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

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  • June 25, 2019 7:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Starting this September, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is expanding their Erie Canalway Impact Grants.

    New Funding

    The new grant program includes smaller grants that range from $2,500 to $12,000 that will fund programming, interpretation, trail development, and pre-engineering and design plans. While multiple project applications are encouraged, these impact grants cannot be used to fund the same project repeatedly. There are no exclusions for previously funded projects by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor or through NY Canal Corporation, although first-time applicants are highly encouraged. These one-year long grant investment grants are available for projects that take place within the boundaries of the National Heritage Corridor. Those eligible to apply are 501c3 Non-Profits, municipalities, and federally recognized Native American Tribes. 

    What types of projects are they looking for? 

    Corn Hill Waterfront and Navigation Foundation – Ride & Glide Tour Series 

    “We love to see projects submitted in partnership,” says Andy Kitzmann, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Assistant Director. Previously funded projects include the Corn Hill Navigation and the Sam Patch Erie Canal Boat Tours that partnered with the Rochester City School District to develop and implement a 4th-grade curriculum that featured STEM materials that students learned right on this replica 1800s packet boat. 

    The project was developed in conjunction with the zoo, the local BOCES, and the Rochester City School District. It is a great example of four different entities coming together, focusing on STEM, and using the Canalway. 

    Other examples include the study on the old Erie Canal kayak launches by Montgomery County. The grant funded the research to turn the informal kayak launches into formal, ADA compliant, offer parking, etc. The new grants will fund this type of pre-development work. 

    2020 will also be another busy year for important anniversaries like the Women’s Suffrage Centennial in Seneca Falls and the ongoing celebration of the Erie Canal Bicentennial (2017-2025). Projects that commemorate these anniversaries are also encouraged to apply.

    Other ideas?

    • Links to the Canalway’s environmental resources

    • Programs that focus on STEM

    • Programs that get people out on the water and raise awareness of the recreational resources that the canal has to offer

      • Like projects with a recreational focus (kayaking or cycling)

      • Or get people out and enjoying the Canalway trail

    Programs like “Kayak Through History” at the Schenectady County Historical Society, or “Tuesdays on the Tow Path” at the Chittenango Boat Landing Museum that use the canal to promote recreation in creative ways have both been previously funded by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. 

    Mr. Kitzmann also encourages programs or projects that focus on STEM-based education that can help fill the gap in the canalway’s interpretation. “Science, technology, engineering, and math that’s what the canal is all about. It’s an exercise in engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, geology, math, surveying, and more.”

    First Time Applying?

    If you’re new to grant applications or new to an organization that has an ideal project for this funding, potential applicants should contact Andy Kitzmann. “We encourage people to call in and bounce their ideas off me and ask questions,” Mr. Kitzmann said. “It’s helpful for people because it gives them a sense of where our priorities are and we can make links between what their projects are and what we’re looking to accomplish with our grant program and find those commonalities.”

    Important Grant Information

    • Grants range from $2,500 - $12,000

    • A 1:1 match is required

    • Projects and programs must take place within the boundaries of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

    • Project timelines are 1-year in length

    • Funding applications are open to 501c3, municipalities, and federally recognized Native American Tribes

    • Grant applications will open in September 2019 

    • Grant applications must be postmarked or hand-delivered by 4 PM, Friday, October 18, 2019.

    • Grant awards will be announced in January 2020

    Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Map 

    Further Reading/Resources

    Andy Kitzmann, Assistant Director, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

    (518) 237-7000 ext. 201


    Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Grants


    An Award Winning Approach


    Previously Funded Projects


    Case Studies


  • May 31, 2019 9:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sugar boiling pots and slave cabins, Whitney Plantation

    When I was young, teachers at PS 110 in Manhattan tried to teach me that America was a “Melting Pot.” As I learned about my friends, classmates, neighbors, and how my family came to this country, that phrase lost its sensibility. My grandmother never opened a cookbook and my mother embraced the ever expanding frozen food aisle. I learned about the people who shared my world through their music and food ways and was fortunate to be surrounded by an endless supply of sounds and flavors to nourish my heart and my body. I came to learn that there is no single American culture, no one American story, and no giant simmering vessel in which it is possible to reduce and blend our complex history.

    At the recent AAM conference in New Orleans, museum professionals shared their struggles, successes, and expertise. Many sessions were focused on AAM’s Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion initiatives. The city of New Orleans was an ideal place to have discussions about how museums can use culture and art as our tools to amplify awareness, encourage social activism, and grow economic development for our communities.  With my mind full of new ideas and my belly full of the evidence of the food culture, I thought how might we create a recipe for the future of our museum community? How do we become professionals and places where we not only educate but are educated by our communities?

    In museums, we are comfortable with being educators. Now it is time to figure out how we allow ourselves to be educated. If we keep sharing our successes and our learning, we might just succeed together. It may be hard to find the right place to begin or how to start opening doors. Change is inherently subversive and someone will be disappointed no matter what you do. You may even do something “wrong” but at least you know you have done something.

    A “melting pot” was never an apt metaphor for the United States. There was always and will continue to be too many flavors, colors, and textures for us all to homogenize into one single dish. And if we agree that authentic experiences matter, and the recipe for our future is about inclusion, wouldn’t you much rather be eating jambalaya?

    Thank you for your support, e

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director, MANY

  • May 31, 2019 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future, an exhibition at the Museum at Bethel Woods celebrates and interprets Woodstock’s golden anniversary through artifacts, oral histories, and mixed media and connects social movements in the 1960’s to events at Woodstock and beyond by drawing parallels from then to today.

    Inside the We Are Golden exhibition where visitors can see over 170 artifacts like the festival site plans, Michael Lang’s motorcycle (pictured above) and hear music from the festival and stage announcements.  Image courtesy The Museum at Bethel Woods.

    The exhibition is comprised of a large collection of authentic Woodstock artifacts including instruments, clothing, equipment, art, and photography. It examines Woodstock and what the youth of 1969 wanted for the world at a time when an entire generation felt slighted and silenced. Through the use of artifacts and testimonies, this exhibition explores the communal response of generation of young people who returned to the “real world” following a massive, peaceful gathering with a better sense of solidarity, which in turn influenced their desire for a more peaceful existence.

    The determination and desire for change in those who attended Woodstock makes them not unlike some of the young people involved social movements that are happening in the world today. Contemporary social action movements, including Live Aid, Farm Aid, Earth Day, the Women’s Movement, the LGBTQ Movement, #metoo, the Women’s March, and the student gun control movement, all have their roots in 1960s social and civic activism.

    The Museum at Bethel Woods sourced over 170 artifacts, some from their permanent collection, and others on loan from festival attendees and performers  -- like the bass and tunic from former Jefferson Airplane and currently Hot Tuna band member Jack Casady. Yet, what connects the visitor to the moment in time of being at Woodstock in 1969 are the oral histories from festival attendees and hearing conversations with young people from across the country today about their hopes, their dreams, and calls for social movements and change.

    “Voices from the Past” exhibition panel where visitors can listen to oral histories from those who attended and worked at Woodstock. Visitors can listen to what these peoples’ hopes, fears, and expectations were for the time. Image courtesy The Museum at Bethel Woods.

    While oral historian Kevin Ferguson compiled most of the elders older histories for "Voices from the Past", oral historians Rachel Marco-Havens and Steven Palmer (The Stonewall Project) traveled across the United States to capture stories told by people ages 14 to 30 who identify as leaders and members of social movements that cross race, gender, and socioeconomic identities.1 Rachel and Steven traveled from California to New Mexico, Florida, and as far north as the Sioux Nation at Standing Rock. During these interviews, they found similar concerns between the 1960s like the Vietnam War, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and others to concerns felt by today’s youth. Today’s climate change, the me too movement, and equality echo the concerns from the 1960s.

    Stories gathered by Marco-Havens and Palmer connect young people across the country today, some of which identify as leaders and are engaged in social movements, and reflect on their hopes, fears, and aspirations, how they can learn from the Woodstock generation, and what they hope subsequent generations can learn from them. Like those who attended Woodstock and were involved in social movements in the 1960s, today’s youth movements and activists hope to create meaningful impact for the world. We Are Golden examines the “after” of Woodstock and the return to the real world with a “What the World Needs Now” kiosk that includes some of those who attended the 1969 festival but focuses on the voices from today’s youth. These kiosks (“Voices from the Past” and “What the World Needs Now”) categorize both of these generations’ voices by their hopes, fears, and expectations for the future. In these voices, you can hear the parallels to today:


    “There was a yearning to make things better. To make things whole. Even a seventeen-year-old like myself could see that the country was really torn apart. Really torn.” Mike Levine, “Voices from the Past”

    “My hope is in each conversation, have the youth represented and our voice heard, and just to have our input on how and what we want the future to look like.” Jasilyn Charger, “What the World Needs Now”


    “We had tension back in 1969, you know, with the war in Vietnam and everything, but people just let all their politics aside for Woodstock.” Bob Gould, “Voices from the Past”

    “My fear is that things ultimately will not get better. That history is not necessarily linear, but that things are a bit cyclical and human history just kinda all about struggle. So my fear is that that’s kinda what we’re living in, where essentially it’s kind of all about human struggle and human survival and things don’t necessarily get better.” William Grant, “What the World Needs Now”


    “What is takes for the planet to go... It needs all of us. It needs community. We need to talk to each other, we need to communicate with each other.” Janice Inabinett, “Voices from the Past”

    “It definitely takes action. It definitely takes a movement. It definitely takes a lot of collectiveness in order to combat that. In order to feel safe in this world. In order to feel loved in this world.” KC Cornish, “What the World Needs Now”

    Assistant Curator Julia Fell noted that the parallels in these voices “are the desire for communication, the desire and belief in change, and the cyclical nature of history.”

    The special exhibition is rooted in a shared, communal experience echoing the experience at Woodstock. “In the second half of the museum exists a replica Message Tree. In 1969, a lone red maple tree stood at the corner of West Shore and Hurd Roads, the crossroads of the Woodstock Festival. The tree was the only living thing of any height for a hundred yards in any direction,” explains Director and Senior Curator Wade Lawrence. “Festival attendees used the tree, as a message board, to post messages on paper plates or whatever could be found.” Today, museum guests are invited to share their thoughts upon the Message Tree with the young people of today who inherited this world and will find their own ways to respond to it. Messages include the simple “I was here,” a child’s drawing, or thoughts abouthow they want their world to look.

    The replica of the Message Tree, designed to model the landmark tree on the field at Woodstock. The original, a red maple tree would serve as a meeting point and be covered in messages like asking people for rides, times to meet, etc. This replica Message Tree (pictured above) allows visitors to We Are Golden to leave their own thoughts about the exhibition and what they want to see in the world. Image courtesy The Museum at Bethel Woods.

    The Museum at Bethel Woods asks visitors to think more about the world around them and to see the parallels with the 1960s. The exhibition offers the opportunity to hear young people today share their concerns and hopes for the future or for those who lived in the 1960s to ask if and how those movements for social change resolved. Woodstock became a symbolic moment that seemed to capture the entire context of the 1960s. We Are Golden prompts us to reflect not just on that time but on the world today and if we are living in a similar moment, or if that moment has passed.

    1Oral historian Rachel Marco-Havens is an independent youth leadership mentor and is the daughter of Woodstock performer Richie Havens. Rachel and Steven had never met before prior to this project and worked mostly independently of one another as they captured these oral histories.

    Further Reading / Resources

    The Museum at Bethel Woods


    Oral History Association


  • May 31, 2019 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Round IX of NYS REDC initiative will include two NYSCA funding programs

    In 2018, over $23 million was awarded to fifty-seven museums through the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) Initiative. With the opening of the grant portal on May 1, New York State’s ninth round of REDC initiatives includes two New York Council on the Arts (NYSCA) funding programs.

    NYSCA is accepting applications for the fiscal year 2020 funding through the REDC. For this round of grant funding, there are two programs: Arts and Cultural Initiatives Funding and the Arts and Cultural Facilities improvement Program: Mid-Size Capital Project Fund.

    NYSCA’s Arts and Cultural Initiatives funding provides up to five million across New York State’s ten economic development regions. Its purpose is to enhance and transform the cultural and economic vitality of NYS communities. It prioritizes funding to applicants who have not received NYSCA REDC Initiative funding in previous years. Funding support is broken down into three categories: NY State Arts Impact Awards, Workforce Investment, and Workforce Fellowships.

    The NY State Arts Impact awards support the expansion of large-scale, public art projects and demonstrates a commitment to collaboration across sectors, disciplines, and regions. Projects like multi-day, interdisciplinary festivals, mobile exhibitions, temporary art exhibitions, site-specific performances, artistic events that include an interactive component for the audience are eligible for funding. Projects that span across multiple regions and encourage tourism to less popular areas while continuing to serve their communities are strongly encouraged.

    In 2018, the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Suffragettes Project received funding to present a year-long series of new work by artist Caitlin Cass (an award-winning artist that has exhibited nationally and internationally) who is commemorating the women’s suffrage movement in New York. “Women’s Work: Suffrage Movements 1848-1965” which opened on March 1, uses interwoven stories of women from three time periods to recount the history of the movements that led to the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. This large-scale project was not only relevant to contemporary issues of Women’s rights but presents the historic women’s suffrage movement in a new digital medium by using comic strips.

    The Everson Museum of Art was awarded funding for TEMPO: Public Art on the Everson Community Plaza. TEMPO is a new program of site-specific public art commissions and includes performance, sound and video art. TEMPO allowed the Everson to create a site-specific exhibition space that featured multi-sensory disciplines.

    Workforce investment funding supports the creation of new full or part-time positions as well as the expansion of existing part-time positions to full time. It includes either general full-time or part-time positions, or a resident artist (like a visual artist, folklorist, or choreographer). In 2018 the Rochester Museum & Science Center used this funding to hire 20 Rochester City School students in part-time, entry-level positions. The goal was to have these students learn transferable skills and be introduced to the curatorial and business sides of an arts and cultural organization.

    The North Country Children’s Museum used their 2018 Workforce Investment to help expand their museum’s art educator position from part-time to full time with the goal to expand access to the arts for rural and low-income children and families.

    The other NYSCA REDC funding opportunity that is now available is the Arts & Cultural Facilities Improvement Program. This large capital project fund was created to strengthen tourism, promote business development, and improve the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of NYS arts and cultural organizations through targeted investments. Funding is designated for renovations and expansions of public spaces, or modifications that provide more sustainable and energy efficient spaces that save overall costs, as well as accessibility improvements, and technology improvements that benefit the public.

    Design mock-up for the Albright Knox Gallery exhibition space. View of the north building from Elmwood Avenue. Image courtesy Albright Knox Gallery.

    The Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY AK360 Project will use its 2018 funding award for renovations to its two historic buildings and the construction of 30,000 sq. ft. of new exhibition space with modern visitor amenities, and seamless integration with the surrounding Olmsted Park. The funding will specifically address the safety and accessibility of visitors with major renovations to bring the facilities into compliance with the ADA. Albright-Knox Gallery will double the number of works that the museum can display, adding a state of the art space for special exhibitions, and creating more space for educational programs.

    The Strong Museum Expansion Project, that is building a 100,000 square feet museum expansion to house new exhibitions and additional facilities for educational programs, including those related to the arts, will be a major driver of tourism for the region, attracting 400,000 mostly out-of-state guests annually.

    Other funded projects focus specifically on accessibility improvements like the one at the Albany Palace Performing Arts Center that will use funds awarded in 2018 to help make all auditorium, stage, education, and administrative spaces in Albany's historic Palace Theatre fully accessible to visitors, students, staff, and artists of all physical abilities for the first time.

    The New-York Historical Society’s Equality and Justice for All: New Museum Educational Galleries received 2018 NYSCA REDC funding to create prime gallery space throughout the Museum dedicated to exhibitions exploring topics of freedom, race, equality, and civil rights in America. The state-of-the-art galleries will explore how  African Americans have fought for full rights as citizens throughout our nation’s history.

    Funding applications must be submitted through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) by July 26, 2019, at 4 PM and is available at https://apps.cio.ny.gov/apps/cfa/. All applications must Prequalify with New York State to be eligible for funding. If you have questions about NYSCA REDC opportunities, email NYSCA.REDC@arts.ny.gov.


    Regional Economic Development Council Initiative


    2018 REDC Award Booklet


    Is NYSCA REDC funding for you?


    Ninth Round of Regional Economic Development Council Competition


    Prequalification Guide


    Program Comparison: Mid-Size Capital Fund vs. Large Capital Project Fund


  • May 31, 2019 9:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As communities that surround museums change and the pressure to remain relevant and create more sustainable sources of revenue increases, museums are looking at the roles they play in their community. Through relevant programming, exhibitions, and events, museums can reach new audiences, celebrate local history and culture, and add to the quality of life in their communities.

    New programming has brought in new audiences at the Schenectady County Historical Society like their Independence Day Celebration with the Schenectady Symphony (pictured above). Image courtesy Schenectady County Historical Society.

    Schenectady County Historical Society is evolving how they create programming. Their goal? Beyond increasing attendance, the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) wanted their audience to reflect their community. On the journey from a once-a-month lecture to multiple events and programs that embrace partnerships and allow for feedback created an active, year-round calendar. The SCHS embraced change, became flexible, and didn’t let fear of the unknown hinder their desire to develop into a multi-faceted historical site.

    The historical society has embraced its educational role and serves over 2,000 school children each year. “It’s at the core of what we do,” said Schenectady County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Zawacki. “We focus on education to help open minds and increase the quality of life in Schenectady.” SCHS has expanded its walking tours to incorporate the cultural heritage of its residents. The Taste of Little Italy Tour incorporates history told through local Italian restaurants, another promotes Schenectady’s rich African American heritage and shares the unique struggles and achievements of the community.

    Executive Director Zawacki shared that at the start there was a fear of alienating existing audience members when venturing into new types of programming. Having a dedicated audience for a specific program is great, but when that audience for the program is decreasing, increasing change might be what saves it. SCHS saw a dedicated but shrinking audience for its lecture series. The audience was enthusiastic but the historical society needed to draw more people.

    The lecture series was changed to a new day (Saturdays at 2 pm) which increased attendance and accessibility. The conversations and speakers from a hundred-mile radius were analyzed content and popularity.  The content was important to increase attendance but strategic scheduling helped. The SCHS lecture series saw strong numbers in the winter, January to April because it was not trying to compete with other events. January to April is often referred to as the off-season, but SCHS discovered that more people were not traveling and looking for something to do locally. As a result, the attendance in these months averages about 100 people per lecture. Was there a fearful thought that their long-standing audience would object to a new day or to a different type of speaker? Yes but there was the possibility that the existing audience would follow. Adapting a program so that it is more diverse, attracts a new audience, and is more accessible is part of looking to establish a more sustainable future for any organization.

    Taking a leap into new programming doesn’t mean diving completely into the unknown. SCHS uses its community as a resource when examining potential programming and events. They prioritized forums and feedback in order to keep programming and events relevant to the community and to create events that people will want to attend.

    Local partnerships played an important role in developing or altering the SCHS programming. Food and drinks are popular components for museum events, but Schenectady didn’t just use drinks to attract an audience. SCHS discovered the affection and local pride associated with Schenectady County breweries and local breweries participating in programs became a natural community partnership that tied into Schnectadys’ culture. The result? Events that included breweries increased attendance and were rated highly by attendees. The  SCHS found that these events encouraged group outings, that increased attendance. Families, friends, work colleagues were using SCHS events as a chance to connect with one another.

    SCHS’s Mabee Farm partnered with Electric City Food-Op for “Mabee Farm to Fork” to celebrate local foods. “Mabee Farm to Fork” became another gathering event while demonstrating that Mabee Farm is a working farm. The historical society also utilized another local resource for creating programs, the Mohawk River. “Kayaking Through History” has visitors paddle upstream and an SCHS guide talks about the river and its surroundings. This tour focuses on biodiversity, invasive species, and river ecology. It is another example of how creating a different type of program that can appeal to a different type of visitor while using a local resource, the Mohawk River, in a new way. In the past five years, the SCHS has not been the only one who has turned to the river, but the area as a whole is looking to capture its tourism potential resulting in increased economic development along the river.

    Zawacki’s advice to other historical societies and museums is to not fear change but to cultivate a culture that is open and willing to try new things. Even if a new event is not successful, it is a lesson learned and a starting point for the next idea.

    Further Reading / Resources

    Schenectady County Historical Society Programs


    Historical Societies and the March of Time


  • April 29, 2019 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York’s Access and Identity 2019 Annual Conference might be over but the networking and idea building has just begun. Whether it was your first MANY conference or your fifth, these five things will help you make the most of your conference experience.

    Take the Post-Conference Survey

    The theme for 2020 conference in Albany is The Power of Partnership. We want to hear from you to ensure that The Power of Partnership is even better than Access and Identity. Please take a few minutes to give us your feedback with our post-conference survey, which you can take here in less than twenty minutes. Your feedback is integral to our conference development over the coming months. We'll be reading all of your comments and using them to shape the program and events for #MANY2020 in Albany.

    Get social, stay social.

    Live tweeting throughout the conference is great, but taking the time to reflect and write a meaningful reflection about the sessions you attended can further strengthen your social media presence in the NYS museum world. Review your notes, write out posts or a Twitter thread, and appropriately tag speakers and other institutions. Or you can start a Twitter chat about a topic discussed at the conference. Keep using #MANY2019 to continue the conversations that started at the conference.

    Put those business cards to use.

    The art of collecting and distributing the business card is a key part of attending any conference. Use the weeks following the conference to use these business cards to reach out to your new contacts. That doesn’t necessarily mean picking up the phone or sending an email but engaging with them on their social media platforms as well. Follow them on their social media handles, engage with what they’ve posted during the conference, and use a professional portal like LinkedIn to connect with your museum peers and new conference contacts to build up your digital contacts.

    Reconnect with your museum team.

    You and your museum colleagues might have attended different conference sessions but it is important to meet and discuss your experiences. By reflecting and reviewing your conference notes together you can share insights on ideas presented by the sessions you attended. Take the time to meet in person and share your takeaways with your team. Invite staff, volunteers, and board member who did not attend to share what you learned. It gives the entire museum team the opportunity to ask questions about the conference.

    Ask yourself, “Did I get the most out of my conference experience?”

    Did you attend the sessions that you wanted to? Were the sessions relevant to your needs or did the presenters answer your questions? Were your individual or institutional goals for this conference met? Some of these answers will be helpful in your MANY conference survey, but it is important to reflect on your own. Record and gather the information you learned and write down your recollection of the sessions attended. Highlight key areas that your institution could focus on and note key people you interacted with or who presented these ideas to connect with in the future or to follow up with.

    Thank you for a wonderful conference in Cooperstown!  We want to express our sincerest gratitude to all of you for making the 2019 conference a success. MANY is proud to report that this year’s conference has broken our attendance record with 446 museum professionals joining the conversation in Cooperstown.

  • April 24, 2019 7:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The “Museums are not neutral” movement emboldens museums to take a stand, choose a side, and take action. For most museums, this means choosing to stand for something in their communities, usually a social issue, and taking action to be part of the conversation for change. In 2016, the Rochester Preservation Board voted unanimously to remove an offensive painted panel from the historic Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park and entrust its stewardship to the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC). The City of Rochester selected RMSC as a partner in the process based on the organization’s long-term commitment to preserve, study, and interpret regional history objects and the staff’s technical expertise in exhibit development and fabrication. But the Preservation Board meeting was also the first time that RMSC staff heard African American community members express concern that a European-led institution was ill-equipped to deliver anti-racist education.

    Since its opening in 1912 as the Rochester Municipal Museum, the RMSC has been a community museum. Part of RMSC’s future and vision is to “create opportunities for community conservations around difficult issues.” Difficult conversations, around objects like this racist carousel panel, are important bridges between museums and their communities in the continued efforts to remain relevant and connect to current events in society. The Take It Down Planning Committee struggled to remove this offensive panel for nine months, revealing underlying racial tensions in the Rochester community. When the same activists who agitated for the panel’s removal called out the RMSC’s lack of leadership diversty as a barrier to creating honest exhibits and programs around racism, the RMSC vowed to develop a more authentic model for community collaboration and curation. This work in partnership with the Take It Down Planning Committee and City of Rochester transformed a racist caricature into an anti-racist teaching tool, created important opportunities for dialogue around issues of racism in Rochester, urged RMSC to examine its own policies and practices, and earned the RMSC a 2019 MANY Engaging Communities Award of Merit.

    Collaboration with the Take It Down Planning Committee—and especially the leadership of Howard Eagle, Andria Bryant, and Minister Clifford Florencewas critical to the project’s success. Their dedication was integral in bringing the exhibit to life and challenging the Rochester community to examine the ways in which structural racism influence and inform institutional norms and individual behaviors. Together, community activists and the RMSC tackled a difficult and highly relevant topic, used an historic object to help illustrate the issues that modern Rochester society is facing, and developed a process to create and host conversations among community members, across class, and across race. The group ensured that Take It Down traveled to locations throughout the city so that the community had opportunities to not only see the panel but also to take ownership of the conversations it was creating.

    This traveling exhibition has visited six locations—from churches to the Phillis Wheatley Community Library—to date and averages four exhibition sites per year. It is currently back on display at the RMSC. There are usually two programs at each exhibit site totaling about 25 programs thus far that have engaged an estimated 300-500 people. Each program is led by Take It Down Planning Committee members in partnership with RMSC and is offered for free to the public at each venue. Since every audience is unique in its composition, I would say that the conversation has organically led to discussion of many different racism-related issues and potential (baby step) solutions. I have noticed many faith communities taking the initiative to open these conversations and there has been a lot of interest in the museum community,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, Senior Director of Collections and Exhibitions at RMSC. She notes that the project team has given presentations to area docent groups, students and educators in the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and MANY 2018 Conference Capstone participants. In conjunction with the Take It Down Planning Committee, RMSC has also been able to offer the program as a credited professional development opportunity for teachers in the Rochester City School District and is currently working with the Rochester City School District to engage middle school and high school students in the program.

    In an era defined by widespread political unrest, factionalism, and increased racial tension (based largely on continued racist abuse and atrocities), this project is extremely topical. Structural, institutional and individual racism continue to reduce opportunities for a large portion of the population, create barriers between community members, and serve as antagonists to racial progress and a feeling of community pride. Take It Down works to further racial equity and by engaging the community in real conversations about race, and what individuals and organizations can do to combat racism, with community activists who have worked toward social justice for decades. RMSC’s role in fostering positive change has focused on providing technical expertise to further a community-based vision for anti-racist education. Importantly, this work has moved the RMSC toward a model for more authentic community collaboration, including shared authority and decision-making. The RMSC is embracing these changes to be more socially engaged, relevant, and responsive to the community it serves. As more museums talk about what their roles should be in their communities as they work to remain relevant, asking questions about neutrality surrounding difficult conversations can challenge museums to ask what it means to not be neutral.

    Further Reading / Resources

    Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism


    “Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism” Traveling Exhibit Brochure


    Controversy behind Dentzel Carousel panel comes to an end


    Museums Are Not Neutral


  • April 24, 2019 7:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Global museums are defined as well-endowed cultural institutions located in major cities such as NYC, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, and London have the power to use data analytics to grow their revenue and respond to audience trends. Many have annual budgets starting at $100M and use their resources to take full advantage of data analytics to generate insights for their visitors, change their admission pricing, or to predict visitor attendance based on factors ranging from weather, public school schedules, and tourism events. While these global museums might have more resources at their disposal, smaller museums can benefit from big data by learning more about the power of data analytics and using simple best practices to make data-driven marketing decisions.

    Kwasi Hope Agyeman is the CEO & Founder of TravelSee, a company that uses data analytics to help museums grow and keep audiences. He is a trained public historian and experienced data analyst, who wants to help smaller museums understand how to interpret their data so that they too can grow their audiences and increase relevancy. Kwasi believes that historical sites, regional art museums, and local zoos do not need a $100M budget to hire data scientists. “I believe data analytics should be accessible to all museums that want to grow and keep audiences. This drive to democratize big data is the reason I launched TravelSee, a museum data analytics company, while I was in museum school at the Cooperstown Graduate Program.”

    Kwasi and his team recently presented at a round-table discussion on “Data-Driven Museums: Using Data Analytics to Make Smart Marketing Decisions” at MANY’s Access and Identity annual conference. “The fact that the discussion was packed and extra chairs were needed, demonstrated a growing awareness on the value of museum data analytics. As the presenter, I worked to address the many discussion points related to data analytics, ranging from the historic site that did not collect visitor zip codes to the science museum that rarely analyzes its visitor data. The best part of the presentation was the sales vendor that happened to enter the discussion and was surprised that most of the attendants were not actively collecting and analyzing audience information to support data-driven decisions - a very necessary practice in any other workplace.”

    Just as retail and e-commerce businesses analyze data to support product development and improve customer experiences, so can museums. By looking at audience demographics, spending habits, location, and more, museums can make better marketing or programming decisions to increase attendance and revenue as well as  diversify visitors. Understanding current or future target audiences can affect admission, exhibit development, membership structure, museum shop items, and more.

    By using Google Analytics, MANY has seen an increase in website visits through our LinkedIn page. This accounts for nearly 20% of all social media referrals to our website in the past three months. We were able to correlate this data to the increase in pageviews to the MANY Job Board webpage as one of the top reporting pages. We analyzed LinkedIn’s insights and discovered that the impressions for job board related posts yielded an average higher impression rate than other posts. This data has helped MANY understand that by using LinkedIn to promote the Job Board we increased LinkedIn’s social media referrals to our MANY Job Board webpage. After the MANY homepage, the MANY Job Board page is now the second most visited landing page because of social media acquisition, specifically LinkedIn.

    Social media platforms have their own built-in analytics and insights that can measure post and event engagement rates, reach, impressions, and click-throughs. Museums can see audience demographics, popular posting times, and user locations. Data captured by social media insights can also be used to clearly share the results of a marketing campaign. By creating a data report, museums can highlight the connection between an event ticket sale and online click ads. Facebook and Instagram ads let museums dictate target audiences, either based on current demographics, or by expanding and diversifying by location and interests. Platforms like Facebook can help museums make better marketing decisions and plan targeted audience campaigns.

    Many smaller museums struggle with audience engagement and community relevancy, using data to evaluate audiences, programming, events, and exhibitions is an important resource to increase audience growth and engagement. Kwasi believes that smaller museums can advance by building a data-driven culture to develop new audiences and remain publicly relevant.

    Further Reading / Resources

    Top 20 Visited Museum Exhibitions of 2018


    British Museum Data Analytics Partnership with Microsoft


    Smithsonian Data Science Team


    Top 10 Museum Trends of 2019


    How 7 Museums Used Data Analytics To Fix Real Problems


    Five Basic Things All Museum Marketing Professionals Needs to Know


    How the Art Institute of Chicago Uses Data to Predict Attendance


    Met New Ticketing Policy


    How to Setup a Data-Driven Museum Marketing Budget


  • April 24, 2019 7:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Museum on Main Street has been part of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition service visiting communities across the United States since 1994. Its exhibitions have traveled to 48 states, have been hosted by over 1,400 communities, and are used to kick-start local exhibitions and programming. These exhibitions are specifically designed for smaller museums in rural communities with an average population of just over 14,000. After visiting just about every state, Museum on Main Street or MoMS is making its New York State debut with Water/Ways starting this June and ending in April, 2020 as it travels across the state to six different communities.

    Water/Ways began in 2016 and dives into water as an essential component of life on our planet; environmentally, culturally, and historically. This exhibition takes a deep look at water’s impact on our lives, how it powers the environment, impacts climate, and how it physically shapes and sculpts the landscape around us. Water/Ways asks how Americans use water, how is water represented in our society, how do we use water a symbol, how does water unite communities, and how does water affect the way we live, work, worship, create and play?

    These questions are addressed over five free-standing exhibition panels that feature photographs, text, and objects, with one video monitor, two touch screen interactive computer kiosks, and an iPad-based WaterSim American interactive on a stand. Water/Ways has travelled to states like Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, Arizona, Washington, Oklahoma, and is now it is en route to New York State.

    It seems rather fitting that the first MoMS exhibit in New York State is Water/Ways. New York has more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, as well as portions of two Great Lakes and over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams flow within New York’s boundaries. Water has created communities, and economic power like the Erie Canal’s 363 miles that gave New York City’s port an incomparable advantage over all other U.S. port cities and guided the state’s 19th century political and cultural dominance. Water/Ways will travel across New York to six different communities to share stories of how their waterways contributed to their growth, development, and connection.

    To deepen the connection that water has to our communities, MANY is partnering with the New York Folklore Society who will help capture oral stories and histories by offering partnerships with folklorists. These folklorists will work to help capture stories about waters’ deeper connection spiritually and culturally to these communities. These oral histories and stories about water and its effect on life, work, spirituality will help each of the six host communities further create a unique exhibition alongside the Smithsonian’s that will tie larger, more national ideas and concepts to a personal and local level.  

    Starting this June, Water/Ways will mark the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal with its first stop at the Erie Canal Museum. Showcasing the only remaining canal weighlock building in the United States, the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, New York collects and preserves Canal material, and provides educational experiences that champion an appreciation and understanding of the Erie Canal's transforming effects on the past, present, and future. The Museum is located directly adjacent to the route of the original Erie Canal, which transported goods, people, and ideas across New York State and into the Midwest and was known as the "Mother of Cities" due to its enormous impact on the growth and development of communities including Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Chicago. Their Water/Ways programs will help improve the public’s understanding of technology and engineering related to water, how the Canal affects the natural position of water for different purposes, how it manages water, and how it transported people, goods, and ideas.

    Opportunities to see Water/Ways will continue as the exhibition moves around the state from the Village of Aurora in the Finger Lakes, along the Erie Canal to the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls, the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and ending at the East Hampton Historical Society on the eastern tip of Long Island. Each host site will expand on the Water/Ways exhibit to incorporate direct links between water and its impact on their community.

    In the Village of Aurora, a partnership between the Aurora Masonic Center, the Village of Aurora Historical Society, and Long Library at Wells College has formed to share their unique water stories that surround Cayuga Lake. Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes in Central New York. Since the withdrawal of the glaciers, the lake has provided important resources to dwellers on and near its shores, from paleo-Indian hunters to the Cayuga people of the Haudenosaunee whose orchards and village, “Peachtown,” was here before the Revolutionary War. By 1789 and the arrival of the Euro-American settlements in this area, the unique climate provided by Cayuga Lake led to the rapid growth of wealth from the land and lake shipping thrived. The Erie Canal brought Aurora’s wool, grain, and fruit to national and world markets. These advancements have contributed to the Aurora we know today as a dual Village of Aurora and Wells College National Historic District, as well as a tourist destination in the Finger Lakes. Like other communities throughout the Finger Lakes, farming is a significant part of the economy and water quality remains an ongoing issue. All of which will be explored during their Water/Ways exhibitions and programming.

    The Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in the Western Region of New York State, is located at the confluence of the original Erie Canal and Tonawanda Creek. BNHV will use Water/Ways to further connect their community by inviting residents to share their family’s own water story and contribute photographs, stories, and other memorabilia. Their upcoming Farm to Table exhibit will highlight the impact of local water resources, including the Erie Canal, local bodies of water, and Niagara Falls, on agriculture and local ways of life.

    Water has been an important factor in the history surrounding the area of the Chapman Historical Museum. Its rivers and lakes offered transportation for armies during the French & Indian War and during the American Revolution. The Hudson River provided water power for the lumber and paper industries, and later, the generation of electricity. During the Water/Ways exhibition, the Chapman Historical Museum will present multidisciplinary programs that deal with three key waterways in the region around Glens Falls: The Hudson River, The Champlain Canal and the Lake George/Champlain watershed. These waterways are crucial to the region, providing drinking water for municipalities and serving as the main attraction for tourism.

    Located on the historic Rondout Creek, the Hudson River Maritime Museum collects and displays four centuries of technological, industrial, and ecological innovations in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Kingston’s location, halfway between Albany and New York City, allowed the city to flourish during the time when coal was the dominant fuel source in use. Steamboat transportation and commercial fishing expanded simultaneously, and the Rondout Creek thrived as an economic driver and premier tourist attraction for the Mid-Hudson Valley.

    East Hampton Town, the home to the East Hampton Historical Society, is fundamentally linked to water and its power to move and sustain people. The East Hampton Historical Society documents the history of the bay-men and fishermen who lived and worked on the water for decades- clamming, fishing, and whaling. The East Hampton Historical Society focuses on the rich history of Native Americans using and honoring the waterways long before European settlement, and eventually teaching Europeans successful methods of whaling and how to navigate the waters in canoes. Today, East Hampton is defined by its proximity to the ocean. It's location as a tourist destination and a residential area allows them to expand education about the importance of waterways, teaching the next generation about pollution and conservation.

    The Museum Association of New York is working with OnCell to create an exclusive New York Water/Ways app where you can learn more about each host site, their specific interpretations, programs, images, videos and more.

    The arrival of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street exhibition to New York State not only marks the first MoMS exhibition for New York, but opens the door for future MoMS exhibitions and further collaborations and partnerships between the Museum Association of New York and museums. It has created and expanded partnerships with the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor, the Hudson River National Heritage Association, and the New York Folklore Society.

    The Museum Association of New York is incredibly excited to finally have MoMS travel to New York State bringing the Smithsonian outreach program to help engage our museums and their communities and amplify our museums.

    Find out more information and start planning your New York State Water/Ways experience with the links below.

    Follow along with @nysmuseums and #nyswaterways

    Read more about the Water/Ways tour in New York State:


    Learn more about each host site:


    See a preview of the exhibition:


    Support for the New York Tour of Water/Ways has been provided in part by:

  • April 23, 2019 2:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    Each and every time I attend an event where groups of museum people come together, I learn something new. In Cooperstown, I learned about how the museum field is changing, how we iterate faster as technology expands our reach, and how, when facing challenges, if we work together we can reach new levels of excellence.

    I am also struck by the ways in which MANY is changing because who joins us at the table has changed. John Duane Kingsley, Zach N Bowman, and Danielle Bennett filled a room passed capacity for the panel discussion “The Present is Queer: Case Studies & Strategies for LGBTQ+ Representation in US Museums.” On his travels home, John wrote a Facebook post in which he shared, “Having attended MANY conferences in the past, the conference had largely served as an echo chamber for the same institutions and voices. It did a wonderful job of connecting small museums and empowering them with tools to maintain their operations but did little to challenge the status quo. This year’s conference changed that mode entirely.” MANY does not exist in a small room in Troy that overlooks the Hudson River, we exist in the places graced by the energy people bring and what and how they share.

    At this year’s annual conference the weather smiled on us, we had a beautiful place to gather, and generous host museums to welcome us. If you were among the 446 museum professionals who joined us in Cooperstown, thank you for the journey, your time, and your expertise.

    Planning has already begun for “The Power of Partnership,” our 2020 annual conference. Downtown Albany will roll out the red carpet for us and members of the local planning committee are cooking up unique experiences that showcase how partnering institutions create a cultural community together.

    With the help of those who have taken our 2019 survey of the field, I have learned that what we know about our members and colleagues is also changing. Although we have heard from more than 10% of our state’s museums, we want to include as many of you as possible. Please know that your voice matters, and your data counts, click here and take the survey! Your legislators, members of the Board of Regents, and the Governor’s office are waiting to learn about The State of New York State Museums.

    Thank you for your support, e

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director, MANY

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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