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

Click here to read our 2019 Annual Report
  • April 28, 2020 12:48 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Novi Belgii map, 1685, Library of Congress

    Dear Members of MANY's Museum Community,

    As we enter the eighth week of “NY on Pause,” I want to start this letter by acknowledging that some of us are grieving and that we are all unsure of what the future may bring. 

    I believe New York’s museums are in an existential crisis. Not the textbook definition of an existential crisis, but a definition that encompasses how New York’s museums will never exist again the way we did at the start of 2020. 

    Museum people are planners. We love our calendars and our schedules. But we are now in uncharted territory and our highly developed planning skills may not be the tool we need to plot a course beyond the next two weeks. We have lost revenue and years of exhibition planning. Furloughs and lay-offs of half of our workforce - primarily staff in education and visitor service positions - are an incalculable loss of potential for change in our field promised by the most diverse cohort to have entered our workforce.

    We have been deeply hurt by this crisis, but my faith in our ability to come through better than before is grounded in knowing that museum professionals are the most creative, inspiring, and generous people I know. We are visual thinkers who now need to reshape our galleries, facilities, and audience engagement strategies to fit the new world in which we live. This evolution might be painful as we abandon comfortable assumptions and well-used funding formulas to steer a new course for how we share our resources and collections while keeping the safety of our visitors at the center of our sights. 

    When I began work on virtual interactives and distance learning platforms more than 20 years ago, the mantra I used to try to recruit museum leadership to my cause was “many more people will never walk through your museum's doors than will ever walk through your doors.” Sadly, it has taken a pandemic to bring us to this point where our virtual audience has grown beyond many of our imaginations. I hope that this rapid iteration of our digital presence will help us re-imagine the way we work with our communities both virtually and in our facilities. We have a chance to contribute positive actions to reduce climate change, balance social equity, and increase education accessibility. 

    When our state begins to open, when enough of us are well, and we have not only flattened the curve, but are on the down slope, our visitors will return. We are all eager to get a glimpse past the horizon, beyond what is knowable and reliable, into the terra incognita. The travel ahead may be rough as we encounter new realities, but it is our goal to be here to help our community stay connected as we all shape the new museum world.  

    MANY's state and federal advocacy efforts use data to prove how NY's museums are truly essential economic and social components of their communities. We have collected data on the COVID-19 impact from 145 museums since April 9 using a survey developed by the Network of European Museum Organizations (NEMO). The survey will remain open until 5 PM on May 1. If you have not yet taken the survey, please add your voice to our advocacy efforts to let our legislative representatives know the difficult straits our museums are navigating.  

    On Friday, May 1 at noon, MANY's Virtual Meet Up will explore what opening our museums may look like. We are grateful that Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, RIT will provide closed captioning. If you know someone who needs closed captioning, please let them know. We have welcomed over 850 people to our Virtual Meet Ups since they began on March 20th - more than twice the number of people that attended our 2019 Fall Meet Ups in person. I hope you can join us and share your ideas and expertise with our museum community. Click here to register.  

    With hope and thanks,  

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director

  • April 28, 2020 12:43 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Museums across New York State closed their doors to the public more than a month ago. Since then, many museums have adjusted their public engagement strategies, fundraising campaigns, and how they understand their unique roles in their communities. We reached out to three of our MANY Board Members about new strategies for their museums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Rockwell Museum

    “When we made the decision to close The Rockwell Museum in advance of the directive from the State, the first thing I wondered was how we would continue to be a museum and move our work forward?” said Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director. “Quickly followed by - how do I empower the team to do what they need to do in the face of what is happening in our community? So I went back to our root, our mission, and reworked it to be what I would consider our ‘war time’ mission: Through compelling online engagement and imaginative use of its collection and resources, The Rockwell Museum provokes curiosity and reflection about art and the American experience. Even while closed.

    Screenshot of rockwellmuseum.org where the museum lets visitors know where they can find and engage with the museum’s educational resources and collections digitally.

    The Rockwell Museum team looked at what makes their institution unique and focused on their strengths. The Museum launched its online collection last year and was able to shift already scheduled Spring  programming  to an online format. “We were able to move one of our lectures from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to an online presentation, continue our Art Explorer Story House in an online format and even present a student exhibition virtually,” said Whisenhunt. The Museum has reinforced its continued dedication to fulfilling their mission digitally across their website. Under “KIDS ROCKWELL” there is a dedicated “Museum From Home” page that features easy, at home art projects, activities sheets, art inspired writing challenges, digital art hunts, and more. “Our education department converted activities planning for the KIDS ROCKWELL Art Lab to an at-home format parents and kids can do together; crafted digital art hunts that are fun, but still engage the mind with active looking; and also created at-home activity sheets as supplemental materials to curriculum,” said Whisenhunt.

    Across The Rockwell Museum’s website, text  reinforces the museum’s mission and its dedication to continue it digitally.

    The Museum’s education team continued to work with their teaching artists to reimagine “The Great Circle,” a unique Artists-in-Residence collaboration between The Rockwell and the Elmira City and Bath Central School Districts to go virtual which will allow this program to go to children beyond the original participating school districts.

    “The Rockwell Museum has a talented and creative team and it felt like the directive of the ‘war-time’ mission emboldened everyone to manifest that same creativity and energy, but through a new challenge and in a different manner,” Whisenhunt said. “I believe it has been helpful to all of us in this situation to know we are still doing the work we set out to and continue to support the educational and artistic needs of our community. Even while closed.”

    The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

    The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum sees over quarter of a million visitors every year. Since the museum closed its doors, it launched a “Safe at Home” strategy that promotes its digital collection, virtual programming, and online exhibits. The Museum’s development and fundraising strategy also shifted. Focusing on engaging members and donors, the development team created the #CooperstownMemories initiative. This initiative asks members and donors to help continue to preserve baseball's greatest stories while sharing their own baseball memories.

    Utilizing the “Memories & Dreams” magazine, the Museum is sharing memories from their visitors and members. This #CooperstownMemories initiative has been added to their regular “Our Museum in Action” feature in which promotes donations for specific conservation and digitization projects. 

    “The response has been outstanding,” said Ken Meifert, VP of Sponsorship and Development. “...the stories continue to flow in. We are in the process of building a new website page to feature more stories, we will be sending another email sharing some [of the stories] and asking for more and promoting via our social media channels.” Meifert responds to each email that comes in. “Literally hundreds of them. I think this is critically important, as it creates a real connection to our supporters with authentic two-way communication.” 

    #CooperstownMemories states that “together we will continue to preserve the game’s greatest stories—and our own baseball memories.” While the Museum’s physical doors are closed, this campaign emphasizes togetherness during this pandemic. It encourages a shared ownership over the collection through this shared memories project. “As baseball fans we all have stories,” Meifert wrote in his email to members asking them to share their Cooperstown memories. “...our first trip to Cooperstown, meeting a Hall of Famer during Hall of Fame Weekend, seeing an exhibit that brings our memories flooding back, stepping into the plaque Gallery and feeling the connection to the game’s all-time greats—the memories are countless.”

    Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum

    When schools in and around Poughkeepsie closed in mid-March, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum was losing most of its earned revenue. “The immediate concern was knowing that we are a small museum and don’t have a large cash reserve,” said Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Executive Director. “I had to focus on one of our guiding principles during that early phase: how do I preserve our cash and how do I take care of my team?” Before any federal aid was announced she decided to do an emergency fundraising campaign. By Friday, March 13, that campaign was sent to the top twenty five donors to the Museum. “I realized that I could tell the story to these donors about the reality of how much money we last just last night and that we are fighting for survival,” Litchfield-Kimber said. Utilizing the sense of urgency created by the museum’s closure, the messaging was transparent. “I shared the details, not what I would lead with publically at that time but it’s kind of like bringing your insiders close and keeping them close.” The Museum received $7,000 in donations within that first week. Once the Emergency PAUSE order went out and other businesses and nonprofits began to close, fundraising stopped and Litchfield-Kimber applied for SBA, PPP, and other relief funds. The pandemic also forced the museum to step back and assess its role in the community during this uncertain time.

    “Every museum has something that makes them necessary for their community,” said Litchfield-Kimber. “Right now we’re thinking where can we [the museum] be necessary...one of the things I can do is share the work of our partner organizations.” On their social media channels, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum has shared educational resources from other children’s museums from across the country like the Chicago Children’s Museum and their Parenting Playbook. “The narrative of us being in this together is important and it’s not too doom and gloom...we are celebrating our partners.”

    The Museum also realized that Poughkeepsie Waterfront Market, one of the Museum’s core programs, was an essential business defined by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order. The Museum opened the Poughkeepsie Waterfront Market in the summer of 2017 to connect residents and families with fresh, affordable and locally-produced food. It was the first children’s museum in the country to open and operate a public farmers market as a strategy for fighting urban food insecurity and advancing community health. “For us, the point wasn’t so much about the Farmer’s Market but the inner city of Poughkeepsie has no grocery store and the public transportation system has been drastically cut. We still have restaurants and school lunches are still provided because we are a 100% funded school lunch district, but access to fresh food is really challenging,” Litchfield-Kimber said. “When we realized that this [Farmer’s Market] was essential and was necessary, we had to do it.” 

    Litchfield-Kimber reflected that it’s important to take this time to step back in order to think about what makes your museum unique and to ask what role does your museum play in your community. “If you can’t lean into your community, sit to the side and hang tight,” Litchfield-Kimber said. “If the time is for you to hibernate and get your ducks in a row behind the scenes that’s okay because right now we’re all trying to figure this out. Know what your lane is and if you're going to leave it—like us for the market—know that it is a lane that you should be in. Don’t just do it because everyone is doing it. Figure out where your work is essential.”

    Further Reading / Resources

    Performance vs. Exhibit-Based Experiences: What Will Make People Feel Safe Visiting Again? 

    Sustainability to Survivability: 5 Nonprofit Finance Must-Do's in the Time of COVID-19

    National Coronavirus Response: A Road Map To Reopening

    Three New Scenarios for Financial Survival in 2020

    Using Scenarios to Plan Your Museum's COVID-19 Response

    COVID-19: What Nonprofits Should do Right Now

    Arts groups look to Great recession for clues to an unknown coronavirus future

    Financial Assistance for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 (NYC)

    How COVID-19 is Impacting Intentions to Visit Cultural Entities

  • April 28, 2020 12:38 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced museums to close their doors, museum staff have felt an increased pressure to  have an active and engaging social media presence. As museums seek innovative ways to reach the public, share their collections, and implement alternative revenue sources, digital platforms will play an important role. However, understanding staff capacity, knowing your audience, and the ability to shape the museum mission to fit in  the digital arena will be  some key success factors.

    Mission Drives Everything

    Andrea Rogers, Vice President for Public Relations and External Affairs at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago shared during a Dexibit webinar (“Engaging Visitors While Closed”) that an institution's mission should drive everything. An institution's mission should pour into digital. Social media content, website, emails to donors and members should all emulate the mission. 

    Considering your institution’s branding, tone, and voice is important to maintaining your mission on social media. This will help with content planning and strategy moving forward. Not only will keeping your mission in mind help save time thinking about what kind of content to produce, but it will reinforce what makes your institution unique. 

    Understanding Your Institution’s Strengths

    To help develop a strong social media strategy, it is important to understand your institution’s strengths. Take a look at popular programs or exhibitions to see how you could replicate them digitally.

    Fort Ticonderoga is a historic site and museum that does living history really well. They’ve taken this strength and replicated it on their Instagram channel.sharing  how staff recreate history from the collections as they  work from home. Staff also use video for a weekly #NameThatTuneTuesday. 

    Staff promoting their “A Soldier’s Life” program on the @fort_ticonderoga Instagram account

    The Museum of the Earth relies on its STEM education mission to create interactive Instagram posts. The Museum uses its mascot, Cecil the Dinosaur, to share interesting facts and engaging activities leading followers on a “colossal journey through time.” This format, Cecil’s unique voice and a consistent post schedule, builds anticipation for return followers to interact with their account.

    “Stay Home, Make Art” by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is a virtual exhibition series that addresses how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted creative practice, shares local artwork made during quarantine, and promotes safe social distancing. The artworks are shared on their main Instagram account, and on a standalone account that exclusively features this content and connects to a Facebook page. The goal is to help artists remain visible during the pandemic. Hudson Valley-based artists can submit their work to the museum’s curator and exhibitions manager.

    Stay Home, Make Art submission by artist Tracy Kerman, “What You Wanted” 2020, oil on canvas, shared on the @dorskymuseum Instagram account

    Although my experience with quarantine has been obviously isolating and difficult, painting has allowed me to connect with others and to become lost in my work. The severity of our situation has also allowed me to let go of previous hang-ups or concerns about painting and to try new things in my work."

    Engage Your Community: Followers and Museums Alike

    “Social media is not a megaphone, but (when it’s working) a telephone,” Katharine Uhrich, Social Media Manager for the Field Museum said during a Dexibit webinar on “Engaging Visitors While Closed.” 

    Museums are reaching out to collaborate with the museum community. These call to action social media initiatives are what some Social Media Managers refer to as “light lifts” where a wide variety of museums can participate in. 

    Emily Haight, Social Media Manager for the New-York Historical Society worked with Hillary-Morgan Watt, Digital Strategist at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. created a Google Form for the #MuseumSunshine campaign. It listed the date, starting time, the hashtag, the priority platform (although museums could share across platforms), and provided details on the type of content. The campaign called for images of bright, yellow artworks, plein-air sunrises, light-up or glowing works, and generally, anything that feels sunny.  Social media campaigns like this create easy interactive challenges for museums to find theme related items in a collection and share them with their audiences. 

    Strive for an Active Audience

    Asking followers about what they would like to see is a great way to transform a passive audience into a more engaging one. Using hashtags relevant to your organization or to a certain campaign makes it easy for audiences to follow and engage in the conversation as well as for museums to re-share user generated content. 

    The Hart Cluett Museum used their Instagram to directly ask their followers about the type of posts that they want to see. Their followers responded with requests of games like guess the collection item and trivia about the family that lived there. The museum responded to these requests by immediately incorporating them into their Instagram strategy. #CuratorialCuriosities was created to highlight items from their permanent collection and engaged their followers with questions like “Do you have any items that were passed down through family?” The conversation continues in their comment section and through tagged posts. 

    Best Practices

    Where to start? Take an audit of your current social media accounts. Many platforms offer their own analytic tools. These insights can tell you information about your audience, popular times to post, and which posts are getting the most engagement. As you review your social media ask yourself: Are your bios or descriptions consistent? Are you using the correct logo or profile image? Are you posting consistently? Take the time to review your different social media channels to see what is working. If the last time you tweeted was in 2013, look to see if you could have an active audience or the time to devote meaningful content. If you answer no to either, leave it be. 

    If anything, update your social media profiles to provide your followers the most recent information about your institution and where they can find out more about you. Pin a post or tweet that directs your followers to your website, online resources, or a recent fundraising campaign.

    Having a digital presence has never been more critical, even if it is just on one platform. While your physical doors are closed, use the time to assess your digital presence and outline a social media strategy that best fits your organization. 

    Further Reading / Resources

    Online Audience Toolkit

    How Your Museum Can Use Social Media During COVID-19

    Twitter Publishes New Research on what Consumers Want to See from Brands During COVID-19

    4 Ways Museums Can Successfully Leverage Digital Content and Channels during Coronavirus


    Social Media 101 for Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations

    How Do Museum Professionals Harness Social Media Marketing?

    Social Media Management in Times of Crisis

    Social Media Video Tips & Strategies

    How Museums are Using Facebook Live

  • April 28, 2020 12:34 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Like many of you, the MANY staff have been working remotely since mid-March. Each Friday at noon we invite our museum community into our homes for our virtual meet-ups. Cue the sometimes frantic quick tidy up just before these virtual meetings in order to have a clean background. But a few New York State museums are offering free backgrounds for Zoom meetings. These downloadable backgrounds feature high resolution of iconic and favorite collection items, or put you virtually within the museum itself. 

    Cooper Hewitt

    Tigers and lions (not to mention monkeys) peep through the foliage in this wallpaper, released by Karl Mann Associates in 1963, which will transform your video conference call into a miniature safari.

    Now that we’ve moved happy hours, birthday parties, and celebrations of all kinds into the digital realm, we’re sharing designs drawn from Cooper Hewitt’s astonishing collection of wallcoverings—among the world’s largest—for you to use as backgrounds on your video conference calls. Think of it as an Immersion Room experience for your home.”

    Explore these 7 funky backgrounds from Cooper Hewitt

    Roberson Museum and Science Center

    These critters have the most dexterous hands making them quite the night-time burglars–no garbage can lid can stop these opposable thumbs!

    “Call into your next video meeting in style from Alonzo Roberson’s study–or perhaps you’d like to like to showcase your enthusiasm for model trains. Download one or all of these free digital backgrounds and enhance your next video chat.”

    Choose your background from the Roberson (we like the taxidermied racoons)

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    If you've somehow managed to keep everything under control, introduce some chaos to your next meeting or cocktail hour with The Dissolute Household. Jan Steen packs his canvas—part "I Spy," part prophecy of misfortune for this family—with clues signaling an ominous fate awaiting the characters in this painting

    “If you're stuck at home, you may be looking to shake up your work-from-home routine right about now. Spruce up your next staff meeting with one of The Met's iconic interiors or elegant artworks and be the envy of your colleagues. We've hand-picked ten of our favorites from throughout the Museum to get you started.”

    Choose your stylish background from The Met (The Dissolute Household looks like fun)

    Buffalo Museum of Science

    The Kellogg Observatory has been a part of the Museum’s history for almost 90 years. Named for Jane and Spencer Kellogg, the Kellogg Observatory opened to the public in 1930 and was equipped with an 8-inch f/15 refractor designed by Roland W. Sellew with a Lundin objective.

    Want to Zoom from the Kellogg Observatory? Now you can! The fully restored Lundin Telescope, dedicated as the E. E. Both Memorial Telescope in September 2018, sits under a new durable, aluminized steel dome and is powered by state-of-the-art mapping technology...and now backdrop to your next virtual meeting.

    Download the Kellogg Observatory background from the Buffalo Museum of Science

    Tifft Nature Preserve

    Tifft Nature Preserve offers 264 acres of restored habitat with five miles of trails and boardwalks.

    Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by Buffalo’s urban sanctuary? Bring a little calm and serenity to your next virtual call with this background that let’s you pretend you’re nestled in the middle of this 264 acre nature preserve. Can you hear the birds chirp? Almost.

    Wrap yourself up in nature from the Tifft Nature Preserve

    American Museum of Natural History

    This 100-foot-long exhibit is packed with organisms of all shapes and sizes, representing 1,500 living things—and the great diversity of life on Earth. One no-show? A species with an outsized impact on our planet: humans.

    “Call into your video meeting from the Grand Canyon—or from the jaws of an Allosaurus. Download a free digital background from the American Museum of Natural History and start your video call adventures today.”

    Find a digital background for every day of the week from AMNH (the Spectrum of Life is a personal favorite)

    New York Hall of Science

    “While you can’t visit NYSCI in the real world, bring NYSCI to your virtual world with two sets of video conference backgrounds by the New York Hall of Science. Enjoy scenery from our Connected Worlds environments, or some architecture photography of our Great Hall and museum building.”

    Explore Connected Worlds or architecture images from NYSCI

    Everson Museum of Art

    Do you miss the iconic I.M. Pei spiral staircase? Or do you prefer to surround yourself with American pottery from Renegades and Reformers: American Art Pottery Exhibition? You can download these and a lot more from the Everson Museum of Art.

    Spice up your virtual backgrounds from the Everson Museum of Art

    George Eastman Museum

    “When City Newspaper asked Rochesterians what their "fantasy quarantine location in Rochester" was, the overwhelming majority picked the Eastman Museum! Sadly, the museum is still closed, so we can't make this a reality. However, you can now make your friends, family and coworkers think you're here with our George Eastman Museum Zoom backgrounds.

    These images from the Eastman Museum have been taken to make it appear like you're actually sitting in George Eastman's library, or just about to enjoy a film in the Dryden Theatre.”

    Find your place inside or outside at the George Eastman Museum

    I Love NY

    Cave of the Winds takes its name from a natural overhang that created a cave-like structure for visitors to take in the magnificence of Niagara Falls. The "cave" collapsed in 1954, but the name stuck for this favorite New York attraction.

    “With breathtaking waterfalls, pristine lakes, and sandy beaches, New York State features many spectacular, scenic locations. Whether you’re working remotely, learning from home, or enjoying more screen time these days, download your favorite photo from the list below.”

    Find your picturesque New York State setting here

    How to Create Your Own Zoom Background

    You can create your own museum digital background. The ideal dimension is 1280 x 720 px. Add your logo in one of the corners, and include some description information for people to learn more about the space or collection item. 

    How to Add a Virtual Background

    Next time you log into your Zoom account for a virtual meeting, select the video icon on the bottom left hand side of your screen. Select the “choose virtual background” option. Here you can upload one of these images to be your virtual background.

    Click here for more detailed step by step instructions.

  • April 16, 2020 9:04 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Fund Created to Assist History-Related Organizations in New York State

    Pomeroy Foundation, Museum Association of New York Partner on New Grant Initiative

    Troy, N.Y. — The Pomeroy Fund for NYS History is a new partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Museum Association of New York (MANY). This fund will grant assistance to 501(c)(3) history-related organizations in New York State with budgets under $100,000 that have been forced to close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Pomeroy Fund for NYS History grants will range between $1,000 and $2,000 per organization. A total of $50,000 will be distributed. Applications are being accepted through Monday, April 27 and funds will be disbursed starting May 13.  

    Awarded funds can be used for the following purposes: 

    • to purchase computer hardware or software; 

    • to pay for utilities (e.g. electricity, heat, etc.);

    • to gain internet access or expand bandwidth; 

    • to secure facilities and collections

    “Together, we are all facing unprecedented circumstances,” said Bill Pomeroy, Founder and Trustee of the Pomeroy Foundation. “The present pandemic has caused significant disruption for history organizations. These organizations have been, and continue to be, vital resources in our communities. That’s why we have partnered with MANY to start the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History and provide much needed assistance to critical areas of their operations.”

    “We thank the Pomeroy Foundation for their rapid response to aid our historical societies and history museums,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director for the Museum Association of New York. “We look forward to working with the Pomeroy Foundation to help support these organizations during this time of crisis.”

    To apply for a grant or for more information, visit: http://nysmuseums.org/Pomeroy-Fund-for-NYS-History

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

    #  # #

    About the Pomeroy Foundation 

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is a private, grant-making foundation established in 2005. The Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. To date, the Foundation has awarded over 1,000 roadside markers and plaques nationwide. Visit: https://www.wgpfoundation.org/

    Twitter: @wgpfoundation

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

    YouTube: William G. Pomeroy Foundation

    About MANY

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

  • April 06, 2020 2:05 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    We are pleased to share this 2019 Annual Report. By the time you read this in 2020, however, New York’s museums and MANY will look very different than we did at the end of 2019. In these uncertain times, no one knows what challenges our museum community may face in a week, a month, or a year. But we have faith that as New Yorkers with common missions and goals we can support each other, share resources, and make it through together. MANY is stronger and more deeply connected than ever before and we will be here to help our museums survive and thrive. At the end of 2019 we had 642 members from every region, budget size, and discipline and closed the year in a positive financial position. We are proud of the opportunities that we created for museum professionals to gather, to learn, and to grow their professional networks. This annual report details that growth and reach. Our partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museums on Main Street Program brought their Water/Ways exhibition to four New York museums. We signed the contract to bring the exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America to twelve of New York’s smallest museums in 2024 and 2025 and will continue to leverage the resources of our nation’s preeminent museums to increase the capacity of our state’s smallest museums. It was an investment of funds and an expression of our strong belief that New York’s museums will significantly contribute to America 250. We have many people to thank for making 2019 a notable year. MANY’s board of directors volunteered hundreds of hours of their time to strengthen our state’s museums and are increasing the value of what we can offer as an association to individual, organizational, and industry partner members. We welcome four new board members in our class of 2023 who will generously share their perspectives and expertise with our association and our museum community. We thank you for your work as a museum staff member, a trustee, a volunteer, a student, an independent professional, a service provider, an industry partner, or a stakeholder. We couldn’t support museums without you! 

    Click here to download our 2019 Annual Report

  • March 29, 2020 5:25 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Across New York State, museums have closed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Globally, we have seen a surge of online museum content as museums continue to engage with the public. There is an abundance of resources already helping museums navigate the digital world in the wake of the pandemic. For this article, I will focus on sharing a few examples from the museum community to help inspire your own institution in this unique and challenging time. 

    Make it Fun

    According to data collected by the American Alliance of Museums, Museums are considered the most trustworthy source of information in America. But this doesn’t mean that museums can’t also provide some much needed relief during uncertain times. In our first Virtual Meet-Up I spoke about museums providing relief to a person’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook feed. 

    Have you met Tim?

    The National Museum of the Cowboy (Oklahoma) has turned its Twitter feed over to Security Guard, Tim. Tim, who is learning how to tweet as he goes, shares his personal views of the museum. Since he began a couple of weeks ago, the museum has gained national attention (seriously, he was featured on CNN) and has been mentioned in every webinar I have joined. Why is Cowboy Tim so successful? People are hungry for a true connection with a real person who speaks with authenticity and humor. The news is heavy and ever changing but a tweet from Tim that makes you smile is a welcome distraction.

    The Cradle of Aviation in Long Island has turned their Instagram over to Educator Tom who takes the audience on a highly enthusiastic tour of the museum using short videos featuring a range of collection items.

    Showcasing real people who make things happen at your museum is an easy way to add authenticity to your feed. You can still make it fun, like the George Eastman Museum who not only is showing some pretty interesting images of their work behind the scenes, but is adding some badly photoshopped cats into the images. 

    Building Community

    You might be tempted in an effort to reach as many people as possible to build new social media channels. Don’t. Use this time to lean into your existing platforms, step back and refocus to understand your audience. A museum’s social media audience is often not the same as its visitors, or donors. However, you can invite your members and donors to join you in the digital sphere like the Rockwell Museum who is asking its supporters to contribute to its content by asking what artwork found in their collection is their favorite accompanied by up to 120 words why and how it makes them feel, think, etc. 

    Other museums are using their social media channels to communicate directly with their audience. The Erie Canal Museum has begun hosting weekly “Quarantine Coffee Talks” using Facebook Live where staff leads a discussion about an Erie Canal related article. These coffee talks will happen every Thursday at 10 AM. Creating a new online engagement program like this is great, but repetition is key to help build your audience. 

    Museum of Chinese in America has created a “My MOCA Story” video project. MOCA is asking their community to share what’s important in life by recording yourself talking about a favorite object in your home and sharing. 

    The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is building community through an #ArtsMadness challenge. Albright-Knox reached out to museums across the U.S. and challenged them to submit art from their collection that anyone can vote on in head to head competition. This type of collaboration and partnership not only engages the public but connects museums and colleagues. 

    Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum & Education Center created their own #MarchMadness all about finding the greatest Cetacean champion by posting a bracket on their Instagram

    Online Learning

    People are looking for online educational resources. Share your digital collection, research, and stories across your social media channels and feature this content on your website. Contact your local schools and share your resources with them so they can share with parents and teachers. Use live streams to create Q & A sessions or a simple story hour. Reach out to your staff who might not be tech savvy to have them lead a video. Help them learn how to record themselves using their phones and then send you the footage to edit. 

    Rochester Museum and Science Center is creating and sharing their virtual planetariums on their YouTube channel

    Buffalo Museum of Science has created a virtual science fair on their Instagram and Facebook pages by posting different activities and then inviting the public to share their creation by tagging them. 

    The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is hosting a Virtual Student Art Show across their social media channels. Students email artwork and the NMRHF reshares their work. 

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art launched their #MetAnywhere—”a robust selection of online content and social media initiatives that offer ways for audiences to access and enjoy its collection, programs, and educational resources while the Museum is temporarily closed.” It includes access to over 500 panel discussions and lectures along with the Met 360 Progrect.

    Click here for MANY’s full list of Education / Engagement resources.

    Just Follow the Hashtags

    If you are not sure where to start start following #MuseumFromHome and #MuseumMomentofZen. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram and contribute where you can to join these conversations.

    Don’t Forget Email and Your Website

    Email updates about what your team is doing while the doors are closed on how you’re continuing to fulfill your mission. 

    Create a landing page on your website where you can provide updates about your closure, include local health crisis links, and inform them where they can find you virtually while you’re closed physically. Link to your social media channels or link to your blog feed. 

    More Tips

    Reach out to staff across disciplines to create a digital task force. This will be helpful to brainstorm content that can showcase different aspects of your museum and mission that might not be part of your regular social media plan. 

    Collaborate with museums in your region for #MuseumGames or encourage each other to share items from your collection. (Did you catch a  #MuseumBouquet?) 

    Don’t overthink or worry that you don’t have a full social media strategy. It’s okay. As museums adjust to this new reality it is important to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Try new ideas and experiment but you can keep it as simple as posting things from your collection that can highlight your mission and provide a bit of visual relief for your online community.

    More Social Media Resources

    How Your Museum Can Use Social Media During COVID-19


    Social Media 101 for Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations

    How Do Museum Professionals Harness Social Media Marketing?

    Social Media Management in Times of Crisis

    Social Media Video Tips & Strategies 

  • March 27, 2020 3:46 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members of the MANY Museum Community,

    I hope all who are reading this are well, that your families are well, and that you are taking precautionary measures to remain healthy and safe. 

    When we began to prepare the 2019 annual report that will be included in the March 30 MANY newsletter, there was no way to foresee where we are today. Every museum in New York is closed, thousands of staff have already been laid off, and thousands more will follow. A Washington DC source estimated that as many as 30% of museums across the nation may remain permanently closed. That is a statistic that we are working hard to reduce with advocacy, information, and support for the field. If you have not looked at the resource pages of our website, please take a moment and check, there may be something there that can help you make a hard decision easier.

    As New Yorkers, we are known for our strength, creativity, persistence and resiliency.  We are not known for quiet patience or living comfortably with uncertainty. We are now learning these things together too quickly for many of us to process well.

    MANY's inboxes keep filling with questions from colleagues, public and private funders, and legislators. Some of questions have quantifiable answers such as "How many people who work in museums have been laid off?" We'd like you to help answer this question. Please click here to add your data to the chart. 

    We will share your responses widely. 

    Other questions like

    How long will it take museums to re-open?

    How will the impact of museum closures affect the economy next year?

    How will museum experiences change once the pandemic passes?

    are really not possible for anyone to answer right now. We will use all of MANY's resources to work together and support each other in the coming weeks to find good answers.

    The other question colleagues are asking is 

    When and where will you hold the 2020 MANY Annual Conference?

    I am pleased to be able to announce that we are moving forward with hope and faith that we will all be well, and that the conference will be at the New York State Museum and the Albany Hilton on November, 8, 9, and 10. The Museum and Folk Art Forum will be on November 7.  As we re-construct the conference program we will share the updates on our website. 

    MANY staff are working from home. We want to stay connected to you and be here to help as we can. Please join us each Friday at noon for our virtual MANY Meet Ups. We will be collecting questions over the course of the week, and answering them to the best of our ability during the call. We will continue to add to the resource pages on our website, weekly, daily, and hourly when possible. 

    MANY is stronger today than ever before with 685 members from every region, budget size, and discipline. We are working hard to identify programs for the fall where museum professionals will be able to come together, understand how we have evolved under the pandemic, and what the future might bring. If you are not yet a member of MANY, we need everyone's voices in the conversation more than ever. Please consider joining MANY and lending your perspective and expertise to the future of New York's museum field. 

    I am deeply grateful to those of you who have called to ask me if I am OK— if MANY is OK. Depending on the time of day, which birds are perched on the sugar maple outside my window, or our Governor's latest press conference, I may reply that I am fine, I am scared, I have faith, or that I am angry at those who put politics before humanity.


    With thanks for all of your patience and support as we move forward together. 

    Erika Sanger, Executive Director

  • March 02, 2020 7:52 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Hudson River Museum was awarded a Engaging Communities Award of Merit for Through Our Eyes: Collection Initiative and Exhibition, a new digital archive documenting the diverse history of the people of Yonkers. A related exhibition Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers (May 31-November 3, 2019) culminated the year-long project envisioned by HRM and implemented by their Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow, Christian Stegall, under the direction of the curatorial and education department heads.

    Troy, NY—The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce their 2020 Awards of Merit to be presented to eleven individuals, museums, exhibitions, and programs from across New York State. The Awards of Merit were judged for programs conducted in 2019 and will be presented as part of the Museum Association of New York's 2020 conference "The Power of Partnership" at the Hilton Albany in Albany, NY on Monday, March 30 at 8 AM.

    The Awards of Merit recognizes outstanding and innovative programs, staff and volunteers who have enriched New York State museums with new and remarkable projects. The Awards of Merit are judged in seven categories by an Annual Review Committee.   

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award recognizes a board member or staff leader that saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative, effective manner. Ed Varno, Executive Director of the Ontario County Historical Society will receive this year’s most prestigious award. Members of the committee noted Varno’s dedicated work at the Ontario County Historical Society during a critical point for the organization. Varno led the organization to new levels of community engagement, relevance, and sustainability.

    The Award of Merit for Individual Achievement recognizes devoted staff and volunteers who are instrumental in moving their organizations forward over a sustained period. This year the committee recognized Individual Achievement in two categories, one recognizing a staff member and the other recognizing a museum trustee/volunteer. For the Individual Achievement of a museum staff member, the committee recognized Stuart Lilie, Vice President of Public History at Fort Ticonderoga for his incredible work in overseeing their Public History department. The committee was impressed with Lilie’s work that created a living history program using documents from Fort Ticonderoga’s collection to establish a sustainable program that has visitors returning to Fort Ticonderoga year after year. For Individual Achievement of a museum trustee/volunteer was awarded to Stephanie Krusa of the Montauk Historical Society. The committee appreciated Krusa’s tireless dedication to the Montauk Historical Society and her commitment as a volunteer who went above and beyond to help raise the professionalism and elevate the profile of the museum.  

    The Excellence in Design Award, sponsored by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME), recognizes an exhibition produced by a cultural institution that articulates content through engaging design and creates a satisfying visitor experience. The Excellence in Exhibition Design for organizations with an operating budget over $5 million was awarded to Camp: Notes on Fashion by The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The committee was impressed with its engaging content and how the exhibition brought out a marginalized story into public view. It was an incredible exhibition design and a relevant non-traditional topic for the museum. 

    The Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island by the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages was awarded an Award of Merit in Excellence in Design for organizations with operating budgets under $5 million. Drawing on decades of scholarship about the African American experience on Long Island during and after slavery, the Long Island Museum became the first museum to offer an island-wide exploration of this crucial historical subject in a format accessible to a wide public audience through this exhibition and its accompanying public programming. The committee was impressed by the breadth of this project and how it provided a socially relevant historical experience.

    The Innovation in Collections Access Award recognizes exemplary projects that broaden access, preserve, and catalog museum and heritage organization collections. This year the committee recognizes Accelerate: Access and Inclusion at The Tang Teaching Museum. Accelerate was an ambitious project and involved collaborations with more than one hundred artists, students, faculty, and visiting scholars over three years and serves as a model for developing large-scale grant projects that focus on a museum’s collection, bringing in collaborators from backgrounds and perspectives that differ in geography, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, and highlighting artists of backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the museum space. 

    The Engaging Communities Award recognizes organizations that use creative methods to engage its community and build new audiences. Projects can include collections interpretation, exhibitions, lecture series, educational or public programs, focus groups, strategic planning, or other community engagement efforts. This award is given to organizations based on their operating budget:


    Volunteer- $100,000

    Civil War Day, Military History Society of Rochester 

    Hosted by the Military History Society of Rochester, Civil War Day is a day-long, interactive program for 4th and 7th graders that engages them with the American Civil War through talks, slide shows, authentic artifacts, and active participation. The day included four sessions on tenting and school of the soldier, artillery and soldiers in the way, music and kids in the Civil War, and Uniforms and food of the day.



    We Were There: Schoharie County and the 9/11 Response

    In early 2019, Schoharie County Historical Society representatives along with local residents Brian Head and Kevin Neary, undertook an effort to gather the stories of their first responders involved at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. This project was a first for Schoharie County Historical Society. Through collaborative efforts, the historical society was able to exhibit numerous artifacts from the New York State Museum to teach a new generation about 9/11. 



    Through Our Eyes: Collection Initiative and Exhibition, Hudson River Museum

    Through Our Eyes is a new digital archive at the Hudson River Museum (HRM) documenting the diverse history of the people of Yonkers. A related exhibition Through Our Eyes: Milestones and Memories of African Americans in Yonkers (May 31-November 3, 2019) culminated the year-long project envisioned by HRM and implemented by their Samuel H. Kress Interpretive Fellow, Christian Stegall, under the direction of the curatorial and education department heads. Their goal was to collect images related to important stories and everyday moments in Yonkers, as a part of a commitment to equity in representation at the Museum. To date, HRM has collected more than 700 photographs, spanning over 100 years, which document African Americans who made Yonkers the vibrant city that it is today.


    Over $5,000,000

    Vogueing Program by The Costume Institute and the Education Department, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    In the spring of 2019, The Costume Institute’s exhibition Camp: Notes on Fashion created an opportunity to launch a unique series of events and workshops centered around performance by members of New York City’s vogueing community.  Exhibition curators and museum education staff conceived of the series of performances in The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a way to advance critical and creative dialogue about the ongoing impact of the camp aesthetic on fashion.  In so doing, curators and educators sought to support community engagement with diverse NYC youth, area LGBTQIA communities, and the transgender community of New York City.


    New to the Award of Merits this year is the Development Award. This award recognizes institutions whose fundraising campaigns have been innovative, engaging, and successful. This award showcases teams or individuals who garner financial support creatively and effectively for the benefits of their organization and their community’s cultural economy. The Paleontological Research Institution (Museum of the Earth) will receive this award for their Teach Climate Science Project. This project was a crowdfunding campaign to disseminate their “Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change” to every high school science teacher in the United States. By November 2019, Museum of the Earth had raised $137,000 and reached over 50,000 teachers and 5 million students with both print and digital copies. The committee was impressed by the reach of the project and how relevant and helpful this project was for teachers seeking information from a scientific source. 


    The Award Ceremony will take place at 8:00 AM on Monday, March 30, 2020 at the Hilton Albany in Albany, NY. Photo opportunities will be available. For further information please contact info@nysmuseums.org or 518-273-3400.

  • February 27, 2020 5:54 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    NYS museum delegates gather outside Senator Gillibrand’s office as part of Museums Advocacy Day with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

    Dear Members of MANY’s Museum Community,

    If you’ve attended a MANY program in the past couple of years, you have heard me ask you to reach out to your local, state, and federal legislators to let them know what resources you need to serve our communities, preserve and share collections, and sustain and grow the unique power that museums have to transform lives. I know some of us find it difficult to speak up and get loud enough to make a difference. Many museum professionals identify as introverts, while others may be uncomfortable speaking with people they don’t know.

    One member of our museum community, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) has just experienced a disaster that we all dread— the potential loss of a collection to fire. MOCA’s social media campaigns, calls to city officials, outreach to emergency management offices, and help from members of the community made a difference. Their announcement on Thursday, February 27 that the building on 70 Mulberry Street that housed the collection will be hand-demolished and that most of the collection remaining will be salvaged will help them continue to tell the nationally significant stories embodied in the collections.

    At MANY’s annual conference in Albany on Monday, March 30th at 1:00, a group of museum professionals will share how communities and museums responded to the impact of Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Andrew and how shared exhibitions and programming effected change in their communities. Coming together, speaking out, and communicating our needs to our representatives is how we will effect positive change for New York’s Museums.

    MANY is here to help our members amplify their advocacy messages, and I want to remind you that you are the best ones to tell your story with authentic passion. We returned on Wednesday from AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day where 55 representatives from New York made 30 visits to our Senators and Congressional representatives. We are fortunate that we can thank Senator Schumer for his support and Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Paul D. Tonko for co-authoring the Office of Museum Services budget appropriation sign on letters in their respective houses. Congressman Tonko closed Museums Advocacy Day with an impassioned pledge of his spirit, integrity, and energy on behalf of museums across our nation. He knows that our museums are the most effective places to express and share our art, history, and heritage about the places we call home.

    In Albany we have been working hard with NY State Senator Serrano and Assembly Member Fahy to advance the Museum Education Act A.9695 (Fahy)/S.6819 (Serrano). I am pleased to report that it has passed out of the Tourism Committee in the Assembly and the Cultural Affairs Committee in the Senate but we need you to step in, speak up and get loud now. We have received an outpouring of support in both houses, but we need you to tell your legislators how your museum does essential work in your community and ask them for their support now. Please send an email and follow up with a phone call to your State Senators and Assembly Members as soon as possible to ask for their support to include the Museum Education Act (A.9695 (Fahy)/S.6819 (Serrano)) in the one house budget bills at $3.5M. You can find your Assembly Member's contact information by clicking here and your New York State Senator by clicking here and MANY's memo of support here. Please feel free to borrow freely from this email and our letter of support when contacting your legislators. There is more advocacy information about the MEA on our website: https://nysmuseums.org/Advocacy.

    If you are planning to join us at our 2020 annual conference in Albany (it is going to be amazing), please invite your legislators to join us at the “Power of Partnership” 2020 Annual Conference Opening Reception on Sunday, March 29th in The Rotunda of the New York State Education Department Building from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. You can find a pdf of the invitation here. With budget negotiations underway, I am sure they will appreciate a break and a chance to speak with and enjoy refreshments with their constituents.


    With thanks and hopes to see you in Albany!

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

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

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