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How are museums growing institutional resources? How are museums working with their communities? How are museums using their exhibitions and collections in new ways? Explore original articles by MANY staff about NYS museums. 

What's happening at your museum? Submit your museum news and we might feature you in our next This Month in NYS Museums newsletter!

Email meves@nysmuseums.org 

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  • May 25, 2022 11:56 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    “Quiet as It’s Kept” 2022 Whitney Biennial

    Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues, 

    Two years ago today, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Yesterday, nineteen elementary school children and their two teachers were shot to death in Texas. Eleven days ago, ten Black people were murdered in a mass shooting in Buffalo. In our nation alone, over one million people have died from the coronavirus. Numbers like these can become meaningless without connections to people and actions that move us to change.  

    As our cultures, institutions, and educational systems attempt to respond to the devastation wrought by the pandemic and systemic racism, every one of us needs to play a role in changing our society and our museums. Our museums need to promote truth and dignity, to encourage every person on staff to take ownership of their work, and to respect the work of their colleagues no matter their position or title. 

    Lately, more people are talking about uplifting people, not objects. I understand the purpose but question a distinction that removes contemporary and historic makers, scientists, and artists -- those who are named and those whose names are not remembered -- from the products of their hands and their minds. Implementing human-centered values in our workplace does not require the exclusion of the art and material culture of our world. In fact, centering and being inspired by art and culture can lead to embracing diversity in all its forms. 

    So how can museums - with collections, without collections - push back against the darkness of our times? We can take one step at a time. We can create budgets that align to strategic plans, value our staff, fund professional development, and allow for the purchase of job-appropriate tools. 

    In the May 2022 issue of This Month in NYS Museums we launch our reformatted job board that will require employers to post salary ranges. It took us a bit longer than some, but not as long as others, to make this change. New York City will legally require salary transparency in job postings on November 1, 2022. I am proud that MANY did not wait for a law to catch up to our values.

    This week we also announced the recipients of the NYSCA/MANY Capacity Building Partnership Grants. The review panels were particularly struck by the requests from dozens of museums for technology because they had been “operating” with decades old hardware and software. We are pleased that we were able to help NYSCA distribute over $500,000 to 102 museums. We know that those who were not awarded grants or did not qualify as museums using NYSCA’s guidelines were very disappointed. We will announce new opportunities for grant funding soon. 

    Yesterday, A9710 (Barrett D-106) “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State” unanimously passed the Assembly. The study will identify and collect data about all museums in the state to inform policy making and recommend systems of support to ensure equitable distribution of state funds regardless of discipline, budget size, or location.

    The bill is now moving through the Senate. Your New York State Senator needs to know that they have museums in their district that need help to serve their communities and preserve their collections for future generations. Please send an email today and ask them to support S.8934 (Cooney D-56). You can find your Senator here and use this document as a template for your email

    We are approaching change for our museums in so many ways. This one step will help us get closer.

    With sincere thanks, 

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director


  • May 24, 2022 2:27 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Chloe Hayward is an educator, artist, art therapist, and the Associate Director of Education at The Studio Museum in Harlem. She believes in the power of art to transform systems, selves, and structures. Her latest written work “Museums as Therapeutic Space: Centralizing the Voices of People of Color”, is part of a larger anthology Museum Based Art Therapy: A Collaborative Effort with Access, Education, and Public Programs. Hayward has worked in museums for over two decades, and regularly serves as a consultant for art institutions and cultural organizations.

    Hayward was the Opening Keynote speaker at the 2022 annual conference, Envisioning Our Museums for the Seventh Generation in Corning, New York. We are pleased to share her opening remarks.

    Chloe Hayward speaking at the 2022 annual conference in Corning, NY

    "I want to talk about the concept of Seven Generations, and the potential this holds for museums. I want to begin with a quote about love by author, bell hooks, “Love is a combination of care, knowledge, responsibility, commitment, and trust.” When we think about what it means to consider the preservation of culture, making long-term decisions, and drawing from the past while laying the groundwork for the future - I believe these principles, the foundation of love, are exactly what is necessary and vital as we dream together about the future of museums.

    How do we create spaces of care? And what does care look like? Why should we care?

    I’m going to make some assumptions, and I know that’s a bold move, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. When I talk about care, I am talking about why we do this work. We care. Museums matter. We want to see our institutions thrive. We all do our very best to make this a reality, nurturing our works of art, our exhibitions, our projects, and our programs. At the same time, museums are facing a moment of reckoning, of questioning, not if we care, but how are we enacting care? Not just for objects, but for people and for communities. There is more work to do, more changes to make. I believe true change is about collaboration,co-creation, and about making as much space as you take. This is one of the ways that museums can show up for community in the spirit of care. Community in the biggest sense of the word possible. Not just our stakeholders, but our internal ways of operating as an institution. Our colleagues, our museum community. We are all individuals part of a greater collective, and it’s important that we recognize who we are in the spaces we occupy, who we are in relationship to the communities we are with and in, for I believe it is individuality itself that is the seedling to the enactment of care we hope and need to see within our institutions, and within the museum field.

    Growing up, I never had the opportunity to visit museums. When I finally did, I either didn’t see my experiences reflected on the walls and in the space, or if they were, the perspective from which stories were told, didn’t ring true for me or my culture. So who are we calling in? Who are we recognizing and giving space to? The decisions we make as museum professionals have impact in the present moment and the future, and we must remember that the how is just as important as the why. Yes, we care, but if we aren’t calling in the voices, vision, and perspectives of all people, then we are actually causing harm. As a museum professional today, I deeply value and honor the voices of artists and artwork that speak to history, culture, and identity not from a singular narrative, but from perspectives that are rich and wide.

    One of the first steps we can all take in creating spaces of care is to ask. Ask what people need, what people think, and what people want. Part of that understanding is sharing knowledge.

    How do we decipher what knowledge is valid, valued, and prioritized? How do we dismantle systems that negate the experiences of others? Change begins and ends with us, but we must also make space for others, leaning into the knowledge of those whose experiences may differ from our own.

    I often consider the concept of “professionalism,” when I think about these questions, and how that concept has been used within institutions over the years to exclude the culture and knowledge of others whose race and identity are deeply connected to the ways in which they show up to these professional spaces. Being an individual within the collective, how do you fit or not within the spaces you occupy? Do you see yourself? Do you see your culture? I am privileged and honored to work for an arts institution that upholds and uplifts my culture. The ways in which space is made for community stems from collaborative and co-creative efforts. How are we as museums co-creating with the communities we are with and part of? How are we making space? How are we showing appreciation and not appropriating? How are we collecting, not colonizing? Are we doing the work of building care, commitment, knowledge and trust? In what ways are we aware of our privilege and how are we using that privilege to be better allies to those in the world who have been and continue to be marginalized?

    Working at The Studio Museum in Harlem, there is a shared knowledge and understanding, a recognition of the importance of care, that allows me to show up as my full self. My identity is not erased but uplifted and celebrated. Through my individual experience I am able to make space for the larger community so that they may feel all of this as well. When we talk about museums and about preserving, protecting, and making decisions for the future generations; making space is part of the responsibility of this work.

    What does it mean to be responsible within society? What systemic impact do our decisions have on the larger community? As humans, like it or not, we can be inherently selfish. When I think about responsibility, I think about what it means to be human and to evolve. We have at times as a society had to be selfish in order to survive, but where has that gotten us? What are we actually trying to survive for? What obstacles do we face, and what are we trying to overcome? I think the answers to these questions are very different, and depend on who is answering.

    I can and will only speak for myself. As a Black woman working in what has been a historically white male field, it has been challenging to be recognized, to make space for my voice to be heard. It was not until I found my home at The Studio Museum in Harlem that I was able to surmount these challenges. I share this with you so that you may consider the ways in which you give opportunity for others to share space because this is something which has impacted me tremendously as an individual working in the field of museums. It is something I carry with me always as I work with generations of Museum professionals even younger than myself today. The solution cannot be to leave museums, which I know often happens, I’ve seen it, but how can we uplift and make space for everyone who is a part of this museum community? This institution? How can we create spaces of support? My existence here and now in this space is an example of what it means to give opportunity and make space for others, for the future generations of museum professionals.

    I’d like to invite each of you to consider personal challenges you’ve faced in this world, and in this work. How have you worked to overcome them? Have you? It’s not easy to continue to do this work day in and day out. Showing up, even when things are challenging, is commitment. Choosing to work in museums and continuing to renew our commitment to this work, to our communities, is important now more than ever.

    I always like to say that art is a mirror, it offers a view that reflects whomever gazes upon it. We project what we know, our thoughts, feelings and experiences onto the art work or object. In this way, museums are uniquely positioned to be spaces of reflection, a sort of psychological excavation of society. Museums offer a space for people to come together in dialogue about the world, about life, about ourselves.

    The consistency we show for ourselves and others in working within the museum field lends itself to trust. When we consider the concept of Trust within museum spaces, we must ask ourselves: are the decisions we are making within museums offering spaces of safety? Are we showing up for our communities, giving care to people, places and art work within our institutions, sharing knowledge and honoring the viewpoints of others, creating not from a singular narrative, but one that is rich with the nuanced and layered fabric of our society?

    Museum work is not easy, and we have done a lot. During my time working within museums, I’ve witnessed openings created for broader representation across institutions. I have created systems and structures which are collaborative and creative in nature, and provided space in the form of programming that reflects the community in which the museum resides. All of this was done through the lens of care, commitment, knowledge and trust. Even so, there is more work to be done and we have farther to go. Although I speak to you from the perspective of someone from New York City, I want to make space and acknowledge that this work is happening around the state, and around our nation. I’m sure each of us can think of examples of positive change from where you live and work, I am sure I am not alone. So how do we inspire change and growth within this field? Change begins and ends with the individual. Change comes from within.

    As I’ve grown in my position and leadership within museums, one thing is very clear: never underestimate the potential of small wins. It is these small wins, when collected and put together, that create systemic change. So I ask each of you how might you win small? For I’ve witnessed over the years how these small shifts in thought, in implementation of ideas, programmatic changes, have a ripple effect. Small impacts lead to larger ones, and you truly never know the impact your small wins have on others.

    I would lastly like to offer a fifth element to bell hooks' definition of love: and that is creativity. I believe museums must lean into their creativity. By definition, creativity is a process and process is an energy. It flows and is always moving. To be in the creative process is to be in the process of change. We must lean into this and always be in the process, always be in the flow of change. I’m going to make another assumption: if you are reading this now, you are a creative person and a resourceful person. How many of us don’t have enough room on our business cards to write our true title because we are doing the job of five people?

    Now I may joke, but this is a very real thing. At the Studio Museum we always say we are small, but mighty. To be small, while also doing big things, takes a certain level of creativity. Let’s tap into our innate creativity to be vehicles of change in our institutions and in our communities. As we make decisions that will impact the direction and the future of museums, let's consider creativity. There is so much value in this room today. We are rich. The creative energy when we gather together as museum professionals is abundant.

    In the museum world, there needs to be a commitment to care, a responsibility to share knowledge, for it is these very principles that begin to create and build trust. All these elements are interconnected, woven into the very fabric and fibers of what it means to be in community. Museums are about community as much as they are about art, about preservation, and education.

    In our commitment to care, we have a responsibility to share knowledge. The ways in which we share, and what we choose to share, is what builds trust, and creates spaces of inclusivity and representation. Creativity is the fuel that drives our change, it is, by definition, change. All these elements are what we should hold in our minds as we plan for the future of museums. This is the power of intentionality. The heart of museums for the Seventh Generation is moving with intention, and with care."


  • May 24, 2022 2:22 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Sackets Harbor is recognized by the National Park Service as one of the most significant sites during the War of 1812 in the United States. Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site includes a dozen buildings, over 70 acres, and is interpreted to the public using exhibitions, outdoor signage, guided and self-guided tours, and a restored 1850s Navy Yard and Commandant’s house. Today, as part of an initiative led by Site Manager Connie Barone, staff and volunteers are working to highlight the voices of Black and Indigenous who fought in the War of 1812. They are focused on reaching local, national, and international audiences by applying new skills in video production and making those videos accessible across multiple platforms.

    Sunset at the Navy Yard, behind Commandant’s House. Photo courtesy Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site

    War of 1812 Bicentennial Crown Forces monument dedication 2013 with US, Canadian, and British military personnel and War of 1812 re-enactors. Photo courtesy Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site

     

    Cross-Border Collaboration

    The Sackets Harbor Battlefield Historic Site has collaborated and partnered with Canadian entities for many years. When the US-Canada Border was closed during the pandemic, Sackets Harbor Battlefield staff collaborated with the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC) Bridge Annex as part of their 2021 virtual annual conference.

    “The historic site has always had a good working relationship with our Canadian neighbors because of our shared military history,” said Barone. Barone encouraged more formal tours from places like the Royal Military College Kingston, Ontario, which had been conducting informal staff visits for years. The Sackets Harbor Battlefield site was also involved with the St. Lawrence International Partnership that began over 30 years ago to help attractions in the US and Canada collaborate. “It included museums, forts, aquariums, nature centers, and any type of cultural institution,” said Barone. “It was a very strong organization, we met every month, and organized cross-border visits.” This group dissolved, but the partnerships and collaborations continued including large-scale re-enactments leading up to the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

    “In 2020, Sackets Harbor was supposed to host the annual War of 1812 North American Grand Tactical as the site had in 2010,” said Barone. “It would’ve included thousands of participants, reenactors, dozens of historians, and authors.” The event was canceled due to the pandemic. Over the last three years, the Battlefield site staff in collaboration with local re-enactors has offered smaller, outdoor programs. During the pandemic, Barone had the opportunity to participate and connect with other Canadian-based groups through Zoom  presentations that furthered and sparked research initiatives to help tell a more diverse history of the historic site and to expand interpretation. 

    War of 1812 Bicentennial Crown Forces monument dedication 2013 with US, Canadian, and British military personnel and War of 1812 re-enactors 

    Expanding Interpretation

    Barone began researching more about the history of Black soldiers at Sacker Harbor five years ago after coming across a newspaper article dated from the turn of the 20th century about the all-Black 24th regiment who left Texas in 1908, assigned to Sackets Harbor at Madison Barracks. Barone discovered that there was a Black soldier living on Hill Street with his family. “Hill Street is part of the historic site today. Archaeologists from Peebles Island (NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation) have excavated the area to examine the site to learn more. They’ve done some wonderful archeological studies and I wanted to then learn more about the families that were living there and so this article prompted me again. I wanted to learn why this soldier was living here and not in Madison Barracks. It made me think, were there other Black soldiers living in this community and what did that mean? Were they segregated in certain neighborhoods? The village was just nine or ten streets with about 1200 people, so what is this story?”

    During her research, Barone discovered more African American history in Sackets Harbor that covered multiple time periods including ties to abolitionist Gerrit Smith. “There were four Black men in Sackets Harbor given land by Smith. It led me to look at their histories through the census. I discovered that these families intermarried and one of the young men enlisted in during the Civil War and now we have his whole story.” 

    The NYS Museum recently opened a new exhibition, Timbuctoo: Gerrit Smith’s Experiment that focuses on the 1846 NYS law that required African American men to own $250 worth of property to vote. Smith, an abolitionist, gave away 120,000 acres of land in Essex and Franklin Counties to 3,000 free Black men, enabling them to vote. This exhibition is based on filmmaker Paul A. Miller’s documentary, Searching for Timbuctoo which tells the history of this forgotten settlement. The exhibition is on view in the Adirondack Hall until December 31, 2022. 

    Barone also credits her longstanding relationships with cross-border organizations like the Toronto Public Library that helped with this research. A Toronto librarian discovered a court case about Mr. Endicott, a Black man who lived in Sackets Harbor, left the area, traveled to the mid-west through the Great Lakes before the Civil War, and finally settled in St. Louis. In that court case Endicott described that “He was captured by an enslaver and he appealed to his friends back in Sackets Harbor to help free him and to prove that he was a Free Black man. The Toronto librarian sent us copies of all of the court case documents that we can use to tell his story.” 

    When the pandemic paused in-person collaborations, the conversations moved to Zoom and included a conference with Canadian historians and re-enactors.

    “I joined a Zoom presentation with Natasha Henry, a historian, educator, and the President of the Ontario Black History Society. She was presenting information about early Black history in Toronto and mentioned a Mr. Baker who served in the War of 1812.” John Baker was a Canadian soldier enslaved, later freed, and then fought for the British Crown. Baker fought at the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor in 1813 when British forces tried and failed to capture the military center of operations. This battle is listed as one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812 by the National Park Service. Baker fought with the 104th Regiment of the British Crown Forces and is believed by researchers to be the last person born into slavery in Canada to die. “I had never heard of Mr. Baker and contacted Natasha after the Zoom. She was able to connect me to the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada and its “Bridge Annex” chapter located in Cornwall, Ontario. “They had done extensive research on Mr. Baker and were working on a memorial to him.” The memorial marker was installed by the UELAC in 2021. “I reached out to see what our Sackets Harbor site staff could contribute and we decided to produce a video that could be shared at their conference.” The video was a brief overview of the Battle of Sackets Harbor and was filmed by Sackets Harbor site staff member Nicole Cronk with other staff, volunteers, and re-enactors narrating. Barone did the final interview at the Crown Forces monument that honors the members of the Crown Forces killed at the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor. The monument was dedicated in 2013 and was the first of two local monuments dedicated during the bicentennial. In 2019, in recognition for the collaborative work on the Crown Forces monument verifying names and raising funds, Barrone was presented the British Empire Medal for her work to British and Canadian soldiers who fought in the War of 1812.

    “After working with the UELAC to honor Mr. Baker, it led me to continue to research other members of the Crown Forces that were Black or Indigenous. We’ve always known that the Oneida Nation played a huge role in the Battle of Sandy Creek which is about 30 miles [BC(4] away but at Sackets Harbor, we had no information about any Indigenous involvement until a couple of years ago when I discovered Moses Abram from the Oneida Nation in documents that spanned over 52 pages.” The documents describe Abram’s involvement in the battle fighting alongside US troops inside the basswood barracks. “It was the first record of an Indigenous person fighting alongside US soldiers here,” said Barone.

     

    Building New Skills to Reach New Audiences

    Barone and Cronk learned new production skills to reach local and international audiences through video and audio content, contributing to the UELA 2021 virtual conference. Sacket Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is one of the 96 museums participating in “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” project organized by MANY and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services via a CARES Act grant to support museums in reaching their audiences digitally.

    “It was very important for us and for museums, in general, to not be stagnant,” said Barone. “It’s important for us to move forward and to continue to connect with our constituents in order to be relevant. It’s about keeping history relevant and in the public eye and there are so many ways to do that.”

    “Connie has shown great dedication to building new skills and advocating for her continued professional development,” said Eli McClain, Building Capacity Project Fellow for MANY.  “In each session, Connie displays increased proficiency and confidence using new hardware like the iPad Pro and software like Adobe Premiere Rush, Google Workspace, and Facebook. It has been a pleasure working with Connie on Building Capacity and helping her leverage new technology to strengthen local, national, and international partnerships.”

    Since joining the Building Capacity program, Barone has learned video production skills including editing with Adobe Premiere Rush. Other video content included highlighting staff work, site history, historic preservation efforts, and local community events.

    “When we saw the call to apply for the Building Capacity program, it was very appealing…the idea of using technology that we didn’t have or readily available. It was also beneficial to collaborate with museums outside of state historic sites. These were the main reasons we wanted to participate. At the start of the pandemic, we were asking “how can we move forward, what do we do next, and what can we do differently?”


    National Park Service–Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site video: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm%3Fid%3DAA187B03-7793-449C-8909-170CF05B546C

    NY State Parks: Sackets Harbor Battlefield:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmIcv6gkMLE 

    A Virtual Tour of Grant-Related Historic Sites Around the United States [Sacket’s Harbor 6 min 20 seconds]: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=B3C45CCE-F6AD-43A6-8003-211EABB044BA

  • May 24, 2022 9:07 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    More than $500,000 awarded to NYS Museums in all 10 REDC Regions 

    Troy, NY— The Museum Association of New York (MANY) in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) awarded $500,981 to 102 grantees to assist New York museums with capacity building.

    “We thank NYSCA for this partnership and this opportunity to rapidly distribute much-needed funding to New York’s museums,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director, MANY.

    This grant partnership with NYSCA was developed in direct response to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Partners for Public Good (PPG) study “Market Analysis and Opportunity Assessment of Museum Capacity Building Programs” report published in March 2021.

    Capacity Building grants were awarded in amounts up to and including $5,000 to help museums respond to pandemic-related challenges, build financial stability, strengthen board and community engagement, update technology, support leadership, and change systems to address diversity, equity, access, inclusion, and justice. Awards were made to museums of all budget sizes and disciplines.

    “The arts and culture sector is facing a multi-year recovery process after two years of unimaginable challenges,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director, NYSCA. “We are grateful to MANY for their stewardship of this opportunity that will ensure New York State museums continue to grow and thrive. We send our congratulations to all grantees on their awards.”

    Several museums are using grant funding to support institutional DEAI work. In New York City, the Bronx Children’s Museum’s “Accessibility Now” project will expand the Museum’s reach to thousands of children and families with different physical and mental abilities by conducting a multi-day workshop for staff.

    In Central NY, the Cayuga Museum of History and Art will work with the Executive Director of the Sing Sing Prison Museum and Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to update their permanent exhibition on the history of the Auburn Correctional Facility to include discussions of mass incarceration and the modern prison industrial complex.

    Other awardees will update technology to strengthen their community engagement. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site in the Capital Region will update the technology required to present in-person and virtual talks with scholars, artists, and community leaders. The Museum plans on continuing to serve their broadened online audience developed during the pandemic.

    In the North Country, the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical will use this grant to support leadership in updating the organization's strategic plan that will focus on developing goals and strategies to increase the institutional capacity and the historical society’s service to the community.

    Partnership Grants for Capacity Building are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

     

    View the full list of grants awarded.

     

    # # #

     

    About the Museum Association of New York

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


    About the New York State Council on the Arts

    The Council on the Arts preserves and advances the arts and culture that make New York State an exceptional place to live, work, and visit. The Council upholds the right of all New Yorkers to experience the vital contributions the arts make to our communities, education, economic development, and quality of life. Through its core grant-making activity, the Council on the Arts awarded more than $100 million in FY 2022. NYSCA's statewide grants program supports the visual, literary, media and performing arts and includes dedicated support for arts education and underserved communities.

    The Council on the Arts further advances New York's creative culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the Council is an agency that is part of the Executive Branch. For more information on NYSCA, please visit http://www.arts.ny.gov, and follow NYSCA's Facebook page, Twitter @NYSCArts and Instagram @NYSCouncilontheArts


  • May 17, 2022 1:35 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York stands in solidarity with MANY Member Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission and shares the following statement from Executive Director Terry Alford regarding the May 14th tragedy in Buffalo, New York.


    You may write me down in history

    With your bitter, twisted lies,

    You may trod me in the very dirt

    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.


    Like so many of you, our hearts are very heavy today. Like the iconic Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, which serves as the connector of the past, present, and future for those historic neighborhoods within and beyond the City of Buffalo, Jefferson Avenue is celebrated as a cultural beacon of African American life. Long considered the “spine” of the Black community, Jefferson Ave. has been a place where many socio-and political movements successfully began and flourished.


    Did you want to see me broken?

    Bowed head and lowered eyes?

    Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

    Weakened by my soulful cries?


    We must all stand steadfast and condemn the systemic and societal issues that led to this heinous act. We all must engage in honest discussions that unabashedly and unapologetically acknowledge the scourge of white supremacist hate groups that exists in every city, town, village, and hamlet across this nation and beyond. This terrible atrocity was committed by a weak, impressionable individual radicalized by a network of hate groups upon other people who look like me. However, we are not in the least defeated. We are a strong people emblematic of so many before us who despite the hardships and obstacles placed in their way simply because of the color of their skin, still possessed the resolve to rise above them all.

    We cannot begin to express the amount of grief and pain all of us continue to feel. The African American community in Buffalo has for generations been a close-knit one. Many of us are close to someone directly impacted by this violent murderous act. We cry with those families who lost loved ones, but they will not be defined as victims but celebrated as beautiful, inspiring people who loved their families and their community.


    You may shoot me with your words,

    You may cut me with your eyes,

    You may kill me with your hatefulness,

    But still, like air, I’ll rise.


     

    (Excerpts in italics from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright 1978)


  • May 10, 2022 3:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Friends, Members, and Colleagues,

    I am pleased to share the exciting news that A9710/S8934 “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State” was reported out of the Assembly Economic Development Committee to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee earlier today.

    MANY extends our thanks to Assemblymember Didi Barrett D-108 and Assemblymember Harry Bronson D-138 for their work on this bill and their efforts in support of all of New York’s Museums. We also extend our thanks Senator Jeremy A. Cooney D-56 for introducing the bill in the Senate.

    With only nine days to go in the legislative session, your outreach could make a critical difference towards advancing the bill in the legislature. 

    We need you to reach out to your Assemblymembers and Senators today to ask them to sign on in support of the bill.

    Not sure who represents you in the Assembly? You can find your Assemblymember here.

    Need to find who represents you in the Senate? You can find your NYS Senator here.

    Click here to download a template that can help you write to your Assemblymember.

    Click here to download a template that can help you write to your Senator.

    Download the PDF, insert the name of your legislative representative and the name of your museum. The PDF also has room for your electronic signature. Please feel free to edit/adapt the language to your museum and your community.

    Thank you in advance for taking the time out of what I know is an incredibly busy day to reach out in support of this important bill that will help create an accurate and relevant picture of our state’s museums to inform policy making and grow public awareness of the missions, collections, audiences, and funding needs of New York State’s museums.


    Sincerely,

    Erika Sanger


  • April 27, 2022 10:43 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Letter from Erika Sanger and Brian Lee Whisenhunt

    We are pleased to share this annual report and express our sincerest gratitude to our members, donors, and sponsors who helped us find spaces and places to gather, create, and support each other’s work in 2021. Together, we faced the challenges of operating in both virtual and in-person environments and treasured the rare moments where we could pause, assess our work, and share our achievements. We are pleased by the progress we made this past year and honored by the new partnerships we forged that will help us shape a better future for museums and museum professionals. 

    In 2021, we supported positive changes in the field, offered information based on facts, and stopped at every possible juncture to ensure that we included the voices of indigenous and people of color in our decision making. We continue our pledge to help move New York’s museums past “cobbling things together” and “stretching limited resources” to a place where museums thrive financially, serve their communities holistically, and enthusiastically welcome visitors from all corners of our state, our nation, and our world. 

    MANY’s virtual programming helped us reach museum professionals from 37 states, the District of Columbia, and eight other nations. The number of social media followers grew by 30 percent, the redesigned newsletter helped us increase member engagement, and people clicked on the MANY job board almost 64,000 times. We welcomed 371 colleagues from every county in our state to in-person programming. The joyful sound of people laughing together for the first time in two years will forever echo in our ears. 

    In June of 2021, the board began to develop a new strategic plan that will guide MANY’s operations from 2022 to 2026. We closed the year in a positive financial position despite setbacks – we did not hold an annual conference and incurred increased program costs by limiting attendance and taking measures to maintain safety in the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, MANY had 679 members, a 5% increase from 2020. We raised $1.2M through six major grants that will allow us to directly impact the work of more than 400 museums by the end of June 2022. 

    State level advocacy efforts in 2021, led to Assemblymember Didi Barret (NY-106) introducing Assembly Bill Number A9710, “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State.” The study will help inform public policy, increase financial support, and raise awareness of the importance of museums to our state’s communities and to the economy.

    We remain optimistic for the future of our museums and continue to pledge our work towards a more equitable and inclusive field. We look forward to working with our new board officers and new board members and thank departing board members who dedicated hundreds of hours in service to the field during their time on the MANY board. 

    We are eager to explore the ways we can work together to build a stronger, more sustainable and relevant museum community – a community where everyone’s voices are held up together.


    Sincerely,

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt, President, MANY Board of Directors


    Erika Sanger, Executive Director 


    Click here to read the 2021 Annual Report
  • April 26, 2022 9:45 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    MANY Elects The Rockwell Museum Executive Director Brian Lee Whisenhunt as Board President and Announces New and Returning Board Members

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director at The Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY has been elected MANY Board President

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce the election of Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director of The Rockwell Museum as Board President.  Whisenhunt joined MANY in April 2018 and has served as Program Chair and Vice President. He previously served on the board of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association and currently serves on the Museum Advisory Council of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. 

    “Working for the betterment of my community, whether the city in which I live or the professional group with whom I work, is a value I hold dear,” said Whisenhunt. “The opportunity to serve the New York museum community as President of the Board of Directors of MANY is a charge I am thrilled to undertake and honored to perform. Working with Erika Sanger, the MANY staff and Board of Directors as we continue to address the evolving needs of New York’s museums; the ongoing challenges of the pandemic; and the work on diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion within the field.”  

    Whisenhunt worked in museum education for ten years before beginning his career as a museum director at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana where he oversaw their successful accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. Whisenhunt has also served as the Executive Director of the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas where he led a $5.4 million renovation. He joined The Rockwell Museum in January 2017.

    “I am looking forward to working with Brian to implement MANY’s new strategic plan, reshape board engagement, and plan for the next generation of board members,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger. “We learned so much about the value of our museum association during the pandemic and under Brian’s leadership we will be able to take the products of those lessons to advance the organization and better serve museum professionals across the state.” 

    Whisenhunt is joined by a new Executive Committee with co-Vice Presidents Bruce Whitmarsh (Chemung County Executive Director and previous MANY Board Treasurer) and Dr. Georgette Grier-Key (Eastville Community Historical Society Executive Director and Chief Curator), Treasurer Marissa Wigglesworth (Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve President and CEO), and Secretary Diane Shewchuk (Albany Institute of History & Art Curator). 

    MANY is also pleased to announce the election of six new board members and the re-election of four to their second terms. 

    Newly elected board members are Victoria Reisman, Beth Ann Balalaos, Joshua Ruff, Samantha Hall-Saladino, Nick Martinez, and Dr. Callie Johnson. Alexandra Drakakis, Diane Shewchuk, Marissa Wigglesworth, and Becky Wehle were re-elected to their second terms, bringing the total number of board members to 25. MANY Board members serve three-year terms and represent museums of all disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic locations as well as partner industries in New York State. 

    “I’m ecstatic about the skills, perspectives, experience and talent the new members of MANY’s Board of Directors brings to our association,” said Whisenhunt. “As we continue to work through the current challenges and opportunities presented to our organization as well as the institutions we serve, I appreciate the willingness of our new Directors to contribute to the success of the museum community of New York.”

    Victoria Reisman is a curator at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation’s Bureau of Historic Sites based at Peebles Island Resource Center. She previously served as the curator of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, where she produced 21 special exhibitions, developed a nationwide juried photography exhibition program, and created a grant-funded gallery space to highlight trophies from the collection. Her museum work experience includes internships in the Learning Services department at the Australian Museum (Sydney, Australia), the curatorial department at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), and the Lehigh University Art Galleries. Reisman is a graduate of Lehigh University (Bachelor of Arts, Design Arts) and the University of Sydney (Master of Museum Studies).

    Beth Ann Balalaos is the Access and Inclusion Manager at the Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM). Beth Ann joined the Education Department in 2014 as an intern and began managing the LICM’s IMLS funded "LICM4all" accessibility program in 2016. In this role, she oversees all aspects of accessibility and inclusivity within LICM such as Friendly Hours, Sensory Friendly Performances, the LICM4all App, staff sensitivity training, adapting and creating programming, ADA Compliance, and exhibit modifications. Beth Ann is part of LICM’s Cultural Competence Learning Institute Committee. She has developed and facilitated LICM’s first programming that focuses on the LGBTQIA Community and established its Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion Team.

    Joshua Ruff is the Deputy Director and Director of Collections & Interpretation at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages, in Stony Brook. He is a graduate of Syracuse University with BAs in Broadcast Journalism and in History, and Stony Brook University with a MA in History. He has worked at the Long Island Museum for 24 years including as Curator of its History and Carriage Collections. He has curated more than 60 exhibitions, including, most recently, Fire & Form: New Directions in Glass (2021). In addition to co-authoring several books and exhibition catalogs, his articles have appeared in publications including Magazine Antiques; American Art Review; New York Archives Magazine; American History magazine.

    Samantha Hall-Saladino is the Executive Director of the Fulton County Historical Society in Gloversville and serves as the Fulton County Historian. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from Russell Sage College and a Masters in Museum Studies from the University of New Hampshire. Over the past decade, Samantha has worked with museums across the Capital Region and along the seacoast of New Hampshire, including Strawbery Banke, the American Independence Museum, and the Albany County Historical Association at Ten Broeck Mansion. She serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association of Public Historians of NYS (APHNYS) and the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network (SVAN). 

    Nick Martinez is an educator, producer, podcaster, and activist, from New York City with over a decade of experience working at the intersections of museum education, youth, and workforce development, mentoring, and science. His passion is to engage and support BIPOC to pursue interests and careers in science and develop strategies for the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in traditionally non-inclusive spaces. He began his museum career as an undergraduate intern at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in the Museum Education and Employment Program, designing and leading tours of museum halls for visiting school and camp groups. After graduation, he returned to AMNH as an internship supervisor, helping to supervise the new cohort of college interns, and was later hired to teach genetics, human evolution, and neuroscience in the Hall of Human Origins Teaching Lab, first as a Lab Facilitator and then in a full-time role as the Coordinator of the Lab. He is currently Senior Manager of Youth Initiatives and manages Middle and High School programs, Internship experiences, and Alumni Engagement. He also leads recruitment, community-building, and partnership efforts to increase diversity and promote equity and inclusivity across Youth Programs at the AMNH.

    Dr. Callie Johnson is an award-winning marketing, communications, and nonprofit leadership executive. At the Albright-Knox, Dr. Johnson serves in an executive role stewarding the rebranding of America’s sixth oldest art museum, which is in the process of becoming the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Dr. Johnson is the former Executive Vice President of Marketing for Girl Scouts of Western New York and a current member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only community for executives in communications, marketing, and public relations. She is the winner of two Buffalo Business First awards—40 Under 40 and 30 Under 30 —for making a difference both on the job and in the community.  She is a Buffalo Niagara 360 Spotlight Professional for her career success and her commitment to strengthening the Buffalo Niagara region. She was awarded three Girl Scouts of Western New York Finance Certificates of Accomplishment and a Commitment to Excellence Award.

    Diane Shewchuk was elected Board Secretary. Previous Board Secretary Becky Wehle (Genesee Country Village & Museum President and CEO) will Chair the Membership and Fundraising Committee. Emily Martz (Great Camp Sagamore Executive Director) will Chair the Advocacy Committee and Clifford Laube (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Public Program Specialist) and Natalie Stetson (Erie Canal Museum Executive Director) will co-chair the Program Committee. Eliza Kozlowski (George Eastman Museum Senior Director of Marketing & Engagement) will continue to Chair the Marketing Committee.

    Suzanne LeBlanc (Long Island Children’s Museum President) will serve on the board for a one-year term as Past President.


    See below for the full list of MANY board members.


    Beth Ann Balalaos, Access and Inclusion Manager, Long Island Children’s Museum

    Rob Cassetti, Creative Strategist, Luckystone Partners 

    Mariano Desmarás, Creative Director, Museum Environments 

    Alexandra Drakakis, Chief Acquisitions Curator, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

    Michael Galban, Historic Site Manager and Curator, Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site 

    Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Eastville Community Historical Society 

    Samantha Hall-Saladino, Executive Director, Fulton County Historical Society

    Peter Hyde, Owner, Peter Hyde Design 

    Dr. Callie Johnson, Director of Communications & Community Engagement, Albright-Knox Gallery (Buffalo AKG Art Museum)

    Theodore K. Johnson, President & CEO, Hadley Exhibits Inc.

    Eliza Kozlowski, Senior Director of Marketing & Engagement, George Eastman Museum 

    Clifford Laube Ex Officio, Public Program Specialist, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

    Denise Lewis, Chief Financial Officer, Museum of Arts and Design

    Suzanne LeBlancPast President, President, Long Island Children’s Museum

    Nick Martinez, Senior Manager of Youth Initiatives, American Museum of Natural History

    Emily Martz, Executive Director, Great Camp Sagamore 

    Melinda McTaggart, Director, Schoharie County Historical Society and Old Stone Fort Museum

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

    Joshua Ruff, Deputy Director/ Director of Collections & InterpretationLong Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages

    Diane Shewchuk, Curator, Albany Institute of History & Art  

    Natalie Stetson, Executive Director, Erie Canal Museum 

    Becky Wehle, President/CEO, Genesee Country Village & Museum 

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director, The Rockwell Museum 

    Bruce Whitmarsh, Executive Director, The Chemung County Historical Society 

    Marisa Wigglesworth, President and CEO, Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve 


    # # #


    About MANY 

    The Museum Association of New York helps to shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 


  • March 30, 2022 1:21 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Suzanne LeBlanc has served as the Museum Association of New York’s Board President since 2018 and has spent her career working in children’s museums.  Prior to joining the Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM) in 2005, she served in leadership positions at children’s museums in Boston, Brooklyn, and Las Vegas. 

    Most recently, LeBlanc has been an award recipient of the Premier Business Women of Long Island and Nassau County’s Women of Distinction. She was also chose as on e of the “50 Most Influential Businesswomen of Long Island” by Long Island Business News. She’s been a member of the Community Advisory Council of the Junior League and the Early Years Institute Advisory Committee. In November 2012, she received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service at the White House on behalf of the Long Island Children’s Museum for “Together to Kindergarten” a community-focused initiative for Spanish and Haitian-speaking immigrant families.   

    LICM recently earned accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums; one of only 16 children’s museums in the country to achieve this recognition and the only CHildren’s Museum in NY currently accredited.

    LeBlanc earned her MA in Counseling Psychology from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a BS in Journalism and Photojournalism from the School of Public Communication at Boston University. Her work has been published in museum journals, she consults, teaches, and presents at conferences. 

    As Suzanne concludes her tenure as President of MANY’s Board of Directors, we spoke with her to learn more about how she entered the museum field, what excites her about museum work, and more.

    Long Island Children’s Museum President Suzanne LeBlanc celebrates accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums

    MANY: What was your first museum experience? 

    Suzanne LeBlanc: When I was in elementary school, the only museum field trip that we went on was to the Christian Science Center in Boston. Their museum had a mapparium where you crossed the room on a suspended walkway with a backlit globe all around you, and I think that's where I got my interest in the whole museum world. It was my first exposure to museums. 

    What was the museum experience that made you think about entering the profession?

    As of this past January, I’ve worked in the field for 48 years. I went to Boston University and majored in Communications and Photo Journalism. I saw Michael Spock, the son of Dr. Benjamin Spock and one of the first creators of interactivity in children’s museums, being interviewed on one of the television morning news programs. He was also the director of the Boston Children’s Museum. I found it interesting and I had never been to a children’s museum so I visited and ended up doing a photo essay on the museum. I heard that the museum offered a three-month internship, I applied, was accepted and after I graduated, I interned at the Boston’s Children’s Museum. At the time, the museum was just a Victorian house, it was small but had a large reputation. It’s the second oldest children’s museum in the world, founded in 1913 by the Science Teachers’ Bureau. 

    There were a couple of people there who really inspired me and who saw something in me and wanted me to stay, so I stayed. I never studied museums and I never intended on working in museums or even imagined it, but it’s something that I love. 

    I worked there for fifteen years, and while I was there I debated whether or not I wanted to be a director. I learned about the then Museum Management Institute that the J. Paul Getty Trust funded  (it used to be a month-long residency program), applied and was accepted. It ended up being very critical to my early museum career because I was exploring what I wanted to do. It was taught by business professors from Harvard and Stanford, but every week they had a nationally-known museum professional in residence who would direct the conversations towards museums and host office hours. This was really the only formal training for museums that I had. Everything else I learned through working my way up from my internship position. 

    I left Boston to take the position of Associate Director at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and when their director left for eight weeks, I was named Acting Director. Then I was recruited to go to the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas (now DISCOVERY Children’s Museum) as the Executive Director and following that, was recruited to come to the Long Island Children’s Museum. That’s my trajectory and it’s been a fun and exciting one. I’ve probably done almost every museum job. 

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

    I grew up in Salem Massachusetts which is about 25 miles north of Boston, and had a large French Canadian population. It’s on the water and very historic. I went to Catholic schools through high school and grew up with eight brothers and sisters as the oldest. When I was fourteen we had to move into a larger house, but really couldn’t afford it so we also rented rooms to eight college students. People were everywhere! Truthfully, growing up there as a kid I mostly knew French Canadian Catholics and reading was sort of my way out into the world. At the time, Salem State College was a one-building teacher’s college and my father used to say that one of these days that place is going to take over. Today it’s Salem University. And of course, there is the history that’s associated with the Salem Witch Trials. When I was growing up it wasn’t that big of a deal but now every Halloween about 250,000 people from all over the world come.  It’s a major event with  historic, touristy and Wiccan themes. It’s a very different place now then when I was growing up but it’s more aligned with the places I like to live now – more culturally diverse, more arts activities, and more variety of restaurants.  

    In high school, I would visit the Peabody Essex Museum which was probably my first traditional museum visit. I was interested in their Japanese collections and when I was an intern at the Boston Children’s Museum, my major area of focus was their Japanese Home. My interest in cultures developed there.

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

    At first, I thought, absolutely not. I grew up in a family that varied from poor to working class, and hardly anyone in my family went to college. I loved school and reading and I was intent on going to college. I had worked two summers at a factory to save money and at the time I wasn’t thinking of college as leading to a profession, but I was just excited about the opportunity to learn more.  I certainly never thought that I would end up as a museum director which now feels like it really fits me, but wasn’t something my 18-year-old self would imagine.

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

    Professionally what’s helped me was early on in my career at the Boston Children’s Museum, I was given responsibilities like budgeting and supervising. I found these responsibilities extremely helpful. At the Brooklyn Children's Museum, as their Associate Director, I worked with their board, attending meetings, and that introduced me to the director and board relationship. 

    From my education, I have a communications degree which I've found helpful as I work with stakeholders, board, staff, and funders. I also have a masters degree in counseling psychology which broadened my people skills. I’ve worked at fairly large museums with many staff members so that degree helped in all the critical interpersonal skills.

    In doing so many jobs, I really understand how hard people work which I think is helpful from entry-level to the very top. I think a lot of directors come into the field as directors, but I’ve worked my way up and I try to tell new staff that story.

    I adopted my daughter Tara when she was 16 and volunteering at the Children’s Museum in Las Vegas when I worked there.  She is now 42, a speech pathologist and living in Wales with her wife Aimee and adopted daughter Aimee.  It is the most amazing and wonderful gift from my career. 

    What are some of your biggest motivations to do what you do? What gets you excited about your role at the Long Island Children’s Museum?

    I love working for an institution. In terms of my role, I like thinking about the big vision and helping to bring it about even if it takes a long time. I really love seeing staff grow and being a mentor. I’ve had some amazing mentors and I love mentoring others. I look at our museum as not just a learning place for visitors, but for staff as well, so I try to provide as many opportunities for that and when I can do that, it really feels like I am accomplishing something important. 

    Our community initiatives are highlights of my work. One program that gets me very excited is a program called “Together to Kindergarten” for immigrant families with children about to enter kindergarten. We recently hired someone who is now at Hofstra University who was in our program maybe thirteen years ago and she is now coming to work at the museum and will work in that program. She wrote a testimonial on how important that experience had been for her and also for her family who went on and supported her love of education. That’s the kind of thing that makes you cry, seeing that impact because sometimes you don’t get to see that as people come and go in a museum. 

    I’ve gotten really good at helping to gain national recognition for the museums I’ve worked at.  I think that came from when I went to the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum in Las Vegas there were some comments from my colleagues at the time asking are there really museums in Las Vegas? So I thought that I’m going to put this museum on the map and worked hard to get state and federal funding including funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). I did the same thing for the Long Island Children’s Museum including the National Medal for Museum and Library Services, which is the highest honor for libraries and museums that are serving their communities in exceptional ways. [The Long Island Children’s Museum received the National Medal in 2012 at the White House for “Together to Kindergarten” a community-focused initiative for Spanish and Haitian-speaking immigrant families.]


    Accepting the National Medal for Museum and Library Services at the White House

    What are some of your goals for the museum?

    One major goal that I’ve tried to accomplish and that we keep getting stopped by financial downturns is a capital campaign expansion into the airplane hangar building next door to us. The first delay was during the global financial crisis in 2008 and then there was another setback during Hurricane Sandy. Then I thought the third time's the charm and we were ready to go with architects, exhibits were planned, the county was ready with funding, and then the pandemic hit. 

    I’m starting to pick it back up again, and in the meantime we’ve added new exhibitions and redesigned others, but part of this campaign was to do a number of new major exhibitions. We plan to do an exhibition about immigration on Long Island. We resarched this five years ago as part of our strategic plan and we found that 18% of people living on Long Island were immigrants. 

    For the expansion into Hangar Five (an old airplane hangar adjacent to the LI Children’s Museum), we were going to move our non-public spaces there to create more room for exhibitions in our current facility.  But getting new exhibitions is exciting and this capital campaign expansion is still something I am sure we will accomplish.

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    I have a lot of meetings. Sometimes they’re on the more tedious side and sometimes they’re more productive, where we’re solving a problem or ideas are flowing. So a really good meeting where we’re getting someplace and then having time to really think it through and follow up on it is especially good. 

    I also like to take the time to walk around on the museum floor, especially after a bad day to be reminded of what impact you’re having and how much fun people are having. 

    I like noise around me, maybe because I grew up in a large family and had a lot of people around me, so even though I’m good at business, I don’t think that I would do really well in a regular corporate-like environment. I like having people around me with creative ideas.


    Add-a-Dot Art Installation at the LICM in 2018 –a collaborative art-making experience

    What is your superpower?

    We’ve been getting IMLS funding every year for years and one of the things that I like to do and that I’m good at is listening to people in meetings and understanding what people want to do and thinking about what will move this museum forward with IMLS funding or other funding sources. And then conceptualizing that idea, bring people together to make it happen. I usually am not part of projects from start to end, but I’m okay with that. I’ll stay on in an advisory capacity but I don’t have to take the project from beginning to end. I do think that’s important in this role. You have to be okay with understanding your role as an Executive Director.

    My first thought was my people skills, working with staff and board members and outside stakeholders.  This leads to my abilities in creating a work culture that people thrive in.

    During the pandemic, one of my staff told me that I am good in a crisis. I do think I’ve been good at navigating crisis situations for this  time and previous ones as well.

    It was interesting when the pandemic started because we were in the middle of accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums and I decided to keep going. We had already put a lot of time into it, we’d worked on it for about a year and a half. We accomplished being accredited for the first time and it ended up being a nice team-building project and something very thrilling to accomplish in the midst of the pandemic.

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

    My most important mentor is Elaine Heumann Gurian who was the Director of the Visitor Center at the Boston Children’s Museum. I really believe that if I hadn’t worked for her, I wouldn’t have stayed in museum work. She was incredibly inspiring and I would hang on her every word. I wanted to work with her. So I stayed after my internship. At first, I was her executive assistant and truthfully I had no skills in that area, but I taught myself how to type and I would write her letters. She would say “write them how I would talk but make sure they are correct”. I would do budget work, lead meetings, I did a lot and she trusted me. She’s always been supportive of me and my career. She went on to work at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and   the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Now she does international consulting. 

    Michael Spock was inspirational to me in a different way. He was an example of always having where you wanted to go on your radar even if it was going to take you a long time to get there and he had the patience to stay with it and get it to happen. Moving the museum [Boston Children’s Museum] from a Victorian house to the waterfront was his goal and took a long time.

    Elaine and Michael had very different styles and approaches but I think of them both as my mentors. 

    There is another person who wasn’t necessarily a mentor but when I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to be a director, her words inspired me. She was Bernice Johnson Reagon, who was a curator at the Smithsonian and also the founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, an acapella group comprised of Black women. 

    When Elaine went to the Smithsonian, she knew that I was shy about speaking in public, but also knew that I needed to develop that skill to move forward. She told people at the Smithsonian to get me as a speaker. Bernice Johnson Reagan asked me to speak at one of their conferences. and when she was introducing the conference she said if you want to make a difference in the world, get yourself in a position of power. That stuck with me and it helped lead to my decision to become a director, but it also stuck with me in that I was meeting   a lot of young people of color who felt like they didn’t have enough say in community outreach roles, so I would ask if they ever thought about being a director and encouraged them to think about it. I’ve tried throughout my career to try to be a mentor to others, as others have to me.  

    What have you appreciated the most during your time as MANY Board President?

    I joined MANY before it merged with MuseumWise. At the time, I didn’t know much about  the rest of the state. By joining MANY and being in a leadership role I’ve gotten to learn  about the many different museums across the state, and worked with a wonderful variety of museum professionals.  It’s something I’ve loved.

    It’s been rewarding to see MANY grow from the beginning and be a true service to the field, especially during the pandemic. It’s great to be part of an organization that has helped so many museums.


  • March 30, 2022 12:56 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    If I had a personal FAQ sheet, “How many museums are there in New York State?” would be at the top of the list. Believe it or not, it is a hard question to answer. MANY uses 1,400 as an estimate, but I have learned that to be an effective advocate and to counter inaccurate, commonly held beliefs and perceptions, we need to use precise and relevant data about who we are, who we serve, and what funds make our work possible.

    The second FAQ would be, “What is next in MANY’s statewide advocacy agenda?” I am pleased to announce that on March 28th Assembly Member Didi Barrett (District 106 Dutchess/Columbia) introduced Assembly Bill Number A9710, “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State.” The intent of the study is to identify and collect data about all museums in the state including information on size, hours of operation, visitor statistics, funding sources and amounts, and the subjects of the museums' collections. It will provide information and recommendations to the legislature about the adequacy of public and private funding sources.

    The proposed study will inform policymaking and improve public awareness of the museums throughout our State. It will help identify the benefits, shortfalls, and consequences of the different sources of support for museums. The study will recommend systems of support to best ensure equitable distributions of funds regardless of discipline, budget size, or location.

    AM Barrett’s Sponsor Memo recognizes how museums are inextricably linked to New York State’s identity, economy, and history, that too many of us operate hand to mouth, struggle to pay our bills, and wonder each year how we will keep our doors open.

    The memo also recognizes that we need assistance to ensure the protection of our collections and to strengthen our roles as educators and community anchors.  

    Your responses to our State of NYS Museums and COVID-19 impact surveys helped us get attention and support for museum relief funding over the past two years. Now we need you to reach out to your Assembly Members and ask them to sponsor Assembly Bill Number A9710, “An act in relation to conducting a study of public and private museums in New York State.” Please let them know how important this new legislation is to the future of New York’s museums and ask them to email Jacob Scofield, jscofield@nyassembly.gov and indicate their preference to sponsor.

    Not sure who represents you? Click here to find your Assembly Member. 

    I know your days are as jam-packed as mine and I extend my thanks in advance for making the time to reach out to your legislative representative and ask for their support of this bill.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    Erika Sanger

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