tell the stories of multiple waves of immigrants, migrants, and refugees. With the opening of our second historic tenement at 103 Orchard Street, which remained a residence through the 20th century, we were able to extend that story closer to the present.

    The Tenement Museum is as much about the thousands of people who lived at 97 and 103 Orchard Street as it is about the millions of visitors who’ve come since. That dual priority of having a responsibility to the past residents and having a responsibility to the people in front of you, catalyzes the importance of storytelling and really brings history to life.

    Tenement Museum exterior in NYC’s Lower East Side


    What would you consider your greatest achievement during your time as EVP?

    While there were several exhibits and programs launched during my time as EVP of Programs, I think the core of it all is the educator training. It’s the way that we work with educators to tell stories and the way we bring in scholars to help flesh out the stories that we tell. This professional development that was happening behind the scenes –connecting scholars and our educators together and being able to work on that dynamic –was the most important to me and is what I think is driving the vision forward.


    What motivated you or what were the factors that motivated your return to the Tenement Museum? 

    The idea was floated to me at the very end of summer. I got a call from Morris Vogel who was serving as President. He actually caught me as I was on my way to work on a project on the Lower East Side with the American Jewish Historical Society –connecting sources with the buildings in the neighborhood. Just being on the Lower East Side that day, seeing all of the historic buildings and the vibrant street life, even though we’re in a pandemic, I started thinking about the renaissance that might come to New York once this crisis is behind us and the role that the Tenement Museum should play. Even as we go forward and rebuild we need to be rooted. I think all of that coming together that just stirred my blood–it’s in me, the Tenement Museum.


    What was your first Museum job? 

    Well, if you consider New York City as a museum in itself… which I do, then my first job was working for Big Onion Walking Tours from 1998 to 2004.


    What skills have you learned from your prior experiences will be most helpful in your new role?

    Listening. In the last year at the American Jewish Historical Society we were working on a big oral history project where I listened to people and paid attention to how they told stories. It’s about how you listen – to the voices of the historians who help us understand the past and the residents who lived in the Tenement Museum’s buildings. Being able to soak this history up is one side of it. The other side is forming that into stories that are accessible, which is something that I’ve done since the very first day giving a walking tour, using an academic book about the Lower East Side and then interpreting it to your audience. Really immersing oneself in historical context and then thinking of ways to share that through stories that are accessible and relatable and inspiring to audiences.


    What are you looking forward to in this position? What are some of your initial goals?

    I’ve been going into the office, but I can’t wait to walk through our historic tenement building at 97 Orchard Street. I’m looking forward to walking up the stairs and hearing the conversations that will pour out of each apartment when it is safe for visitors to return.

    At the same time, we’re experimenting with ways to present our tours virtually. The museum has done a great job of transforming some of our programs into a virtual format. So far, one of the best things that the museum has done in this process is capture the conversations that happen between an educator and visitor. [During the virtual tour] there is an educator leading while a secondary educator reads and responds to the live chat. The secondary educator is keeping the conversation going and we’re finding that people are really active in these chats.

    We’re also trying to bring the building back into the virtual programming by using 360 degree images that people will be able to navigate through. We want to make the virtual building tours more interactive to help visitors feel like they are in the building as much as possible.

    The staircase at 97 Orchard Street


    How do you see the Tenement Museum’s virtual programming growing in 2021?

    Usually you’re on a tour with 15, 20, or 30 people. A group this size may obstruct your view. Now with virtual tours, visitors can really look at that hallway, look at that apartment, and see the scope of it. We’re trying to heighten the benefits of the virtual tour. Sometimes people just feel more comfortable in their homes, so they’re going to talk more, ask more questions. We’re designing these virtual tours with an eye towards continuing to offer them when we do reopen to onsite visitors. That way we can serve folks all over the world who might never have the chance to visit New York City. We’ve already had over one hundred students from Tennessee who went on a virtual tour program together. You could never fit one hundred school children in a 325 square foot apartment but you can through virtual. If there’s a silver lining to everything that’s happened in the past year, it’s been getting to rethink what we’re about, what’s our core mission, and what makes us unique and then how do we extend that beyond the walls of the museum.


    What are some of your ideas to create a sustainable financial model for the Tenement Museum?

    Yes, another silver lining from the last year is the uptick we have seen in philanthropic giving. One of the things that has made the Tenement Museum successful over the years was our ability fund 75% of our operating budget through earned income from ticket sales and our shop. What’s good about that is it shows that people want your experience. On the other hand, it also means that people see the number of our visitors and think we don’t need philanthropic support. So when the pandemic forced the museum to close, staff was furloughed and the survival of the museum was in question, we saw people really step up to support us. It’ll be our role going forward to grow and sustain that culture of giving, not just for the financial support, but to be able to connect with the community. Of course, we want to have as many tours as possible and have a large audience, but it’s interesting to think about what is that ideal balance between earned revenue and philanthropy?

    I mentioned before that scholars like to come to the Tenement Museum and work with our educators. How can we build some kind of institute out of that so there’s a place for people learning public history to observe on site and foster conversations about what it means to be an American? Yes, we’re a museum of New York. Yes, we’re a museum of immigration. Yes, we’re a museum of the working class. But ultimately on a really good tour there are conversations where people are starting to appreciate the limitations and the opportunities of what it means to be an American in a different time, in a different context, and in a different moment.

    Gumpertz Kitchen


    Do you have any key mentors or someone who has deeply influenced you? Can you tell us about them?

    My grandmother who was a teacher was a big influence. She really taught me about our family history and that made me feel grounded even when times were tough. Understanding the family history that I had through my grandmother and her storytelling made a real impact, especially in terms of the Tenement Museum. 

    Morris Vogel as well taught me so much. He had this ability to see things from 40,000 feet above and to really understand how an institution works. I’m very grateful to have had that opportunity to learn from him. Coming back now after being away and seeing how in a time of a pandemic he provided the scaffolding for many people in the museum to be leaders and to work together. That’s very inspiring.


    Learn more about Dr. Annie Polland and the Tenement Museum.

  • January 27, 2021 8:49 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Arkell Museum in Canajoharie was forced to cancel many in-person programs and events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic–including the museum’s musical performance series. Curator of Education and Public Engagement Mary Alexander wanted to continue these successful events despite the pandemic. She created a virtual musical art exhibition in partnership with the Caroga Arts Collective who brought professional musicians together with museum staff to create a dynamic, virtual musical and art experience.

    Public Programming Shift

    The Arkell Museum’s extensive collection of American paintings from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century includes seven oil paintings by Winslow Homer. The museum’s exhibitions feature selections from its Mohawk Valley History collection. Prior to 2020, the museum’s on site programming included book talks, presentations, summer reading programs, storytelling sessions, family days, and musical performances. “We would try to do three or four musical performances a year and connect them to the collection,” said Alexander. In 2019, the museum created a musical program to coincide with the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal and the museum’s “Mingling the Waters: 200 years on the Erie Canal” exhibition. The museum also capitalized on the success of Broadway’s “Hamilton” and presented “Eliza” (a musical narrative of the formative years of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton) arranged and performed by the Musicians of Ma’alwyck.

    In 2020, the museum moved most of its public programming online. “We increased our social media, shared images from our visiting exhibitions online, and our librarian did a weekly virtual storytelling session,” said Alexander. “In July I started hosting a ‘Let’s Talk Art’ biweekly Zoom chats about art in our collection.” As Alexander moved these programs online, she began to scroll through her social media feeds searching for program inspiration. “I was scrolling and wondering what else the museum could do and came across one of those viral videos of people playing music but in different locations. I thought that was cool.”

    A Musical Partnership

    In June, Alexander approached one of their musical partners, Caroga Arts Collective. “We had the program funding to use but we couldn’t host an in-person event. That was when the idea to do something with Caroga Arts came to me. Everyone is hurting right now because of the pandemic, but one of those sectors that is hurting the most is the performing arts. You can come to the museum and look at a painting and remain socially distant, but you really can’t attend a concert,” said Alexander. Alexander contacted Kyle Price, Founder and Artistic and Executive Director of Caroga Arts Collective about creating a virtual performance in collaboration with The Arkell Museum. “It helped that the museum already had a working relationship with Kyle and Caroga Arts,” said Alexander. “Kyle works with artists from across the country who normally spend their summers playing music around the area [Caroga Lake]. We’ve worked with them in the past, contracting them to come to the museum to perform a chamber music concert. In 2019, we had 90 people attend one of their concerts in the museum.” Alexander spoke with Kyle about the idea of a group of musicians playing music to artwork from the museum collection. Each musician would play separately, the artwork would appear on the screen, and then we’d edit all together and share across the internet. “Caroga Arts was already planning to do a similar virtual experience for the July 4th program. It was helpful to see a program similar to what we wanted to do in advance. I remember writing back to Kyle saying that it was something similar we wanted to do at the museum but with our paintings.” 

    “A Musical Art Exhibition: Landscapes”

    Creating a Musical Art Exhibition

    The Arkell Museum and Caroga Arts decided to do two virtual programs. The first focused on the museums’ collection of Winslow Homer paintings. “We worked together to collaborate on what music would work best for which painting. The vision was to imagine the viewer on a journey, walking though Homer’s paintings. It was some back and forth until we finalized which music worked best.” Alexander provided high resolution images of the paintings that were going to be used for the program and sent them to Caroga Arts who arranged accompanying music. 

    “Seeing the preview for the first musical art exhibition felt great. It was nice working with professionals who could share their expertise and skills,” said Alexander. Caroga Arts has a videographer and they were able to edit the video with the images to put it all together. “In the beginning it was hard to relinquish some control but I had to trust the process. Normally when selecting the images and pairing them to a certain song we would’ve liked to have been in the same room, but due to COVID we couldn’t. Having an established working relationship was important.”

    “A Musical Art Exhibition: Winslow Homer”

    The first musical art exhibition premiered on October 28. The Caroga Arts Ensemble performed the Grieg Holberg Suite to the Arkell’s Museum’s Winslow Homer Collection. 

    The second musical art exhibition premiered on December 4 with performances by Cavani String Quartet and pianists Mei-Hsuan Huang and Ester Park. 

    Both were live streamed on the Caroga Arts and Arkell Museum’s Facebook pages and YouTube Channels. 

    Moving Forward

    “Our main goal for these virtual musical art exhibitions was just to see if it could work,” said Alexander. “We had never tried something like this before, so just seeing if this could work was important for us.” Alexander said that the museum would like to have two more musical art exhibitions in 2021. “We could do a better job about identifying our audience. With most of our programs now being held in a virtual space, we are still identifying how our audience is using the internet. We also want to experiment with streaming these programs on other social media platforms.” Both videos can be viewed on the museums and Caroga Arts YouTube Channels and have nearly 900 views already. For Alexander and The Arkell Museum, using their programming funding to employ other artists was important. “Our main goal is always to connect people to our collection and to share it. Having this collaboration during a difficult time to do this was incredibly valuable for both organizations and we found another way to share our collection.”

    Watch The Arkell Museum and Caroga Arts’ Musical Art Exhibitions on The Arkell Museum’s YouTube Channel.

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