Early voting has begun across New York State and in the weeks leading up to the 2020 Election, museums are providing resources about voter registration, how to mail in an absentee ballot, voting early, and leading conversations about the current state of American democracy. Museums are using their platforms to contribute to civic engagement and to encourage voter participation.
Museums As Voter Resource Guides
The American Alliance of Museums encourages museums to engage in nonpartisan voter activities. In response, many museums are using their resources to educate their visitors and online followers in voter education and providing information about voting registration, polling locations, and more. While museums cannot support or oppose a candidate or a political party, museums are providing critical information to encourage new voters and educate existing voters about how, where, and when to vote.
The New-York Historical Society has a link in their Instagram bio that directs visitors to voteearlyny.org— a website to help people make a plan to either vote early, vote by mail, or on election day. The Everson Museum of Art has a button visible on each page of their website linking to planyourvote.org. The clear goal is to ensure that people know how to vote, where to vote, and when to vote. The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) held a voter registration event on National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 22. From 9 to 5, anyone could stop by the museum to either register to vote or to check their voter registration. Across social media, museums are tagging #EveryVoteCounts that asks their followers to share voting plans, tag a friend to make sure they have a voting plan, and to make sure others are registered.
In conjunction with the event, CMoG opened an exhibition dedicated to the voting process, Transparent: Voting in America that explores issues surrounding a core value of democracy—that the voting process is fair and open to scrutiny. It also highlights the invention of the glass ballot box from the 1880s alongside a series of historical cartoons to demonstrate how glass ballot boxes were symbols of a free and fair election.”
Corning Museum of Glass’ temporary exhibition Transparent: Voting in America
Other museums are also using their collections to create exhibitions about voting and its history. The Chemung County Historical Society’s virtual exhibition, Vote! Chemung County. The Historical Society create a new website devoted to the history of who got to vote (which discusses voter disenfranchisement and voting rights), how people voted from the earliest voting in the United State–voice voting to paper ballots, absentee ballots, the first voting machines in the late 1800s, and electronic voting of today, and a virtual catalog of election memorabilia that features local and national election items from the mid-1800s through 2016. This virtual exhibition’s goal is to share the history of voting while reminding people that when you vote you are part of history.
Leading the Conversation
Museums are hosting dialogues to exchange thoughts and about the current state of American democracy. The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) created “Women’s Suffrage and Voting Rights Now”, designed for kids but open for all, about how voting rights have evolved in NYC and for participants to discover diverse leaders within the women's suffrage movement and the tactics they used to expand voting rights. MCNY’s Curators from the Couch program also hosted a live-steam discussion between Puffin Foundation Curator Sarah Seidman with Dr. Peniel Joseph, the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin and organizer Brea Baker to discuss voting rights connected to the museums’ Activist New York exhibition.
OUR FLAG, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. Ed Ruscha. Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is leading a conversation about how the arts can play a role within the current state of American Democracy. On November 2, visual artists Ed Ruscha and producer Swizz Beatz will discuss how artists are using their platforms to contribute to civic engagement in electoral politics and beyond. The Brooklyn Museum has a page dedicated on their website, Make Your Vote Count, that encourages those eligible to get informed and to vote. The museum has offered public programming throughout the month of October leading up to the election to “bring us all together in strengthening democracy.” The Brooklyn Museum is also serving as a polling site for both early voting and on Election Day.
Leading up to Election Day
According to AAM’s Museum Facts Data, 97% of Americans believe that museums are education assets for their communities and that the American public considers museums the most trustworthy source of information in America. As Election Day approaches, museums are continuing to serve their communities and be a reliable source of information for voters. Museums are sharing accurate and nonpartisan voting resources and are helping to strengthen voting awareness.
Further Reading / Resources
AAM’s Nonprofit Voter Resources Guide—Yes You Can!
AAM Nonprofit Voter Resource Guide PDF
Resetting the Table: PURPLE
Election Trust Project
NYU to Host Early Voting for 2020 Election
Vote Early NY
Plan Your Vote
Early Voting in New York: 5 Takeaways
Engaging New Voters
Can I Vote
League of Women Voters