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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. 

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  • March 08, 2024 2:58 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Old Methodist Church building, headquarters and exhibitions gallery for Preservation Long Island. Photo courtesy of Lauren Brincat, Curator, Preservation Long Island

    The Museum Association of New York is the designated partner for the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Program, circulating Smithsonian-created exhibitions across New York State. From March 2024 to January 2026, MANY will travel the exhibition “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” to 12 museums in 9 NYS REDC regions. With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, MarketNY, and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, MANY will help the museums attract visitors, expand their programming, and grow their donor base.

    Each museum will host the exhibition for six weeks as well as the creation of a responsive exhibition telling the story of democracy in their communities using objects and location-specific stories. Museums will use the Smithsonian exhibition as a launching point for “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy” humanities discussion series to explore the context and main controversies behind our democratic system including the principles and events that inspired the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the struggle for civil rights, voting rights, and equal participation in our democracy. This project will support the work of each museum and their communities as they explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American democracy.

    “Voices and Votes” opens at Preservation Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor this March. We spoke with Preservation Long Island Curator, Lauren Brincat, to learn more about how the exhibition will impact programming, museum capacity, and amplify Long Island’s role in American democracy.

    Museum Association of New York (MANY): Why did Preservation Long Island apply to host Voices and Votes?

    Lauren Brincat: It was the connection between the exhibition themes and the work that Preservation Long Island is doing, particularly the story of Jupiter Hammonand the larger enslaved community at Joseph Lloyd Manor where we’re seeing an increase in dialogue and discussion that is bringing people together. It’s become a main focal point for us 

    We saw connections between our local story of democracy to the Smithsonian’s exhibition. The Smithsonian exhibition will provide greater historical context to what's happening on Long Island –especially as we move towards the 250th, Jupiter Hammon is certainly, for New York, someone to talk about as a voice who is writing about speaking about liberty and freedom during and after the American Revolution. 

    MANY: Can you tell us more about the story of Jupiter Hammon and how Preservation Long Island hopes to amplify this story while it hosts Voices and Votes?

    Lauren Brincat: Jupiter Hammon is the first known published African American poet. He was one of only two enslaved individuals to have their works published in North America during the 18th century, so he provides a really rare perspective on this critical moment in our country's founding. He was born into slavery on Long Island and did some of his most well-known and significant writings that confront these ideas of liberty, freedom, and enslavement in the new nation on Long Island. 

    We will incorporate Jupiter Hammon's story into our responsive exhibition that I'm curating. Our responsive exhibition will include two original copies of Hammon’s published works. The first, “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York.” was written in 1786 and Hammon references the American Revolution and how many lives were lost. It was the Patriot's calls for liberty that inspired him to advocate for the freedom and citizenship of Black New Yorkers. The second published work, “A Winter's Peace,” was written while Hammon was in exile in Connecticut during the war because Long Island was occupied by the British during the Revolution.

    Our Project Scholar, Dr. David Waldstreicher, Professor of History at City University of New York, will deliver a free, public lecture about Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley 

    MANY: What other objects are you going to have in the responsive exhibition that will be from your collection?

    Lauren Brincat: It's a little bit of a mix. The two Jupiter works we’re borrowing from the East Hampton Library. 

    We will include a bracelet and a ring from our collection made by a female factory worker at one of the large aircraft plants on Long Island during World War Two. While men were fighting for democracy abroad, women were filling factory jobs at home and gaining greater agency in their lives, albeit for the short term. After the War, women were expected to give up their jobs for returning veterans but foundations were laid for future calls for equality.

    Other objects include a silver tankard made by Elias Pelletreau who was a Long Island silversmith. Referred to as Captain Pelletreau, he was an older man who led a militia of senior citizens in Southampton during the Revolutionary War.

    A tea table that was owned by William Floyd, a Long Island Signer of the Declaration of Independence.

    Needlework done by the daughter of Henry Packer Dering. He was one of the first customs and postmasters for the port of Sag Harbor, the Custom House is one of our historic houses. It was also a location where they administered oaths of citizenship. Her needlework was done at the Litchfield School in Connecticut. It’ll focus on the idea of Republican Motherhood and what that meant in this period.

    We also want to focus on the building where the exhibition will be located. It was built in 1842, and shortly thereafter visited by Sojourner Truth during her time on Long Island. We’re looking forward to exploring her connection to this actual site.

    We are including an 1860 signature piece quilt done by members of the Dutch Reform Church in Manhasset. We’re not sure why this was made but lots of signature piece quilts were made during this period and were done to support the ongoing Civil War. This is the inspiration for a larger program, our community quilt project that we are doing with North Shore Quilting and Fiber Art. Members of our community are making blocks which will then all be signed and sewed together and will be on display in the exhibition and then will become a part of our collection.

    Some more contemporary things we will include are a protest blanket that was made by an artist in 2020 that was part of an outdoor art memorial to Black Lives Matter. The exhibition was organized as a way for people to show support while continuing to social distance during  the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a way for people to participate and show support through creating art which created a living memorial. This blanket was a part of that installation.

    A big part of our mission is advocating for historic preservation. We want to focus and highlight ways that people can advocate and use their voices to support historic preservation in their communities. 

    We’re including three photographs in our exhibition by Shinnecock Fine Art Photographer Jeremy Dennis. Called the Sacredness of Hills, these photos confront the  desecration of a sacred Indigenous burial site in Southampton due to development on the East End prior to the passing of the Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act in New York just last year.. It's a  powerful series that connects the history and experiences of the Shinnecock People on Long Island with preservation advocacy work. 

    MANY: You mentioned a walking tour with Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum and getting items loaned from the East Hampton Library, tell us more about the partnerships you’re forming as part of the exhibition. 

    Lauren Brincat: Yes, the Cold Spring Harbor Library will host our scholar lecture. The community quilt project is a partnership with the local businesses here on Main Street and they are supporting that entire project.  

    MANY: What are some of the goals for Preservation Long Island, short-term and long-term?

    Lauren Brincat: It's exposing more people to the wide variety of work that Preservation Long Island does. We have an expansive mission, and people know us for the different kinds of work that we do whether it’s our preservation advocacy, exhibitions, or our publications. This is an exciting opportunity to bring all of this work together, especially through a Smithsonian exhibition and a responsive exhibition that will explore  historic preservation and ways to join advocacy efforts on Long Island and beyond.

    We want to generate more interest in what Preservation Long Island does. We’re a regional organization and we’re also a local institution and a place where people can go to have discussions about different topics and learn about history.

    MANY: In addition to hiring gallery attendants, how are you and the Preservation Long Island team preparing to host Voices and Votes

    Lauren Brincat: We are boosting our part-time staff who will work in the gallery so that we can be open more regularly, consistently, and reliably. I think that this exhibition has gotten all of us to work more collaboratively than we have before. For example, I’m working with our preservation director to give a presence to the work she does in the exhibition itself. 

    MANY: How many staff members does Preservation Long Island have?

    Lauren Brincat: We have about 10 people on staff, 8 full-time.

    MANY: What is something that you hope a visitor might take away with them after visiting this exhibition?

    Lauren Brincat: We hope that it will spark curiosity to learn even more. It’s an opportunity to have a hyper-local focused exhibition in response to a Smithsonian exhibition where we can highlight Long Island alongside the larger history of democracy in America. 

    I would hope that it will inspire visitors to learn more and to seek more information.

    MANY: What are some other changes that are happening because you are participating in this project?

    Lauren Brincat: Partnering with more community organizations for programming and events to increase our capacity and their capacity as well. It’s  been very much an all-hands-on-deck kind of project for us. Being part of this project has been an exciting way for us to all work together towards the exhibition’s success, requiring us to think more strategically and to plan further in advance, which is great!

    Learn more about Voices and Votes: Democracy in America and “A New Agora for New York: Museums As Spaces for Democracy” at Preservation Long Island.

  • March 08, 2024 2:46 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is proud to announce that 22 museum professionals from across New York State will attend the 2024 annual conference “Giving Voice to Value” in Albany, NY, April 6-9 with full scholarship support. Scholarships include conference registration, travel, hotel accommodation, workshop or special event registration, and complimentary individual MANY memberships for one year. 

    Scholarship recipients were selected through a competitive application process. Applications were reviewed by a panel that included MANY’s board members, staff, and local conference committee members. “We look forward to welcoming these exceptional professionals to Albany and express our sincere gratitude to our donors for helping MANY to expand our service to the field,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger.

    2024 Scholarship Awards

    BIPOC Museum Professional in Museum Administration

    Awarded to a Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color working in museum administration who has played a leadership role in advancing the capacity and sustainability of their museum.

    Mari Irizarry, Director, Three Village Historical Society

    Cassetti Scholarship

    Awarded to a museum professional who has demonstrated creative leadership and has affected significant, positive change in the ways in which their museum engages with audiences.

    Lauren Nechamkin, Director of Education, Museum of Chinese in America

    William G. Pomeroy Foundation Scholarship

    Sponsored by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for museum professionals working in a history-related NYS museum with an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and who have not attended a MANY annual conference in the past.

    Michael S. Bennett, Lincoln Depot Museum

    Terry Britton, Woodstock Museum

    Rebekah L. Clark, National Memorial Day Museum

    Susan Colson, Percy Grainger Society

    Scott R. Ferrara, Three Village Historical Society

    Elliott Gnirrep, Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center

    Susan M. Ouellette, Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway/Burden Ironworks Museum

    Jamie Robinson, Museum Village of Old Smith’s Clove

    Kristin D. White, Dunkirk Historical Society

    Kayla Whitehouse, National Bottle Museum

    Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation Scholarship

    Sponsored by the Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation for museum professionals employed by museums and historical societies on Long Island with an annual operating budget of $250,000 or less and who have not attended a MANY annual conference in the past.

    Courtney Chambers, Sea Cliff Village Museum

    Phyllis Chan Carr, Sagtikos Manor Historical Society

    Jeremy Dennis, Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio, Inc.

    Stefan Dreisbach-Williams, Waterfront Museum

    George Fleckenstein, Pan Am Museum Foundation

    Ariana Garcia-Cassani, Montauk Historical Society

    Claire Hunter, Montauk Historical Society

    Denice Sheppard, Oyster Bay Historical Society

    Amy Vacchio, Rock Hall Museum

    Museum Professional in a Facilities Position Scholarship

    Sponsored by Fireline Corporation, this scholarship is awarded to a museum professional working in a facilities position at a NYS museum. 

    Josh Engel, Associate Director of Support Services, Long Island Children’s Museum

    Annual Conference

    The 2024 Annual Conference “Giving Voice to Value” will be held in Albany from April 6 to 9 and features over 100 presenters in 25 concurrent sessions, pre-conference workshops, and capstone experiences discussing and sharing new ways to communicate the value of museums to stakeholders, funders, legislators, visitors, and communities. Online registration ends March 31. To learn more, visit: 

  • March 07, 2024 11:43 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Sophie Lo at The Museum at Eldridge Street

    Sophie Lo has more than a decade of experience working at the intersection of arts and culture and education. She is currently the Deputy Director at the Museum at Eldridge Street, directing museum operations and strategic initiatives. Her prior experiences include overseeing public programs and events at The Institute of Fine Arts at NYU and managing public programs and communications at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). She has freelanced for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), consulted on diversity initiatives for young adult novels and children’s education materials at Scholastic Inc. Sophie was an Art Commissioner for Queens Council on the Arts from 2021-2022 and selected for New York Foundation for the Arts Incubator for Executive Leaders of Color Program, an initiative aimed to foster equity and diversity in the arts industry. She earned her B.A. in Culture and Media Studies from The New School, her M.S. in Human Capital Management and Organizational Effectiveness from NYU, and received a certificate for Managing Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace from Cornell University.

    Lo joined the Museum Association of New York Board in January 2024. We spoke with her to learn more about her museum career journey.

    Museum Association of New York: Where did you begin your museum career? Can you share your career journey to your current position as the Deputy Director at the Museum at Eldridge Street?

    Sophie Lo: I  begin my career story at my immigrant parents’ modest small businesses–my father’s Chinese American restaurant, my mother’s paper goods store. I owe so much to those early experiences wrapping crab rangoons and tabling art fairs. That’s where I learned to communicate with customers, negotiate with suppliers, solve problems economically, and just plain work hard. 

    Fast forward a couple dozen years, I have the pleasure and privilege of serving as the Deputy Director of the Museum at Eldridge Street, which is actually where my museum career began in college, as an intern. Back then, I didn’t know working in museums was a viable career option! I remember I was at a career fair and saw an opening at a museum housed in a historic synagogue. I actually spent my childhood going to the Jewish Community Center after school, and as a kid, was very close to our landlady and her family who are Jewish, and therefore had spent a lot of my youth celebrating Jewish holidays and traditions, despite not being Jewish. My mother is an artist, so I was exposed to museums and the arts from a young age. Finding myself drawn to the Museum at Eldridge Street felt really natural. The biggest shock however, was showing up for my interview and realizing I was in the middle of present day Chinatown. I didn’t know this neighborhood one hundred years ago was once home to millions of Jewish immigrants, or that it was once the most densely populated Jewish community in the world. Though my parents were born in Taiwan, I was born and raised in the United States and always lived in areas without a strong Asian community, so there was also a desire for me to find a way back to my roots. This is what made Eldridge seem like such a beautiful fit, even back then–it felt like home. I interned there for two years before I pursued other opportunities at other museums, higher-ed, and even a film company and start-up. I came back to Eldridge at the tail-end of 2020.

    It’s nice to have that full circle moment where the place you began and had such a big impact on your museum and non-profit career to return as Deputy Director. 

    Lo: Right, and I didn’t see it coming because when I was just starting out, I don’t think I really knew what working at a museum could mean. Yes, museums can be about paintings and sculptures, but it can also be about preserving cultural heritage and amplifying people’s stories.  There’s been such a reckoning in the museum world, particularly in the last ten years and it makes sense for many museum professionals to question what it means to be a museum or cultural worker and what kind of impact we want to make through our work.

    What are some of the things that motivate you in your current role as Deputy Director at the Museum at Eldridge Street?

    Lo: It’s the people. My team motivates me. I work with an incredible, dedicated, and grounded group of people whom I love learning from and learning with. I think so much of working within our museum spaces is working with people who feel passionately about what they do and especially the content. It brings great energy to our day-to-day work. I don't think I could do the work that I do without their excitement and commitment about wanting to create great content and make an impact. I think that this all translates into a positive visitor experience. It translates through everything else.

    The Museum at Eldridge Street has undergone a massive restoration/ preservation transformation and recently was awarded more than $280K from the New York Landmarks Conservancy. What is happening next and what are some of your goals for the museum?

    Lo: I see us in a really exciting place right now. We’re on an upward trajectory with some pretty exciting projects in the works that we will announce soon.

    What’s been so rewarding is that in the past two years, we’ve had visitors from all 50 states and over 90 countries. We are breaking our attendance records and seeing engagement unlike ever before. We want to continue to welcome everyone and connect with people of all backgrounds through the story of immigration and community, within the lens of our incredible architecture. 

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

    Lo: Not at all! I wasn’t one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” Even though that caused a lot of angst, and in some ways still does, I’m grateful I jumped into life with open arms and an open mind. 

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

    Lo: People are often surprised to learn that I was born in Nebraska! I also lived Los Angeles for a brief time, but I consider Providence, Rhode Island to be my “home town.”  It’s where I grew up before moving to New York City when I was eighteen. Providence is a beautiful little city and I think I’m lucky to have grown up surrounded by a vibrant and artsy community. It probably helped that my mother went to art school and sometimes brought me to class or the studio with her so I was literally surrounded by artists all the time! 

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    Lo:  Any day when I need to spend time in our historic sanctuary. Even though I’ve had a relationship with this institution for so many years, when I stand in the middle of the sanctuary with light spilling in from the stained glass windows, I still get goosebumps and I still feel emotional. The building has so much history and represents so much hope and resilience. 

    Do you have any mentors?

    Lo: Growing up as an Asian American woman working within the arts and culture sector, it’s well known that it has not historically been a diverse field. When I was a young professional, there weren’t many examples of successful women of color in leadership positions. That being said, I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to have several mentors in my life who were able to teach me about what it means to be a professional in general but also within a homogenous field. They gave me a chance when they hired me and then taught me how to create that culture of inclusion and how to in turn give opportunities to other young professionals starting in the museum world. Another mentor is my mother. She is an immigrant who’s worked hard raising me as a single mom and has gone on to have a flourishing career of her own. She will often say to me that she wishes she had a mentor which makes me all the more appreciative of her and the mentors that I’ve had. 

  • March 07, 2024 11:19 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Rendering of the New-York Historical Society’s expansion project, as seen from Central Park West. Photo courtesy of Alden Studios for Robert A.M. Stern Architects

    Scheduled to open at the New-York Historical Society in 2026, The American LGBTQ+ Museum will occupy 5,000 square feet within the 80,000 square feet new wing expansion. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the new wing will be a five-story structure called the “Democracy Wing.” It will complete the New-York Historical Society’s complex on Central Park West, providing additional space for educational programs and storage as well as a new exhibition gallery, courtyard, and rooftop garden terraces.

    The American LGBTQ+ Museum will be New York City’s first museum dedicated to national, and local LGBTQ history and culture. Through exhibitions, contributions from scholars, public programming, and collaborations with other LGBTQ institutions, the museum will aim to act as a “school for activists” by highlighting the lives of queer people who are not ordinarily reflected in our cultural institutions today.

    We spoke with Executive Director Ben Garcia to learn more about this unique partnership and the role of The American LGBTQ+ Museum will play in amplifying queer history from across New York State and beyond.

    Museum Association of New York: We are excited to learn more about The American LGBTQ+ Museum. I think it’s an interesting and unique partnership with the New-York Historical Society. What do you anticipate or what do you hope the visitor experience will look like?

    Ben Garcia: We have a plan for four avenues of impact with visitors because we want to make sure that as a museum of American LGBTQ+ history, we are reaching people around the country. These four platforms include active public programs and partnership work with partners around the city, the state, and the country that we’ve already begun engaging with.

    The second platform is a series of robust traveling exhibitions that we intend to create around national stories of interest to queer people and partner with museums around the country and offer that exhibition to them at no cost with the provision that they build out the local aspect of that story in partnership with local LGBTQ+ organizations and archives. It’s a model that the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) is piloting right now. As important as it is for people to be able to come to a national queer museum here in New York City, it is equally important that they go to their local history museum and see queer history represented regularly.

    The third platform is unsurprisingly, digital engagements, experiences, and exhibitions. We want to make sure that we’re meeting people around the world and people around the country who won’t be able to access a physical experience. We think that this will be our largest audience. This is the place where we, potentially, will have the most impact because we’ll be reaching people in the states and parts of the world where they cannot share aspects of their identity, where they still need to remain closeted, or they don't have access to reliable information about queer history or queer lives.

    The fourth is what we’re going to be doing here in New York, our home base. Our home at the New-York Historical Society will be a museum within a museum, two separate 501c3s sharing space in their new addition and we expect the visitor experience there to be primarily what you would expect visiting an exhibition in a national museum. The exhibition will be semi-permanent, on view for 10 to 15 years. We’ve engaged Ralph Applebaum & Associates to help lead the process of developing that exhibition and experiences. We think it will be a mix of artifacts and histories as well as space for a memorial to people who died (or were killed) because of their queer identities.

    We will also share classroom space, an auditorium, and programmatic and event spaces to allow for regular public and school programming.

    We hope to regularly partner with the New-York Historical Society to present rotating exhibitions in other galleries around the building to address a wider range of topics than we address in the core exhibition. And we will also have traveling exhibitions that we’ll create with other museums around the city, state, and country.


    Can you describe what you imagine the core exhibition will focus on?

    Garcia: I don’t know specifically the stories that we will focus on because we want to let community engagement and interpretive planning determine that, but we want exhibitions that focus on the history of the movement for LGBTQ+ liberation and the ways in which that intersects with other liberation movements. We want exhibitions that point people to where queer lives are currently under threat and provide people with reliable information about current situations in the world and share ways for people to get engaged if they want to support people in those situations.

    The other category of exhibitions will be those that focus on the contributions of LGBTQ+ people to culture and the history of the United States in the arts, entertainment, athletics, enterprise, politics, etc. This will be a chance to celebrate figures from history who are well known, but, also a chance to tell the stories of people who may be not as well known.

    We want to build a community-engaged, collaboratively built experience, where stakeholders will be able to contribute names and stories.


    The museum will have an interesting partnership with the New-York Historical Society. What will that relationship look like?

    Garcia: At the highest level, it will be a partnership centered on interpreting nuanced and inclusive history. Our shared space will lead to many partnership opportunities with their education and curatorial teams. Many of the details are still being worked on through a process of drafting a memorandum of understanding. However, we anticipate that our core exhibition will be used in their school programs, and vice versa. We hope to co-curate exhibitions, and to continue to co-present public programs—something we have been doing for the past two years.

    There are other logistics that we are still working on like figuring out operating procedures, admissions policies, collecting and fundraising approaches. Our goal is to ensure that we are providing the greatest possible access to the American LGBTQ+ Museum and our exhibitions.

    Cross-section of the New-York Historical Society’s expansion project. Photo courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Architects


    But you will have complete curatorial control in your space?

    Garcia: Yes, we will work independently as two separate museums with complete curatorial independence. If we want to present an exhibition together in one of the rotating galleries, then that is something we will co-curate together. We have a 30-year commitment to work with the New-York Historical Society.


    What will your collection storage look like? Or will the museum be a collecting institution?

    Garcia: One of the early decisions that we made was to only to collect in support of our core exhibition, since it will be on display for ten to fifteen years and we don’t want to have to regularly change out what will be exhibited. Therefore, most of what we collect will be on display apart from materials like paper that will not always be on view due to conservation considerations.

    We made the decision not to be a systematic or research collecting institution, at least in this first phase of our existence, for a couple of reasons. The first was that as we talked to colleagues in some of the 200-plus LGBTQ+ archives and collections around the country, we heard that there wasn’t a need for another large collecting institution. What was needed was a better way to support the existing archives and collections that were already in existence.

    We want to make sure that we are entering the museum landscape in a way that recognizes and centers the work of those who’ve been doing the work already. And making sure that we come up with strategies that lift the tides for all of us together. We agreed that we wouldn’t collect (except to support our core exhibition) and instead we would borrow from existing archives and collections. Some of what we will include in our rotating and traveling exhibitions will come from the New-York Historical Society’s collections, but most will come from community-based or academic libraries and archives around the country. The American LGBTQ+ Museum will pay the lending institution a loan fee and, where necessary, conserve and digitize artifacts. We’ll also provide an additional platform for access to collections for our lending partners.

    With this arrangement, we hope to strengthen the existing network of LGBTQ+ archives and collections.


    You’ve mentioned a few goals for the museum, even before it physically opens to the public, but what are some of your short-term goals?

    Garcia: Short-term is pre-opening, because we anticipate opening in late 2026 or 2027. Our pre-opening goals are to establish strong partnerships as we’ve made a commitment to do all of our programmatic work in partnership. We built our team to center programmatic staff who focus on partnership building. Another short-term goal, pre-opening is to raise awareness among our peers and learn we what need to learn. It’s a lot of community engagement work with focus groups and advisory conversations. That’s all the early work alongside raising the funds to make it all happen.


    Can you share more about what funding looks like for the museum? 

    Garcia: We’ve created a $30 million dollar campaign over the next four years to raise money to build out our space in New York, create traveling exhibitions, create digital exhibitions, and build programs and partnerships. This campaign also includes our operating costs.


    What have you learned in your role about the process of creating and opening a museum? 

    Garcia: One thing I learned is that the need for better understanding of queer history and identity is as strong within the community as it is in the broader culture. When I started I assumed that the spaces we convened  would serve as a home and sanctuary for queer people, and that the heavy educational lift would be for people who do not have a queer identity. But what I found out in the first two years in this job is that there is a great need within the LGBTQ+ community for greater understanding of the lives of queer people, especially trans and gender queer folks and BIPOC queer folks. It should not have surprised me, as none of us grew up learning queer history, but we have a lot of work to do within the queer community to make sure that we understand our shared history inclusive of a lot of people and stories that haven’t been included previously.

    This is also my first job as an executive director and there’s a lot of learning that comes with that. The reason that I wanted to be an executive director was to use my position to create structural equity and I’ve learned so much about those challenges in this role. It has been incredible to work with a staff and board that seeks to build an institution that integrates the values of activist movements, equity, and inclusion internally so that the external work resonates authentically.


    We are looking forward to joining us in Albany this April from our opening keynote discussion with Jennifer Scott, Executive Director of the Urban Civil Rights Museum, for the 2024 Annual Conference “Giving Voice to Value.” I hope you’re excited to join this conversation!

    Garcia: I’m really excited to attend because I think the program looks amazing. I’m so impressed with the conversations that the Museum Association of New York is engaging with.


    The American LGBTQ+ Museum is anticipated to open late 2026, early 2027. To learn more about the museum, visit

    Ben Garcia will join Jennifer Scott, Executive Director of the Urban Civil Rights Museum in an opening keynote discussion, “Slow Cooking: Recipes for Centering Value in Museums” moderated by MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger at the 2024 annual conference in Albany, NY on Sunday, April 7 at 3 PM in Chancellor’s Hall, The New York State Education Department Building. To learn more and to register for the conference, visit

  • March 01, 2024 8:56 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Sheila McDaniel Appointed Interim Director

    After eight years in the role of executive director and two prior years as a member of the board of directors Erika Sanger departs the Museum Association of New York with strong leadership in place to carry the organization forward. Sanger’s focus on building organizational structure, securing fiscal responsibility, strengthening membership services, and expanding programming has grown the organization immeasurably. 

    After the April 6-9, 2024 annual conference she will take the role of Executive Director of Opera House Arts, a performing arts and cultural center in Stonington, Maine. In this new role, she will focus her talents and energies on advancing the work of this community-centered arts organization that offers a year-round schedule of professional theater, music, film, dance, educational programs, community events, and more in a National Register Historic Theater.

    “We celebrate Erika’s decision to take the next step to live and work in a place close to her heart, but will miss her vision, decisiveness, integrity, and dependability; ability to teach and mentor; and her communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills that met the needs of the organization when it was in crisis, doubled the organization’s membership, and helped MANY exceed goals established in two strategic plans,” said MANY Board President Georgette Grier-Key.

    “I will continue to hope that museum professionals grow pride in their work and communicate their value authentically,” said Sanger. “I hope museums give themselves time to experiment, reach beyond comfort zones, set new standards for financial sustainability, and grow support for endangered historic structures that welcome visitors and house collections. I hope museums will listen to feedback courageously and design engagement strategies that deepen connections with their communities. I know that with digital tools and training, museum professionals will tell stories in ways unimaginable a decade ago. I know MANY will be there for years to come to help museums achieve their vision for the future.”

    In the past three years, Sanger has raised nearly $2.5 million for programs, direct services to the field, and regrant partnerships that have directly impacted the work of 450 museums and their staff. She also prepared and organized the organization’s sixty years of files that were acquired in 2023 by the Special Collections Library of the State University at Albany, making MANY’s history accessible for generations to come. 

    In 2022, she was awarded an Advocacy Leadership Award from the American Alliance of Museums for her exemplary leadership in advocacy for the museum field. In January of 2024, Sanger was selected as one of City & State’s Fifty Over 50 honorees. 

    Under Sanger’s tenure and with the help of bill sponsors Assemblymember Didi Barrett and Senator Jeremy Cooney, “The Museum Study Act” passed the New York State Legislature almost unanimously in 2022. In 2023, Governor Hochul included $1 million for the study in the state budget. The study will be conducted in 2024 by Empire State Development’s I LOVE NY division.

    “With strong leadership on the MANY board and dedicated staff who excel at their jobs and exceed expectations, MANY is ready to continue its unprecedented growth and its exceptional service to the field,” said Sanger.

    MANY’s board of directors has appointed Independent Museum Professional Sheila McDaniel as Interim Director. Sheila has served on MANY’s board of directors from 2018-2020, as Administrator of the National Gallery of Art, and as Deputy Director of Finance and Operations at The Studio Museum in Harlem. “Sheila’s experience in these leadership roles will be a strong bridge as she works with MANY staff to sustain programs and operations during the search for MANY’s next Executive Director,” said Grier-Key.

    MANY’s board of directors will be making an announcement soon about the search process for the organization’s next Executive Director. 

    We hope you join us in celebrating Erika’s accomplishments at MANY’s 2024 annual conference in Albany April 6-9 and wish her the best in her next role.

  • February 08, 2024 12:30 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Museums, museum professionals, industry partners, and legislative leaders will be recognized for their exceptional achievements at MANY’s 2024 annual conference “Giving Voice to Value” in Albany, New York this April. The fifteen awards celebrate unique leadership, dedicated community service, transformational visitor experiences, community engagement, and innovative programs that use collections and resources to support museums and to tell stories of everyone who calls New York home.  

    2024 Awards of Distinction Winners

    Excellence in Design

    This award acknowledges extraordinary achievement in design in three categories: Publications/Graphics, Media/Marketing Campaigns, and Exhibition Design.

    Publications & Graphics


    “Munson Rebranded and Redesigned Bulletin Newsletter”

    In 2023, the Munson announced a rebrand and new name for the 104-year-old institution to commence its next chapter. Munson staff met with hundreds of community members, surveyed visitors and members, and hosted focus groups to gain a better understanding of what is important to its constituents and what they value in the organization. The Munson marketing department redesigned the Member Bulletin using the new brand identity to express the organization as being a welcoming community center with constant activity and opportunities for people of all ages to interact with art in a variety of ways. 

    Media & Marketing

    Buffalo AKG Art Museum

    “New Graphic Identity”

    Following a $230 million campus development and expansion, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s Communications Department was tasked to inform the community about the construction project to expand the museum to more than 50,000 square feet, introduce the museum’s new identity, inspire people to attend the museum’s opening in May 2023, and continue to visit the expanded museum. The Communications Department guided the design and implementation of the museum’s largest advertising campaign to date which included print, digital, social media, radio, podcasts, and billboards. 


    Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College

    “What Now? (Or Not Yet)/Body Matters”

    “What Now? (Or Not Yet)/Body Matters” was a two-part physical exhibition designed to engage the campus and community to reflect on how collections change and evolve and how artists help us see or shape the past and future. The first version of this exhibition opened in January 2023 and was curated by John Murphy and Alyx Raz. Simultaneously, six Vassar students worked to “re-curate” the same object list. These students reimagined the exhibition, changed the layout, and highlighted different perspectives through new pairings and interpretive text, wall color, exhibition graphic design, and title to “Body Matters.” 

    Virtual Exhibition

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

    “A Dark, A Light, A Bright: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes”

    “A Dark, A Bright, A Light: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes” is the first monographic exhibition dedicated to Dorothy Liebes (1897-1972) in over 50 years. The exhibition demonstrated the full spectrum of Liebes’ contributions to American design, reinserting her name and her work into the story of mid-20th-century design in the United States. The virtual exhibition prioritizes storytelling, both visual and written, inviting visitors to choose a topic to explore her impact on interiors, fashion, film, and industrial design, and meet some of the studio weavers who contributed to the success of the Dorothy Liebes Studio.

    Engaging Communities

    These awards celebrate organizations that use exceptional and resourceful methods to engage their communities and build new audiences. Awards are made based on the size of an organization’s operating budget.  

    Volunteer - $99,999

    Conference House Association

    “30th Anniversary Wards Point/Aakawaxung Munahanung Site”

    To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Ward’s Point Archaeological National Site on Staten Island, the first NYC Landmark specifically recognizing the many generations of Indigenous peoples who lived on Aakawaxung Munahanung (Island Protected from the Wind) Archeological Site, the Conference House Association partnered with NYC Parks, the Tottenville Historical Society, the Delaware Tribe of Indians, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians to create a Wisdom Walk at Conference House Park. The Wisdom Walk is intended to honor, remember, and focus on the Indigenous People who were the original inhabitants of Staten Island and Tottenville. 

    $100,000 - 250,000

    John Brown Lives!

    “Adirondack Family Book Festival”

    The Adirondack Family Book Festival is an annual public event that has reached more than 1,000 people, bringing together children and young adult authors and illustrators to the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, NY, providing an opportunity for families to come together and experience the joy of reading through interactive author and illustrator talks, a youth panel, and hands-on art making. This event fosters conversation around critical and timely topics through in-person interactions with authors and illustrators, and experiential activities. 

    $500,000 - 999,999

    Syracuse University Art Museum

    “Take Me to the Palace of Love”

    Inspired by “Take Me…to the Palace of Love” a 2003 art installation by contemporary artist Rina Banerjee about home and diaspora, Syracuse University Art Museum used art selected from its collection as well as from other Central New York museums in conjunction with Banerjee’s “Viola, from New Orleans” a work that explores inter-racial marriage in America and “A World Lost” an installation that critiques climate change. The museum invited the University community, new Americans, and under-represented communities in the city of Syracuse (a resettlement city for Afghans, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Somalians, and Syrians) to document their own stories about identity and place -individually and collectively- in dialogue with Banerjee who was the University’s Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities. 

    $1,000,000 - 4,999,999

    The Long Island Museum

    “SOMOS/ WE ARE: Latinx Artists of Long Island

    The Long Island Museum’s first exhibition to be presented entirely in English and Spanish, “SOMOS/WE ARE: Latinx Artists of Long Island” was a collaborative exhibition with associated programming focusing on the rich cultural heritage and artistic contributions of the Latinx community on Long Island that featured 82 regional artists and explored their diverse styles, media, personal stories, and familial national origins. In addition to bilingual exhibition text, the museum’s education staff published a bilingual Family Gallery Guide and offered Spanish language tours, including one for the Long Island Latino Teachers Association which contributed to an increase in school tours from school districts on Long Island with a high percentage of Latinx students, including Hempstead, Springs, Copiague, Tuckahoe, North Babylon, and Brentwood. The museum also hosted a ¡ESTAMOS! symposium that featured an artist discussion and performances as well as a free Family Fun Day in October which set a record 600 person attendance for Día de los Muertos, many of whom were first-time visitors.

    Over $5M

    Museum of Jewish Heritage –A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

    “Holocaust Educator School Partnership”

    Piloted in the 2022-2023 school year, the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Holocaust Educator School Partnership expanded New York City public school student’s access to Holocaust education by recruiting and selecting interns from undergraduate and graduate students currently studying in the New York City metropolitan area to teach Holocaust history in local schools and lead exhibition tours. The program is expecting to serve more than 10,000 NYC public school students during the 2023-2024 school year

    Individual Achievement

    The Individual Achievement Award honors a dedicated museum professional or volunteer who played a significant role in advancing their organizations. 

    Emily Stewart

    Senior Director of Education & Curation, Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST)

    In 2017, Emily Stewart joined the MOST as a program assistant while finishing her PhD before being promoted to Senior Director of Education & Curation. Stewart quickly applied her background as an interdisciplinary historian to better connect museum visitors to science and technology. She doubled the education staff from four to eight and created a new Inclusion Programs Coordinator role to increase awareness and participation in the community. Stewart led several new hands-on programs that focus on STEM education including “Future Innovators” for Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color connecting local BIPOC STEM professionals with hands-on sessions with kids and mentoring them on succeeding in technology careers and “Future Women in STEM” which connects middle school girls with female STEM professionals which all have contributed to a new 2023 museum attendance record.

    Rising Star

    The Rising Star award celebrates museum professionals with five years or less experience who think creatively, inspire change, spark innovation, and exemplify leadership. 

    Julia Butterfield

    K-12 Programs Coordinator, Historic Hudson Valley

    Julia Butterfield joined Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) as a part-time Museum Educator in 2018, leading tours and field trips at Philipsburg Manor, one of HHV’s colonial properties and the site where HHV has interpreted the history of Northern slavery for two decades. She has demonstrated tremendous commitment to the practice of public history and to the particular stories of the enslaved individuals who lived and worked at Philipsburg Manor. In 2022, Butterfield was promoted to the full-time position of K-12 Programs Coordinator, where she strengthened her leadership skills by assisting new educator training, advocating for expanding accessibility initiatives, and creating more inclusive documents such as social narratives for disabled visitors and bilingual materials. 

    Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Museum Leadership Award honors a museum professional who made significant contributions to the museum field or to their organization. Award winners are selected for their commitment to accessibility, equity, and inclusion, and their dedicated work towards community engagement, relevance, and sustainability.

    Heidi Hill, Historic Site Manager, Crailo and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Sites

    Under Heidi Hill’s leadership, Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site has undergone extensive preservation and restoration projects, initiated new interpretation to include more underrepresented voices in Schuyler Mansion’s narrative, partnered with local organizations such as Historic Cherry Hill and Underground Railroad for joint school tours, and hosted community events including “Pinkster” a holiday that was celebrated over several days by African and Dutch New Yorkers throughout the 1700s. Under Hill’s leadership, this festival was revived at Crailo State Historic Site and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site to increase awareness of this historic event that documented early African cultural expression in New York State and welcomed more than 400 people. During Hill’s tenure, she has amplified the voices of the enslaved people who lived and worked at the Mansion and led her staff through groundbreaking research uncovering the history of Alexander Hamilton as an enslaver. 

    Prior to her almost 19 years at Crailo and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Sites, Heidi was the Interpretive Programs Assistant at Clermont State Historic Site and at Olana State Historic Site.

    Board of Directors Special Achievement Award

    The Board of Directors special achievement award is given to individuals or museum projects that deserve exceptional attention.

    The Strong Museum of Play

    “The Strong Neighborhood of Play”

    The “Neighborhood of Play” is a $100 million neighborhood development project that features a 90,000 sq. ft. expansion of the Strong Museum of Play; a new 1,000-space parking garage; a new nationally branded contemporary hotel with 175 rooms; four mixed-use apartment buildings totaling 328,500 sq. ft. and 150 units; and a 6,300 sq. ft., single-story retail building.

    The project is centered around and built upon the international brand of the Strong Museum of Play, which attracts more than 500,000 visitors to downtown Rochester annually and generates more than 4.5 billion media impressions worldwide.

    The highly visible project is in the heart of Rochester on land formerly occupied by the Inner Loop highway. The design balances the needs of each of the three development teams partnering on the project, including challenges with construction schedule, phasing, and staging in a high-density urban environment.

    Distinguished Service to Museums Award

    This year, MANY is honored to award Senator James Cooney (SD-56) and Assemblymember Didi Barrett (AD-106) for their exemplary support for museums in New York State. 

    MANY is deeply grateful for the efforts of bill author and sponsor Assemblymember Barrett and Senate bill sponsor Senator Cooney whose actions helped the nearly unanimous passage of The Museum Study Act which Governor Hochul included in the 2023/24 New York State Budget with $1 million in funding. 

    Award winners will be honored during the 2024 annual conference “Giving Voice to Value” at the Albany Hilton Downtown on Monday, April 8 at 12:30 PM. Media inquiries are welcome for photo opportunities and interviews with awardees. 

    Awards of Distinction are supported by Lighting Services, Inc.

  • January 31, 2024 9:09 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Scheduled to open in 2025-2026, the Urban Civil Rights Museum in Harlem will be New York’s first museum dedicated to civil rights. The museum planners are considering how museums can inspire the social change that we want to see happen, and how we build a museum that can activate civic engagement and support democratic practices. These are crucial questions for the museum’s inaugural director and chief curator Jennifer Scott.

    Future headquarters of the National Urban League and Urban Civil Rights Museum in Harlem on 125th St., Harlem, New York. Image courtesy of National Urban League

    Scott joined the organization in 2022 to develop and lead the museum from vision to actualization. She previously served in senior roles at history and other social justice museums, including the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, one of the earliest and most significant African American History Museums in the country, and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, a feminist and immigrant rights museum and historic landmark. In Chicago, she co-chaired the Chicago Monuments Project–a commission and city-wide initiative created to help rethink the city's monuments and public art collection. Earlier in her museum career in New York, she was the Vice Director and Director of Research at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn where she helped recover a hidden history, launched the oral history program, and helped build a new $40 million interpretive center.

    Museum Association of New York [MANY]: Thank you for speaking with us today and for sharing more about the Urban Civil Rights Museum. It feels like a long time coming for the creation of a physical museum by the National Urban League in Harlem. Where did the vision for this museum begin and how did it start?

    Jennifer Scott: The museum is part of a larger building project that will allow the National Urban League to return home to Harlem more than 100 years after it was founded. The museum will be a way for the Urban League to not only return to Harlem but to extend the league’s mission, which, historically, has been to support underserved communities, primarily through social services. The organization began as people fled the South during the Great Migration, as a way to provide them with resources, help them find jobs, obtain an education, secure housing and civil rights, and, in general, support people and families seeking safety.

    In the last 20 years, under the leadership of President and CEO Marc Morial, the Urban League has expanded its social justice mission and its focus on policy, creating an “Equitable Justice” division. The museum is the vision of President Morial who recognizes the importance of history in understanding the possibilities of social justice. The museum will serve as a space that will share the civil rights work of the Urban League and the work of many other non-profit and grassroots organizations and activists in the North who have contributed to the long fight for social change.It’s the Urban League’s first major entrée into arts and culture, and we are all excited to be a part of this new direction.

    MANY: Right, because this will be the first Civil Rights Museum in the North?

    Scott: Yes, most Civil Rights Museums are located in the South, giving the impression that the story of Civil Rights is primarily a Southern story. The fact that the museum is being built in New York, in Harlem, and in the North is super exciting because so much work toward civil rights happened here and in other Northern areas. Those are the stories we want to highlight to expand the narrative. And, we’re not just looking at the traditional era of civil rights in the 1950s and ‘60s, but also more than two centuries earlier - back to the early roots of the African American presence in the North when people migrated North as Free people or as fugitives from enslavement. The museum will address the long history of the struggle for civil rights – sharing stories of abolition, anti-slavery, the development of free black settlements, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and much more. We will also bring this history up to the present era, sharing recent stories of activism and community organizing that happened in the last 20 years, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

    MANY: You have stated that this museum will be a call to action and that it will interpret, document, and explore the long and ongoing struggle for justice and civil rights in Northern urban environments going back to the 1600s and into the 21st century. What else can you tell us about what the visitor experience will look like?

    Scott: We want the museum to provide a vibrant educational experience that inspires visitors in New York and beyond to become agents of change in the ongoing movement for equity and justice. We’re hoping to create an engaging, participatory, and inspirational experience for visitors that will connect to diverse audiences –students, educators, activists, artists, political officials, community organizers, local residents, and tourists - anyone who’s thinking about social change and those who aren’t quite there yet. We are hoping that as people explore the museum, they will reflect upon how they can learn from history - how powerful lessons of the past can help them transform their understandings of the present and the future.

    We’re also very aware that we will be located in our new home in Harlem, and we want to welcome and immerse visitors as much as possible in Harlem at the heart of the visitor experience with a strong sense and respect of place and history. We also welcome Harlem residents, their stories, and memories of Harlem.

    MANY: You mentioned the importance of place, Harlem, which is not only important in the Urban League’s history but also in the greater story of African Americans who made this neighborhood their own. How do you anticipate the museum engaging the Harlem community?

    Scott: Similarly to many communities in New York City, Harlem is experiencing tremendous change, demographic changes, and gentrification. As people move away from neighborhoods, their important experiences and stories of all that they contributed become threatened of getting lost or overshadowed. One of the ways that a museum can help preserve these stories and memories is through inviting in and collecting oral histories.

    MANY: And you have a background in oral histories.

    Scott: Yes, I’m a trained oral historian and have contributed to many oral history projects. I have learned how important it is to preserve our stories and memories because these stories often disappear as people leave the area if they are not recorded. Ideally, we want people to stay and to figure out how we can help them to stay in the neighborhood. And additionally, we want to make sure their voices are heard and preserved so that we continue to tell our own histories. We want to elevate these community stories and give them more space.

    MANY: Reflecting on your comment about wanting people to stay, the building where the museum will be is a mixed-use building that includes 170 units of affordable housing, below-market rate office rental space for non-profits and community groups like One Hundred Black Men of New York, United Negro College Fund New York, and the Harlem-based Jazzmobile, and retail space. What do you anticipate will be the impact of this building on the community?

    Scott: The bigger real estate project of the National Urban League, indeed, brings retail investment, office space, and affordable housing to the area. I think the museum, in particular, can help support the history, arts, and culture that already exists in the neighborhood and has existed for a long time, and the museum can work with neighborhood residents to expand arts and culture in the area even more.

    There will be many possibilities to help activate the power of place. We want to support local artists, activists, students, and others by being a place to convene, have conversations, and host public forums. We want to be a place where people can connect, network, and organize together when possible. The museum will be a neighbor and a partner with local residents and other historic community organizations in the area, including theatres, libraries, churches, schools, arts centers, and other community organizations. We are interested in joining and contributing to the rich and wonderful Harlem cultural ecosystem in the neighborhood.

    MANY: What have you learned being part of this process?

    Scott: I’m fortunate and very privileged because this is not the first museum I’ve helped build from the ground up. I enjoy helping to envision a project like this that supports a higher cause, bringing it to fruition, and seeing what’s possible. One thing that I’ve learned over and over again in this process is that it’s never a solo project; it takes many, many people (and lots of time and effort) to build something meaningful. When I walk into any project like this, I, thankfully, become part of a larger collaborative. It’s motivating, inspiring, and humbling to work with such dedicated teams. I learn a lot, and am honored to know that I am a participant in such a potentially impactful project and a steward of this important legacy.

    MANY: How does the museum communicate all of this to the public?

    Scott: I think with the increase in activism in the past several years, and especially since the brutal murder of George Floyd, there’s a heightened awareness of the need for change and an elevated sense of conscience. As a museum focused on social justice, we hope to connect and communicate with the people, communities, and initiatives that are interested or becoming interested in fighting for change and learning more about the history of these struggles in the past.

    MANY: I think a lot of museums are asking a similar question –how can museums inspire social change? What are your thoughts?

    Scott: Our hope is that the museum will be a place where one can see and feel the work of the many people who fought for justice in urban centers in the North, and reflect on past civil rights efforts so that we can imagine and inspire new possibilities of collective action.

    Part of the museum will serve as a resource where visitors can learn more about the different grassroots movements in the past and present, various civil rights legislation that people have fought for, and contemporary initiatives and tools that are available to fight inequities and injustice. The museum plans to host public and education programs that allow people to reflect on democratic ideas and ideals and that will encourage people to engage with one another in public forums and conversations, especially through culture and the arts.

    I also believe that you can help inspire social change when you elevate and support narratives that have been historically marginalized and that continue to face threats, distortions, and erasures. There is a lot of power in narrative.

    MANY: I think we underestimate the power of narrative.

    Scott: I feel that narrative and our power to change the narrative is still an untapped resource at museums and cultural sites.

    MANY: What do you want or hope audiences will take with them after visiting the museum?

    Scott: It’s always hard to guarantee what visitors will take away. We would love for people to leave with a better understanding of the role that the urban civil rights movement had in the long fight for social change and in the development of Northern cities. We would like people to see the significance of coalitioning and the power of collective action. Although we will also highlight individual leaders of the Civil Rights movement, we would love for visitors to also see, learn about, appreciate, and celebrate everyday people who contributed to the fight for justice and civil rights.

    I hope people will have a better understanding of how everyday people and communities went about pursuing, securing, and maintaining economic, political, social, self-reliance, equity, and justice from generation to generation in creative ways.

    MANY: We’re excited to have you join us in Albany this April as part of our opening keynote discussion with Ben Garcia, Executive Director of The American LGBTQ+ Museum for the 2024 Annual Conference “Giving Voice to Value.” When was the last time you attended a MANY conference?

    Scott: Thank you! I’m looking forward to it. I feel that it will be kind of a homecoming for me because I think the last time I was at a MANY conference was when I was working at Weeksville almost 11 years ago! I’m excited to connect with my New York State colleagues and to be able to reflect on our work and share resources. I noticed recently that MANY is a different organization today than it was then. It seems to be much more diverse in membership and in programming, with many more relevant and interesting programs - in-person and virtual. I’m also looking forward to reuniting with my friend and colleague Ben Garcia in our keynote conversation. It feels like such a privilege to be able to be in conversation with another colleague who is also building a museum in New York and to share the challenges and possibilities with him and with our New York colleagues.

    The Urban Civil Rights Museum is scheduled to open in 2025/2026. To learn more about the museum, visit

    Jennifer Scott will join Ben Garcia, Executive Director of The American LGBTQ+ Museum in an opening keynote discussion, “Slow Cooking: Recipes for Centering Value in Museums” moderated by MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger at the 2024 annual conference in Albany, NY on Sunday, April 8 at 3 PM in Chancellor’s Hall, The New York State Education Department Building. To learn more and to register for the conference, visit

  • January 31, 2024 8:48 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Below and linked is the submitted written testimony. Please share this testimony with your legislative representatives and thank them for their continued support of museums. 

    Click here to find your NYS Assembly Member

    Click here to find your NYS Senator


    Testimony of the Museum Association of New York

    Submitted to the 2024 Joint Legislative Budget Hearing

    January 30, 2024

    Dear Chairpersons Krueger, Weinstein, Ryan, Stirpe, Serrano, O’Donnell, and members of the Senate and Assembly finance committees,

    On behalf of the board of directors of the Museum Association of New York, our 750 members of every museum discipline and budget size in every region of our state, and our dedicated staff, I respectfully present this testimony with gratitude for the legislature’s steadfast support of New York’s museums. In doing so, I also seek your esteemed leadership in addressing three critical areas: 1) Providing financial support for museums, 2) Advancing the results of The Museum Study Act to tackle sector challenges, and 3) Securing funding for NY250 along with promoting inclusive representation in our cultural narratives. Your leadership in these areas is pivotal for the continued flourishing of our state’s rich cultural history.

    Museums are inextricably linked to New York State’s identity, economy, and history. Too many operate in a culture of scarcity, struggling to pay bills and wondering each year how they will keep their doors open. Museums need support to protect their collections and historic structures, to strengthen their roles as community education partners chartered by the State Education Department, and to grow their role as economic engines generating more than $5.37B to the state’s economy.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Legislature for your support of The Museum Study Act. The report generated by the research will, for the first time in our state’s history, give us an accurate picture of our museum sector. It will provide information about the sufficiency of public and private funding sources, inform policy making, and help communities, legislative representatives, and individual supporters learn about the missions, audiences, and funding needs of our state’s museums. 

    When the American Alliance of Museums announced the results of its 2023 survey of the field, MANY received permission to use the same questions to survey New York’s museums to see how they are faring in comparison to other museums in our nation. 

    The good news is that attendance at New York’s museums is 25% higher than the national average.

    The not such good news is that 43% of New York’s museums have yet to recover pre-pandemic attendance numbers and are still averaging 66% of their 2019 attendance. Almost 20% were forced to decrease their budgets in the face of the highest inflation rates of this century. More people visited an art museum, science center, historic house or site, zoo, or aquarium in 2018 than attended a professional sporting event. Museum attendance and especially visits by school students, remain far from the “before times” numbers. 

    With COVID relief funds fully expended, cuts to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquaria (ZBGA) and funding to New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in the Governor’s budget dropped to 2019 levels, my fear that the most vulnerable museums would be in danger of financial failure in the wake of the pandemic may likely come to pass. The tragedy we are seeing unfold at MiSci in Schenectady is our canary in the coal mine. With this testimony, I ask you to restore NYSCA and ZBGA funding to 2023 budget levels to ensure that our sector remains a viable contributor to our state’s economy. 

    We need to not only reestablish our staff and our services but build our capacity to serve our communities. Our museums need consistent, long-term investments to achieve economic stability so that when the next flood, fire, or pandemic hits, one quarter of our museums are not at risk of shutting their doors permanently. We need to change the funding systems to museums to help them address equity, diversity, access, inclusion, and justice and incorporate the work and voices of historically marginalized communities. 

    In 2026, our nation will mark the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Ten of the original thirteen states along with 25 others have fully seated, active commissions. Our neighboring states have allocated millions of dollars to help ensure that as many voices and stories as possible are represented in the commemorative activities. Connecticut anticipates a $30M appropriation and New Jersey $28M. Massachusetts spent $1.5M to observe the Boston Tea Party’s anniversary on December 16, 2023. 

    New York needs prompt action to promote NY250 as a priority and allocate funding so that museums, historical societies, historic sites, and historic battlefields can share their cultural resources with their communities and tourists. We must take this opportunity to expand our notions of whose history is worth honoring and equally incorporate the stories of Indigenous Nations, BIPOC, and new Americans to shape a full identity for New York in time for the celebration of our democracy. MANY is grateful to the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, & Asian Legislative Caucus for recognizing this important opportunity and for including $10M to fund NY250 in the People’s Budget. The gap between interest, intent, and implementation looms large. Legislative action to include funding for NY250 in this year’s budget will ensure that the stories we tell in 2026 are far more inclusive than the stories we told in 1976. 

    Thank you for your interest, your time, and your support.   

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director, Museum Association of New York

  • December 20, 2023 11:43 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    NYCRR Train Engine #999 Scale Model, 1952, Frank DeSantis, Painted metal, glass, woodAlbany Institute of History & Art

    Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters,

    When I close my eyes, I can picture the small bookcase in the corner of the apartment bedroom I shared with my brother when we were young. It sat behind a low, round, brown, Formica table held up by chipped chrome legs. At unexpected moments, the words of the authors and pictures by the illustrators will still bubble up in my thoughts. I was fortunate to be raised in a home and a culture where education was valued, books were gifted on holidays, and our weekends included a trip to the public library. I strongly suspect that many museum people were raised in similar environments.

    2023 has been a difficult year for many friends, family, and colleagues. Social, political, humanitarian, and climate crises are converging to make civil discourse and media consumption a challenge. I know I had perhaps too many batons to juggle on unsteady feet this year, but I am grateful to those who lent me the strength I needed so that when I did drop one (or two) I was able to pick them up and try again. 

    I know I owe a debt of fortitude to “The Little Engine That Could,” a children’s book written 96 years ago by a man who immigrated from Hungary to the United States. The 1954 edition with bold black text and a blue train engine printed on a cream fabric hard cover looks very familiar. Like many immigrants, the author, Arnold Munk, used the pseudonym “Watty Piper” to camouflage his identity. In Watty’s story, an engine pulling train cars filled with toys and treats for children breaks down and needs help. After two strong engines decline requests for assistance, a little blue engine carries the train cars over the mountain repeating the phrase “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

    At MANY, we continue to learn and share new ways to overcome adversity while taking time to redefine and celebrate success with as many people as we can. We have made mistakes, but did not let them weigh us down, apologized quickly, and then moved on without allowing fear to guide our decision making. We are getting better at asking for help frequently and specifically and then thanking generously. We encourage people who ask for our help to take time to rest, heal, and realign thoughts, work, and lives to the world in which we now live. Your feedback lets us know we have made a difference and helped plant seeds for future success. 

    When I hear people say that MANY is “small but mighty,” I think of Watty Piper’s little blue engine. With your help, MANY can continue to grow, share resources, and connect museum professionals across the state and the nation. If you are not yet a member, please join us, we welcome as many different voices in our community as possible. With exciting plans ahead, we need all the support we can gather to help sustain MANY’s programs and advocacy in 2024. Please donate today and help us get over the mountain that was 2023. 

    With thanks and best wishes for the new year, 


    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

  • November 29, 2023 9:01 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Moon rise and sunrise at Great Camp Sagmore in the Adirondacks 

    Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters,

    My heart is full with all you have done to support the Museum Association of New York, our programs, our staff, and the museum professionals who share their experience and expertise to keep us informed, connected, and relevant. I am grateful to our partners, sponsors, donors, and our board members who help make our work possible. I am writing now to ask that you make a donation to support our work in the coming year so that we can continue to offer opportunities for us to gather and learn from each other. 

    MANY is stronger today than ever before. Together, we have redefined what it means to be a museum association. We created new ways to support museums and broadened our conversations to shape a shared vision for the future of museums in New York. With over 25,000 followers on social media, we lead the museum association community in leveraging digital media to share model programs and amplify voices that might get lost amongst the algorithms. Our advocacy work in Albany is building awareness for the needs of museums across the state. I am excited to share the news that the work on the survey for The Museum Study has begun. The resulting data and report will help paint a picture that will show the full range and impact of New York’s museums.

    MANY is committed to representing and including all museums and museum professionals in our programs. With our annual conference and roundtable discussions in every region of our state, in 2023 almost 700 museum professionals were able to gather in person, strengthen connections, and learn together about innovative ways to reach audiences and stakeholders. Over 1,700 people from more than 800 organizations in 45 states and 17 countries joined us for webinars. All the educators, historians, curators, fundraisers, administrators, visitor service staff, executive directors, facility managers, board members, and volunteers we met with this year know they are not only working to inspire their visitors today and tomorrow, but building their museums to serve generations to come.

    If you have attended a webinar, joined us for a discussion, called the office for assistance, or used our website to find resources, we know you value the work we do. I hope you can help us now by clicking here to make a donation in any amount to sustain our work into 2024 and create opportunities for us to help you for years to come.

    With thanks, 

    Erika Sanger

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

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

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