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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!

  • February 23, 2021 9:18 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    By Aaron Bouska, VP for Government & Community Relations at the New York Botanical Garden and Secretary for the Coalition of Living Museums

    From the Buffalo Zoo to the Old Westbury Gardens and everywhere in between, the Zoos, Botanical Gardens, and Aquaria (ZBGA) line of New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) directly supports essential staff caring for living collections of 95 zoos, botanical gardens, nature centers and aquaria in every corner of NY State. Now in its forty-third year, the ZBGA program is unique to the Empire State and thanks to the State Assembly and Senate, the program has thrived and the benefits to New York residents have multiplied. 

    An aerial view of the NY Botanical Garden Conservatory at dusk. Photo by Robert Benson Photography

    Despite the program’s successes, living museums now face a State budget challenge. The SFY  [State Fiscal Year] 21/22 Executive Budget proposes a $300M EPF, a dedicated source of funding for dozens of programs like ZBGA that are critical to protecting clean water and air, preserving open space, creating jobs and preserving the State’s environment. For reasons that are not clear, the Executive Budget also disproportionately cuts the ZBGA appropriation by 19%, reducing the statewide fund from $16M down to $13M.  

    A $3M cut to ZBGA may result in proportionate cuts to each grant recipient—a reduction too severe for any non-profit organization—even in the best of times. Like every cultural organization and non-profit, living museums face unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety of staff and visitors always comes first, but essential staff need to care every day for living animals and plants—one cannot just quarantine the palm trees in the basement until the pandemic passes.

    Animal Encounter at The Wild Center, photo courtesy of The Wild Center

    Living museums have proven they are safe experiences for the public and families by enforcing behavior that science has shown to be effective – social distancing, outdoor experiences, and mask wearing. Yet one year into this crisis, living museums remain subject to an outdoor 33% capacity restriction. This capacity mandate, while understandable in the early days, severely restricts earned income while keeping us from welcoming more families seeking safe activities in the outdoors. 

    Red panda cubs at the Utica Zoo, photo courtesy of the Utica Zoo

    Here are just three reasons why restoration should be a priority: 

    1. Restoring ZBGA to $16M helps keep living museums accessible to the public at a time when families need outdoor experiences:

    New Yorkers yearn for safe outdoor experiences as evidenced in the audiences welcomed since our collective re-openings in July. Local residents want a curated experience, with timed entries and capacity limits that keep their family safer than alternative outdoor experiences without such controls and safeguards. We receive appreciation every day for our enforcement of mask wearing, social distancing practices, and careful, daily monitoring of our employees’ health. 

    Access to safe green space, particularly in urban areas, is an issue of equity and fairness. Our visitors are often our neighbors, many of whom are not able to travel to one of our magnificent State Parks. In staying close to home, many also experience large crowds and the lack of safety enforcement in our municipal park systems. Even though living museums’ earned income has been curtailed by the 33% capacity restriction, all of us have created new programs for reduced or no-cost admissions.  In short, botanical gardens and zoos help to meet demand for outdoor space at a time when New Yorkers’ mental and physical health need the extra boost resulting from time outdoors. 

    2. Restoring ZBGA to $16M maintains employment and fuels local economic development:

    Living museums provide more than quality environmental education and uniquely beautiful tourist destinations; they are strong economic engines during difficult times.  Leveraging ZBGA funding awarded through a competitive grants process, living museums employ more than 210 full-time and 2700 part-time New York State residents and generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the State in tourism dollars and economic development.    

    Institutions like the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, the Utica Zoo, and the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center on Long Island are core to stabilizing local economies by providing good paying jobs and supporting local businesses. Wildlife Conservation Society and the New York Botanical Garden both have a major economic impact upon the Bronx and New York City – generating significant amounts of employment, purchasing goods and services, and drawing visitors and visitor spending to the city. This impact benefits not just the private sector, but also generates substantial tax revenues through sales and income tax receipts from employees. 

    3. Restoring ZBGA to $16M maintains quality environmental literacy programs statewide:  

    While living museums advance their missions by helping to breed and protect endangered species, addressing the impacts of global climate change, and fighting the spread of invasive species, we are most proud of educating and inspiring thousands of public school teachers and millions of school children, literally growing the next generation of conservation stewards. It is not a stretch to say that living museums are the state’s heartbeat of ecological literacy. Critical to the goals of the EPF, living museums educate the next generation of conservation stewards and create an informed electorate that values and understands the severe threat to our planet posed by climate change. 

    In the time of COVID, living museums have pivoted to providing rich, educational experiences online for classrooms and teachers. Education has not stopped, and audiences have expanded for our free online activities for children and families. 

    Living Museums are extremely grateful to the NY Assembly and NY Senate for growing and protecting this program over the last decade. Now is the time to maintain this historic investment, and we are very grateful to have leaders like Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Senator Todd Kaminsky, Senator Jose Serrano, Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell leading restoration efforts in the Legislature.

    If you are interested in helping to restore ZBGA, you may take direct action by visiting: https://secure.wcs.org/campaign/tell-albany-restore-nys-zbga-funding?ms=M_REF_ADV_13_F02_2102-NYS-ZBGA-CLM


  • February 23, 2021 9:07 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Corning Museum of Glass has been part of a globally popular Netflix series, Blown Away for two seasons. For former Senior Creative Director Rob Cassetti, the show’s popularity is not a surprise. Cassetti originally pitched a live glass blowing demonstration as part of the museum’s public programming thirty years ago and it quickly grew to be one of the museum's most popular experiences. Now the Corning Museum of Glass is part of a prominent glass blowing competition series that features expert glassmakers from the museum. The grand prize package includes a residency in the museum’s Amphitheater Hot Shop. For Cassetti, the show is a culmination of innovative public programming in his career and his efforts to connect people to the world of glass blowing at Corning.

    On the set of Blown Away. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Glass blowing as part of the museum experience

    “I never imagined that I would join the museum staff,” said Cassetti. In the mid 1990s, he was working for Corning Incorporated and was recruited as Project Manager to develop exhibitions  for a massive museum expansion project. “It was a major multi-million dollar project and in my mind I was going to work on this project and then go on to something else.” The project included new gallery space, a science center, and the development of a live narrated glass blowing demonstration– the Hot Glass Show. “Part of the product of the demonstration was the demonstration itself... the experience of seeing live glass blowing and understanding what’s happening,” said Cassetti. One of the assistant team members provides a live narration throughout the show. “There was an authenticity about it and just the natural drama of watching live glass blowing. It’s something you don’t normally get to see everyday.” 

    After the museum added its expansion in 1999, the Hot Glass Show captured everyone’s attention. Early on, the museum ran out of space for the audience and ended up expanding the theater and created an outdoor demonstration. “We didn’t know it at the time but that launched a whole sub operation of mobile glass blowing demonstrations that we would end up taking around the world.” Cassetti reflects that during museums’ reopening there was a remarkable freedom to do new, experimental things. “It was a huge burst of creative activity at the museum and I was completely hooked.” Cassetti left the for profit sector and joined the museum community. 

    “We learned that the museum’s audience is really engaged in learning. The first outline of talking points made for the demonstrations included all this esoteric stuff that we found interesting but then laughed because who did we think we were talking to?” said Cassetti. “This isn’t going to be an audience of melting engineers. But we were wrong.” People were fascinated by the details and wanted to learn intrinsic details about glass blowing. What kind of fuel was being used? Why don’t the pipes heat up? “All of this stuff that we had taken out of this demonstration narrative and then we were bombarded with twenty minutes of questions at the end of the demonstration that were all the things that we had taken out of the narration. It was a real lesson. The audience is hungry to learn.” 

    Glass blowing in progress on the set of Blown Away Season Two. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Fast forward to Blown Away and in many ways the core proposition of the show is imparting levels of knowledge to the audience at a fairly high level.  “You’re seeing the artist and the technical challenge of the makers working all under a time pressure, and they don’t hold back. All while telling you the technical details behind everything. So that wasn’t a surprise to me that it would be a winning formula.”

    Blown Away

    When Canadian Production Company Marblemedia were upfront about the concept of the series when they approached Corning Museum of Glass about being involved, sharing details like insights to who the director was going to be, previous programs produced, and shared what kind of camera equipment was going to be used. 

    “One of the things that i learned in my museum career is that the world is organized to say no, but that should never stop a good idea,” said Cassetti. “Anytime someone comes to you with a new project and proposition, the staff is already working flat out. We had to ask is it worth our while, worth the investment and we went through an analysis. Once we had all of those data points from the production company we asked ourselves, is this going to be good?” The fact that the show was going to be distributed by Netflix was a huge validation of the project for the museum, but there was still risk. 

    Corning Museum of Glass Involvement

    Once the museum felt comfortable moving forward, the questions moved to how does the museum participate? “There was this incredible time pressure, which could have been its own TV show. We were talking with them in the summer, they were in the middle of building the studio space where the series was going to be filmed in, and filming was going to begin in the fall. It turned out that this idea of the prize package including a residency and the opportunity for our team of glass blowers to participate in the last episode sealed our participation in the show. 

    “They [Marblemedia] said the gold standard [of reality competition shows] is the Great British Baking Show and many of the things that work in Blown Away are in the Great British Baking Show including camaraderie and the respect that the contestants have for one another,” said Cassetti. The glass blowing world is a tight-knit community. Artists assist one another, take classes together, and know of each other by reputation. “There’s very much a family feel to it that we at the museum have understood for over twenty years by not only doing live glass blowing but by helping guest artists. Our objective is to help artists realize their work at a level that not only meets what they can do but hopefully exceeds that because of the skills of our team and the equipment we support them with.” It’s that sense of goodwill that viewers get in the last episode of each season when the museum’s Hot Glass Demo Team assists the finalists. “There is a huge amount of energy and sort of a cooperative let us help each other to succeed kind of feeling.”

    Behind the Scenes

    Rob Cassetti served as the Season Two finale guest judge, which was recorded just before the pandemic. As the guest judge, Cassetti had no idea who the finalists were, or knew their past performance on the show. “Which is a good way to judge something.” In the finale, the finalists were tasked to make an installation which involved making multiple pieces to fill a gallery space. Cassetti was on set to watch the Season One finale, but watching how the show came together behind the scenes was fascinating to see. “The thing that is so impressive is the director and his crew are so good at filming glass blowing...I think it’s the most impressive part of the show.”

    Rob Cassetti joins judge Katherine Gray and host Nick Uhas in the Season Two finale. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia


    The Netflix Effect 

    After Season One, the museum saw an immediate interest and uptick in glass blowing classes. “So much so that the beginner classes sold out and we had to add additional classes. Amy [Schwartz, Director of The Studio] was checking in with her colleagues who run glass blowing programs around the world and they were all seeing the same thing happen,” said Cassetti. “Talk about a museum fulfilling its mission. We’re glass-evangelists and we want people to learn about it, including how to make it. So it was a very powerful partnership to be able to have that visibility with Netflix.

    The museum saw more visitors including Season One winner Deb Czeresko fans who visited the museum during her residency to watch her work. Part of the decision making for getting involved with the series was to increase awareness of the museum and to motivate visitors. Following each season, the museum hosts a small exhibit that features work from each participant. “It’s so interesting to see visitors interact with these objects...they are immediately connecting to the person who made them,” said Cassetti. “They talk about the objects in a different way and talking themselves back to seeing that person make it. As a museum professional that just resonates on so many levels...their knowledge of the progress.”

    Rob Cassetti on set of Blown Away. Photo courtesy of David Leyes for marblemedia

    Full Circle

    For Cassetti, the entire experience was immensely satisfying. “I proposed the idea of a live glass blowing demonstration to the museum in the mid 1990s, knowing the inherent drama that was built into the equation,’ said Cassetti. “To have that energy captured in this easy with Blown Away, distilling so many things I know and love about the process that you see when you visit Corning Museum of Glass but for a global audience to be able to see it just speaks to me so deeply.” Cassetti is passionate about this process, seeing both the artist potential and the challenge associated with it. For him, it never gets old. “Thinking about it as a museum professional where our core reason we exist to get people to see glass differently, it’s just a beautiful culmination.”

    Learn more about the Corning Museum of Glass and Netflix’s Blown Away: https://www.cmog.org/press-release/corning-museum-glass-lends-its-expertise-glassblowing-competition-series-blown-away

  • January 27, 2021 8:57 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Humanities NY (HNY) is the state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The mission of Humanities New York is to strengthen civil society and the bonds of community, using the humanities to foster engaged inquiry and dialogue around social and cultural concerns. HNY achieves their mission through grants, programs, signature events, and podcasts. To implement humanities projects across New York State, HNY offers three types of grant opportunities: Action, Quick, and Vision grants. 


    Action Grants

    Action grants offer up to $5,000 to implement humanities projects that encourage public audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community. Action Grants have two deadlines per year; October 1 for projects startings January 1 or later the following year, and April 1 for projects starting July 1 or later. Applicants are notified of the Grant Review Committee’s decision approximately 10 weeks after the submission deadline. These grants aim to connect audiences more deeply to their communities where they live and work, solidify community partnerships and diversify audiences, and creatively employ the tools of the humanities to respond to issues and ideas capturing the imagination and passion of New Yorkers today. In 2021, HNY will continue to prioritize women’s history projects. 


    Quick Grants

    Accepted on a rolling basis, Quick Grants are $500 implementation grants for in-person public humanities projects that encourage audiences to reflect on their values, explore new ideas, and engage with others in their community. These grants are available to organizations whose annual operating expenses are $250,000 or less. Quick Grants aim to support smaller organizations in offering engaging public programming and promote equity in access to the humanities. They help ensure that New Yorkers of all backgrounds and from all regions may engage in cultural programming. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, requests in 2021 related to the U.S. Women’s Suffrage Centennial in 2020 are welcome. 


    Vision Grants

    Also accepted on a rolling basis, Vision Grants offer up to $1,500 in support of brainstorming, researching, and professional development for organizations working collaboratively to develop new ideas and strategies for public-facing humanities projects. These grants aim to support emerging and established partnerships between different organizations on a shared project that may develop into public-facing activities, infuse program design with humanities themes and methodologies from the start, encourage experimentation and build community input into program design. 

    “Applicants should submit their proposal at least two months before their project start date,” said Scarlett Rebman, HNY Director of Grants. The HNY Grant Review Committee meets once a month to evaluate applications. “Applicants can preview the application on our website,” said Rebman. “We don’t require a Letter of Intent, and a phone appointment is encouraged but not required. 


    Grant Support

    HNY works closely with applicants throughout the application process. Applicants can request a phone appointment using the calendar on the HNY website to schedule an appointment to speak directly with a staff member. “Either I or one of my colleagues will call at the requested time, and we are happy to go over the opportunities and/or provide feedback on specific proposal ideas,” said Rebman. “We will also read draft materials. We strive to be transparent and supportive as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out!”


    Advice for Prospective Applicants?

    “Have someone else read your project narrative for clarity and understanding,” said Rebman. “A proposal doesn’t have to be perfectly polished in order to get funded, but it does have to convey what your project will accomplish and why it is important.” Rebman also advises applicants to be sure to explain why the project’s topic or theme is significant to the audience you serve and why the humanities are central to the project.


    Preservation Long Island’s Action Grant

    Preservation Long Island with the NYS Museums hosted a Zoom conversation with “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place” curators Jeremy Dennis and Dr. Gwendolyn Saul 


    Last year, Preservation Long Island received an Action Grant for “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place.” The exhibition features artwork from nine contemporary Indigenous artists as well as collection objects from Preservation Long Island, the New York State Museum, and the Southold Indian Museum. The exhibit places contemporary Indigenous art alongside history objects “offering an inquisitive look at the history and on-going relations between Indigenous people and land, and reminding viewers of the responsibility that we all share to know our common histories with each other and their impact on our connections to place.” It’s a grant project that stands out for Rebman. 

    “The first thing that stood out is the importance of the topic,” said Rebman. “In the past Indigenous voices have often been absent from museums and exhibits that depict Indigenous history. There’s a lot of painful history there, and a lot of distrust. Preservation Long Island and other museums around the state are doing important work engaging communities in thoughtful conversations about the interpretation, and re-interpretation of Indigenous history and culture.” Rebman said that the key to the success of these initiatives is bringing in the right expertise and partnerships. This exhibit is curated by Jeremy Dennis, and Shinnecock Indian Nation artist and Dr. Gwendolyn Saul, Curator of Ethnography at the New York State Museum. “It was clear that they had assembled the right team to approach this topic with sensitivity and care.” 

    In September 2020, Preservation Long Island launched “Indigenous History & Art at Good Little Water Place” as a virtual exhibition. 


    Looking Forward

    In 2021, HNY is committed to supporting humanities projects that are timely, relevant, and engaging. “We also recognize that cultural organizations are responding to rapidly changing public health recommendations, and we welcome projects whether they are designed to be virtual, in-person, or a combination of both,” said Rebman. “We will continue to offer our partners flexibility in adapting projects to meet the evolving needs and comfort levels of their audiences.” 

    Grants are just one way to stay involved with HNY. “I invite MANY members to get to know us better,” said Rebman. “We have a lot going on virtually right now, including an ongoing series of virtual community conversations and the Amended podcast, which you can stream on our website or download with a podcast app.” 

    On Tuesday, February 16 at 2 PM, HNY staff is hosting a Grants information Webinar to review 2021 funding opportunities, eligibility, and the application process. Staff will provide tips for preparing successful applications and include time to answer questions. Learn more and register for this free webinar here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grants-information-webinar-tickets-137818182895


    Learn more about Humanities New York at humanitiesny.org

  • January 27, 2021 8:52 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Economic Health of the Field graph from 2019 State of NYS Museums Report


    Dear Colleagues, Members, and Supporters,

    Like most of you, most of MANY’s plans for 2020 changed in ways we couldn’t imagine. One plan that didn’t change was the publication of our State of NYS Museums report that distributed data collected in 2019 from 206 museums of all disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic locations in New York. 


    The report presented new information about New York museums and 

    • fiscal health

    • staff sizes and salaries 

    • funding resources 

    • facilities

    • governance

    • programs

    • outreach

    • school partnerships


    We shared the report with legislators, funders, and members of the press to shine a new light on the ways in which museums were (or weren’t) well positioned to face the challenges of the pandemic and the awakening (for some) of the racial and gender biases in many of our museums.

    We began work on the last survey with a call for questions. We are starting the process for our next survey by asking you to let us know what you want to know about the state of New York's museum field.

    Some of the questions in the 2021 survey will duplicate those in 2019 so we can compare data. Others will reflect our past year’s shared experiences such as:

    • How are museums using digital technologies to reach audiences that can’t visit in person?

    • What strategies are museums using to stay financially viable? 

    • How have staff structures changed with layoffs and work reassignments to accommodate drastically reduced revenues? and 

    • How are museums creating room for the full range of human experience on their staff and in their galleries? 


    Click here to submit a question for our survey panelists to consider including in the 2021 State of NYS Museums survey. We will collect questions through February 5 and launch the 2021 State of NYS Museums survey on March 19 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Governor Cuomo’s NY on Pause Executive Order.  


    With thanks, 


    Erika Sanger, Executive Director
  • January 27, 2021 8:50 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    In January 2021, Dr. Annie Polland returned to the Tenement Museum as the institution’s President after previously serving as Executive Vice President of Programs and Interpretation at the Museum from 2009 to 2018, before becoming Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Polland replaces Dr. Morris J. Vogel, who served as the Museum interim President since October 2019. As EVP, Polland launched the Tenement Museum’s “Shop Life” and “Under One Roof” exhibitions which “infused cutting edge interactive projection technology into historically recreated spaces for the first time” and won the Museum the 2013 Multimedia Installations Muse award from the American Alliance of Museums. We spoke with Polland about her return and her future plans for the Tenement Museum.
     


    Museum Association of New York: Congratulations on your return to the Tenement Museum and your new role!

    Dr. Annie Polland: Thank you! Yes, it has been nice. It’s been a challenging time but there is something really nice about being back.

     

    What makes the Tenement Museum a New York Museum?

    I think it’s right in the heart of New Yorkers. New Yorkers care about their city’s history. Despite constant change –tearing down buildings and building new ones –New Yorkers feel connected to what came before. New York is almost 40% immigrant, so the immigrant story is the New York story.

     

    Previously, you were the Tenement Museums’ Executive Vice President of Programs. What made you take the position of EVP when you started?

    In 1998 I was a graduate student at Columbia working for a company called Big Onion Walking Tours and my first gig was to lead a tour of the Lower East Side. At that point, Big Onion Walking Tours had contracted with the Tenement Museum, so I picked up my first Tenement Museum group in April 1998 and gave them a tour of the neighborhood. That’s how I kind of fell in love with the idea of public history. The Tenement Museum’s idea of bringing history to visitors through the stories of ordinary people really captivate me. 

    In 2009 I began working with the Museum at Eldridge Street which is a National Historic Landmark on the Lower East Side just a few blocks away from the Tenement Museum. If I recall correctly, I was giving a tour of Eldridge Street Synagogue and someone from the Tenement Museum who had participated in the tour offered me a job. So in many ways, my transition to the Tenement Museum was an organic and natural extension of the storytelling that I had been doing in the neighborhood.

    There are two things that I find fascinating about the Tenement Museum. One is that unlike most historic houses which kind of root themselves in one moment in time; the Tenement Museum features recreated apartments and family stories for many different time periods. You’re able to experience what it’s like to travel through time just by going from one apartment to another. Because these spaces relate to different moments in time, you have the opportunity to talk about different waves of immigrants who have come to the neighborhood over time. In the 1860s, when the tenement at 97 Orchard Street opened, its primary residents were of Irish and German background. By the time the building’s residential floors were condemned in 1935, 7000 people had called it home and the background of those residents shifts. That’s why we are able to tell the stories of multiple waves of immigrants, migrants, and refugees. With the opening of our second historic tenement at 103 Orchard Street, which remained a residence through the 20th century, we were able to extend that story closer to the present.


    The Tenement Museum is as much about the thousands of people who lived at 97 and 103 Orchard Street as it is about the millions of visitors who’ve come since. That dual priority of having a responsibility to the past residents and having a responsibility to the people in front of you, catalyzes the importance of storytelling and really brings history to life.


    Tenement Museum exterior in NYC’s Lower East Side

     

    What would you consider your greatest achievement during your time as EVP?

    While there were several exhibits and programs launched during my time as EVP of Programs, I think the core of it all is the educator training. It’s the way that we work with educators to tell stories and the way we bring in scholars to help flesh out the stories that we tell. This professional development that was happening behind the scenes –connecting scholars and our educators together and being able to work on that dynamic –was the most important to me and is what I think is driving the vision forward.

     

    What motivated you or what were the factors that motivated your return to the Tenement Museum? 

    The idea was floated to me at the very end of summer. I got a call from Morris Vogel who was serving as President. He actually caught me as I was on my way to work on a project on the Lower East Side with the American Jewish Historical Society –connecting sources with the buildings in the neighborhood. Just being on the Lower East Side that day, seeing all of the historic buildings and the vibrant street life, even though we’re in a pandemic, I started thinking about the renaissance that might come to New York once this crisis is behind us and the role that the Tenement Museum should play. Even as we go forward and rebuild we need to be rooted. I think all of that coming together that just stirred my blood–it’s in me, the Tenement Museum.

     

    What was your first Museum job? 

    Well, if you consider New York City as a museum in itself… which I do, then my first job was working for Big Onion Walking Tours from 1998 to 2004.

     

    What skills have you learned from your prior experiences will be most helpful in your new role?

    Listening. In the last year at the American Jewish Historical Society we were working on a big oral history project where I listened to people and paid attention to how they told stories. It’s about how you listen – to the voices of the historians who help us understand the past and the residents who lived in the Tenement Museum’s buildings. Being able to soak this history up is one side of it. The other side is forming that into stories that are accessible, which is something that I’ve done since the very first day giving a walking tour, using an academic book about the Lower East Side and then interpreting it to your audience. Really immersing oneself in historical context and then thinking of ways to share that through stories that are accessible and relatable and inspiring to audiences.

     

    What are you looking forward to in this position? What are some of your initial goals?

    I’ve been going into the office, but I can’t wait to walk through our historic tenement building at 97 Orchard Street. I’m looking forward to walking up the stairs and hearing the conversations that will pour out of each apartment when it is safe for visitors to return.

    At the same time, we’re experimenting with ways to present our tours virtually. The museum has done a great job of transforming some of our programs into a virtual format. So far, one of the best things that the museum has done in this process is capture the conversations that happen between an educator and visitor. [During the virtual tour] there is an educator leading while a secondary educator reads and responds to the live chat. The secondary educator is keeping the conversation going and we’re finding that people are really active in these chats.

    We’re also trying to bring the building back into the virtual programming by using 360 degree images that people will be able to navigate through. We want to make the virtual building tours more interactive to help visitors feel like they are in the building as much as possible.


    The staircase at 97 Orchard Street

     

    How do you see the Tenement Museum’s virtual programming growing in 2021?

    Usually you’re on a tour with 15, 20, or 30 people. A group this size may obstruct your view. Now with virtual tours, visitors can really look at that hallway, look at that apartment, and see the scope of it. We’re trying to heighten the benefits of the virtual tour. Sometimes people just feel more comfortable in their homes, so they’re going to talk more, ask more questions. We’re designing these virtual tours with an eye towards continuing to offer them when we do reopen to onsite visitors. That way we can serve folks all over the world who might never have the chance to visit New York City. We’ve already had over one hundred students from Tennessee who went on a virtual tour program together. You could never fit one hundred school children in a 325 square foot apartment but you can through virtual. If there’s a silver lining to everything that’s happened in the past year, it’s been getting to rethink what we’re about, what’s our core mission, and what makes us unique and then how do we extend that beyond the walls of the museum.

     

    What are some of your ideas to create a sustainable financial model for the Tenement Museum?

    Yes, another silver lining from the last year is the uptick we have seen in philanthropic giving. One of the things that has made the Tenement Museum successful over the years was our ability fund 75% of our operating budget through earned income from ticket sales and our shop. What’s good about that is it shows that people want your experience. On the other hand, it also means that people see the number of our visitors and think we don’t need philanthropic support. So when the pandemic forced the museum to close, staff was furloughed and the survival of the museum was in question, we saw people really step up to support us. It’ll be our role going forward to grow and sustain that culture of giving, not just for the financial support, but to be able to connect with the community. Of course, we want to have as many tours as possible and have a large audience, but it’s interesting to think about what is that ideal balance between earned revenue and philanthropy?

    I mentioned before that scholars like to come to the Tenement Museum and work with our educators. How can we build some kind of institute out of that so there’s a place for people learning public history to observe on site and foster conversations about what it means to be an American? Yes, we’re a museum of New York. Yes, we’re a museum of immigration. Yes, we’re a museum of the working class. But ultimately on a really good tour there are conversations where people are starting to appreciate the limitations and the opportunities of what it means to be an American in a different time, in a different context, and in a different moment.


    Gumpertz Kitchen

     

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

    My grandmother who was a teacher was a big influence. She really taught me about our family history and that made me feel grounded even when times were tough. Understanding the family history that I had through my grandmother and her storytelling made a real impact, especially in terms of the Tenement Museum. 

    Morris Vogel as well taught me so much. He had this ability to see things from 40,000 feet above and to really understand how an institution works. I’m very grateful to have had that opportunity to learn from him. Coming back now after being away and seeing how in a time of a pandemic he provided the scaffolding for many people in the museum to be leaders and to work together. That’s very inspiring.

     

    Learn more about Dr. Annie Polland and the Tenement Museum.

  • January 27, 2021 8:49 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Arkell Museum in Canajoharie was forced to cancel many in-person programs and events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic–including the museum’s musical performance series. Curator of Education and Public Engagement Mary Alexander wanted to continue these successful events despite the pandemic. She created a virtual musical art exhibition in partnership with the Caroga Arts Collective who brought professional musicians together with museum staff to create a dynamic, virtual musical and art experience.


    Public Programming Shift

    The Arkell Museum’s extensive collection of American paintings from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century includes seven oil paintings by Winslow Homer. The museum’s exhibitions feature selections from its Mohawk Valley History collection. Prior to 2020, the museum’s on site programming included book talks, presentations, summer reading programs, storytelling sessions, family days, and musical performances. “We would try to do three or four musical performances a year and connect them to the collection,” said Alexander. In 2019, the museum created a musical program to coincide with the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal and the museum’s “Mingling the Waters: 200 years on the Erie Canal” exhibition. The museum also capitalized on the success of Broadway’s “Hamilton” and presented “Eliza” (a musical narrative of the formative years of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton) arranged and performed by the Musicians of Ma’alwyck.

    In 2020, the museum moved most of its public programming online. “We increased our social media, shared images from our visiting exhibitions online, and our librarian did a weekly virtual storytelling session,” said Alexander. “In July I started hosting a ‘Let’s Talk Art’ biweekly Zoom chats about art in our collection.” As Alexander moved these programs online, she began to scroll through her social media feeds searching for program inspiration. “I was scrolling and wondering what else the museum could do and came across one of those viral videos of people playing music but in different locations. I thought that was cool.”


    A Musical Partnership

    In June, Alexander approached one of their musical partners, Caroga Arts Collective. “We had the program funding to use but we couldn’t host an in-person event. That was when the idea to do something with Caroga Arts came to me. Everyone is hurting right now because of the pandemic, but one of those sectors that is hurting the most is the performing arts. You can come to the museum and look at a painting and remain socially distant, but you really can’t attend a concert,” said Alexander. Alexander contacted Kyle Price, Founder and Artistic and Executive Director of Caroga Arts Collective about creating a virtual performance in collaboration with The Arkell Museum. “It helped that the museum already had a working relationship with Kyle and Caroga Arts,” said Alexander. “Kyle works with artists from across the country who normally spend their summers playing music around the area [Caroga Lake]. We’ve worked with them in the past, contracting them to come to the museum to perform a chamber music concert. In 2019, we had 90 people attend one of their concerts in the museum.” Alexander spoke with Kyle about the idea of a group of musicians playing music to artwork from the museum collection. Each musician would play separately, the artwork would appear on the screen, and then we’d edit all together and share across the internet. “Caroga Arts was already planning to do a similar virtual experience for the July 4th program. It was helpful to see a program similar to what we wanted to do in advance. I remember writing back to Kyle saying that it was something similar we wanted to do at the museum but with our paintings.” 


    “A Musical Art Exhibition: Landscapes”


    Creating a Musical Art Exhibition

    The Arkell Museum and Caroga Arts decided to do two virtual programs. The first focused on the museums’ collection of Winslow Homer paintings. “We worked together to collaborate on what music would work best for which painting. The vision was to imagine the viewer on a journey, walking though Homer’s paintings. It was some back and forth until we finalized which music worked best.” Alexander provided high resolution images of the paintings that were going to be used for the program and sent them to Caroga Arts who arranged accompanying music. 

    “Seeing the preview for the first musical art exhibition felt great. It was nice working with professionals who could share their expertise and skills,” said Alexander. Caroga Arts has a videographer and they were able to edit the video with the images to put it all together. “In the beginning it was hard to relinquish some control but I had to trust the process. Normally when selecting the images and pairing them to a certain song we would’ve liked to have been in the same room, but due to COVID we couldn’t. Having an established working relationship was important.”


    “A Musical Art Exhibition: Winslow Homer”


    The first musical art exhibition premiered on October 28. The Caroga Arts Ensemble performed the Grieg Holberg Suite to the Arkell’s Museum’s Winslow Homer Collection. 

    The second musical art exhibition premiered on December 4 with performances by Cavani String Quartet and pianists Mei-Hsuan Huang and Ester Park. 

    Both were live streamed on the Caroga Arts and Arkell Museum’s Facebook pages and YouTube Channels. 


    Moving Forward

    “Our main goal for these virtual musical art exhibitions was just to see if it could work,” said Alexander. “We had never tried something like this before, so just seeing if this could work was important for us.” Alexander said that the museum would like to have two more musical art exhibitions in 2021. “We could do a better job about identifying our audience. With most of our programs now being held in a virtual space, we are still identifying how our audience is using the internet. We also want to experiment with streaming these programs on other social media platforms.” Both videos can be viewed on the museums and Caroga Arts YouTube Channels and have nearly 900 views already. For Alexander and The Arkell Museum, using their programming funding to employ other artists was important. “Our main goal is always to connect people to our collection and to share it. Having this collaboration during a difficult time to do this was incredibly valuable for both organizations and we found another way to share our collection.”


    Watch The Arkell Museum and Caroga Arts’ Musical Art Exhibitions on The Arkell Museum’s YouTube Channel.


  • January 12, 2021 12:41 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 by Rowland Scherman, Courtesy of NARA


    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    On January 6, as I watched the white supremacist, fascist mob breach and defile the halls of Congress, learned about the stabbings at the Capitol in Albany, and read about the Confederate flag tied to the door of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was stunned. After a couple of anxiety-filled days and mindless activity, I moved to a place of outrage and renewed my commitment to take action and speak out.

    The violent, attempted overthrow of our democratic republic on January 6 has renewed my commitment to defend the Constitutional rights of all who call the United States home. The House of Representatives has drawn up Articles of Impeachment against the man who occupies our nation’s highest political office for inciting violence against the government of the United States. I hope you have contacted your legislators to express your outrage at this attempted insurrection and the preferential treatment of the white perpetrators.

    I stand with those who believe statements without action are an insufficient response to tyranny. In 2019, we secured a twelve-venue tour of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America to help New York museums address the ways in which our nation has been wrenched through years of ineffective and racist leadership.

     

    The exhibition will begin its New York tour in March of 2024 and conclude in January of 2026. MANY will help museums prepare companion exhibitions and programs to tell their community’s story and engage audiences in the democratic process. The project will culminate with a single exhibition distilled from the twelve companion exhibitions. It will open in time to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and help museums promote the role of New Yorkers in the growth of our republic.

    History teaches us that this is not the first time our democratic republic has been under siege from within. Museums must use their resources to engage our communities in the process of democracy. You can read more about the exhibition here and look for information soon about how to participate in the New York tour of Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.

    Join us for AAM’s virtual Museums Advocacy Day on February 22 and 23 to call attention to the essential role of museums in our democracy and the critical need for federal support. In the past, the cost of travel and registration has been a barrier to participation for many museum professionals. This year, MANY members are eligible for the $25 discounted registration for the virtual program.

    Call the MANY office or send an email to info@nysmuseums.org and we will send you the registration discount code. AAM arranges the meetings so you can speak to your Legislators and make your case virtually. In advance of the legislative meetings, AAM provides a day of advocacy training. I will be on a panel about advocacy at the state level and hope that you will join us to show that New Yorkers can speak out in the face of the most adverse of circumstances.

    On Friday, January 22 at noon, we will host a Virtual Meet-Up to reflect together on “Where We Are Now.” Marisa Wigglesworth, President and CEO, Buffalo Museum of Science and Tifft Nature Preserve; Billye Chabot, Executive Director, Seward House Museum; and Michael Galban, Curator, Seneca Art & Cultural Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site will lead the conversation.

    Submit your questions for discussion when you register. I am really looking forward to when we can gather safely in person, but until then, see you January 22 on Zoom.

    With thanks,


    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director


  • December 22, 2020 8:45 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    MANY Profile

    Klaudio Rodriguez, The Bronx Museum of the Arts Executive Director



    Klaudio Rodriguez (left, photo by Brendon Cook, BFA) was named Executive Director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in November after being its interim director since January. We spoke with Mr. Rodriguez to learn more about his role and how he entered the museum field.

    MANY: The first thing we want to do is congratulate you on being named Executive Director at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Can you tell us a little bit more about the museum?

    Klaudio Rodriguez: The Bronx Museum of the Arts is the contemporary art museum in the borough of the Bronx. We’re about to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2021. It started in 1971 in the Bronx county courthouse down the street from us and then moved to its current location in 1982. There was an expansion in 2006 with the addition of the Architectonica designed North Building. We’re actually in the middle of a capital campaign project to do a remodel of the south building. We are one of the only free art museums in the city. We’re the only contemporary art museum in the whole borough of the Bronx. I see the museum as a local, national, and international museum. We expand our reach everywhere, but I think one of the things that makes the Bronx Museum the Bronx Museum is that we are firmly planted in the community. We strive to serve all of our diverse communities. The Bronx is one of the most ethnically, economically, and socially diverse of the boroughs here in New York and in the United States with large Latino, African American, and Caribbean communities. We want to reach those audiences while looking at the broader, international art dialogue. 

    When did you officially take on the role of Executive Director?

    I was officially named on November 13. I had been working in an interim capacity since January. 

    What were you doing before you joined the staff at the Bronx Museum?

    I was a Curator at the Frost Art Museum in Miami Florida for ten years.

    From your time as a curator, what experiences have you found most helpful for your role now?

    In my role as a curator, I learned about managing multiple people. As a curator you're working with a variety of artists, you’re orchestrating a whole exhibition, you’re working with your whole staff...registrars, marketing and PR, fundraising...so a lot of that is very transferable into the work that I do every day here. As a curator in a university museum, I also mentored a lot of students. The ability to work with young people, to empower them, and to inspire them translated well into the work I do here, especially with the education department. FIU [Florida International University] is a majority minority community and a lot of the student body had never walked into the museum or had familiarity with the museum. My task was to make it [the museum] accessible to them and understand how it relates to their daily lives. I feel like there are similar challenges here [at the Bronx Museum of the Arts] as well. A lot of the community surrounding the museum doesn’t believe that the museum is for them. So how do we open it and make it accessible for them and make it of value to them? These parallels are very important and helped me as I was thinking about how to engage with our community and how to open doors for them, breaking down perceived and actual physical barriers. 

    Were those some of the reasons that attracted you to leave your position as Curator at FIU to the Bronx Museum of the Arts?

    Absolutely. One of the only reasons I considered leaving Miami for New York was the type of work this institution was doing, how it's firmly rooted in the community and how it’s really engaged in outreach. That was probably the biggest driver for me to come up to New York.

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    The one that stands out is a few weeks ago when the New York Times article came out on November 13. I was overwhelmed by the support and well-wishers from everywhere. I’m still trying to catch up on my emails, texts, and social media because it’s been such an avalanche. It was a pretty spectacular day. As far as day to day, I mean pre-pandemic, my favorite day on the job here is every day that we are open. Every single day that we are open is a good day. I like to walk the galleries. I like to see and engage with people in the galleries. I can’t do this as much now because of social distancing, but seeing people inside the galleries is always a favorite. Pre-pandemic, I loved exhibitions openings too because besides being a big celebration, it validates all the work my staff was doing. So we celebrate the staff, we celebrate the artists, the exhibition. Those days are very fulfilling and I miss those days and having people together. 

    What are some of your initial and long-term goals for the museum?

    One of the initial goals that I wanted to do was mix things up and find better ways to engage the staff across the museum’s departments. I also want to look at the type of work that we’re doing and how it benefits the community. One of the things that this pandemic taught me was that we do have a very nimble staff. The staff were able to shift very quickly and adapt the things that we were doing before the pandemic. I want to continue that momentum. 

    Then there are the basic goals of stabilizing the museum financially because, like all cultural institutions, it has been a challenging year. We’re a small museum and financial stability is a short-term and long-term goal. 

    As far as other long-term goals, we want to continue to put together a dynamic series of exhibitions, filling the calendar for the coming years with dynamic programming. I’ve been working with our curator on strategizing and planning what that vision is going to look like. We have our 50th anniversary coming up, which of course now it is a little upended with the pandemic so we’re thinking about starting the celebration in the summer and going into the following year. Another thing that excites me is the capital project. It’s a $20 million capital campaign to redo the south side of the museum. It will really remake the museum. We’re hoping to create a new entrance to the museum, a more interactive, outward facing engagement with our audience. 

    What most excites you in this opportunity to lead the museum? 

    I’m a curator at heart. The exhibitions excite me. Sitting with our curator [Holly Block Social Justice Curator Jasmine Wahi] to talk and planning out the next three years of exhibitions is exciting. Thinking about where we will be in two or three years and thinking about what’s important and what kind of dialogues and conversations we want to have around the art. 

    So I think I have a tough question for you. Is there any item in the collection that stands out as a personal favorite?

    That’s a tough one and I don’t think I’m going to answer in the way you want me to answer.

    That is okay! It’s a difficult question for a former curator.

    You know in some ways what I like the most is that I am still discovering the collection. I relish learning about new artists, works, styles and regions. When I was a curator at the Frost [Art Museum], even though my background is Latin American Art, I worked as a generalist. I would do exhibitions on second century Roman Art, contemporary art, video art, fashion, and everything in between. I was always re-educating myself by trying to learn something new. Therefore, of the many reasons that I love the collection [at the Bronx Museum of the Arts] is that I am regularly discovering artists and works that I was not familiar with. Mainly because being from Miami I had less exposure to Bronx-based artists. The depth of the collection here is amazing and I am always discovering something new, I find something and I want to learn more about it. 

    Let’s go back a bit further. Where did you grow up and what was it like to grow up there? 

    I grew up in Miami but that doesn’t tell a whole story. My dad is Nicaraguan and my mom is Croatian. They met in Rome and moved to Nicaragua. They lived there for a few years before moving to Miami. I was in Nicaragua for 5 or 6 years. My parents are immigrants, twice over I guess, but I didn’t have the traditional immigrant experience that a lot of my friends had because I sort of had this different background. My dad studied architecture and had a love for the arts and my mom did too. While we didn’t have a lot of money, it was important for my mother to travel to Europe constantly to see family and that meant I went too. She took me to all the best museums in the world growing up. It was important for her to take me to see all these things and it had a huge impact on my life.

    Did any of those experiences influence your decision to enter the museum field?

    I didn’t know that I wanted to go into the museum field, but I knew that I had to be involved with the arts in some capacity. 

    Looking back, would your 18-year-old self imagine that you would be where you are today? 

    My 18-year-old-self wanted to be an architect because my dad wanted to be an architect. He never completed it, so I told myself that I was going to finish what he started. But I also loved art and went to art school and studied painting. 

    What advice would you give yourself?

    I would tell my 18-year-old-self to stay the course. I think that things happen organically in some ways and I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I don’t know that I could have articulated that when I was 18 necessarily. 

    I studied painting, I studied art history, I studied sociology, I studied architecture, I studied all these different things and I was always learning something more about where my interests lie. I went to art school first because I could draw and that was my first experience learning that just because I could produce something didn’t mean that I was an artist. It takes so much more to be an artist to have this sort of passion for what you do and the commitment to your vision. I learned very quickly that I was more interested in studying it and stepping back away from it and having that dialogue with artists. All those steps were important because it was a period of discovery. It informed me about what I wanted to do and I ended up where I wanted to be. My advice would be to stay the course but explore and experiment and see where it takes you. If I had been too narrowly focused, I don’t think that I would have ended up here.

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

    One was a professor at FIU of mine, Juan Martínez [Professor Emeritus of Art History], who passed away recently. He was a mentor that really pushed me into this field. He told me that I could make a living and that I could really do something with this during a time when I was sort of questioning what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I took many classes with him and he just created this love of art and dialogue. 

    The other person who influenced my life was actually someone I never worked with and only had a handful of conversations with and that was Holly Block. She worked with a lot of Cuban artists in the Bronx and she was an expert in the Cuban art field and community. I had been doing a lot of exhibition work with Cuban artists in Miami and she sort of followed what I was doing and she would send me these nice little notes like “Congratulations on this opening,” and I really didn’t know her other than in passing. I came to New York several years ago for a curatorial conference and one of those sessions was held in the Bronx Museum of the Arts and I ran into Holly. We got into a conversation and she was asking me a lot of questions. I didn’t know what she was up to at that point. After I returned to Miami, she called and invited me to come back for a consultation for a Cuban art exhibition at the museum. I flew back up and she asked for my opinion on a lot of things. That’s the best way to get interviewed for a job, when you don’t know that you’re being considered. I was being very critical about a number of things. I think she actually liked that and a few weeks later she asked me to apply for the job. At that point I had no interest in leaving Miami nor my job. I was fairly happy with what I was doing but I applied and flew up for an interview. At the end I hesitated about making the move, but Holly would not take no for an answer. She sold me on the possibilities and here I am. She was the one who told me that I needed to be here. Sadly, I never worked with her. My first day on the job I was told that she was stepping down because she was sick and two weeks later she passed away. But the sole reason I’m here today is because of Holly and you can’t have more of an influence than that.

    Are there any insights you have gained in the past six months about working in a museum that you’d like to share with our museum community? Besides working from home, what has been the biggest change for you? 

    I saw a staff that was creative, innovative, and worked as hard during this period than before. We learned a lot about how we can engage our community without physically being able to do so. My education team stepped up incredibly. Almost overnight our educators produced a full slate of online content. We are very nimble and small enough to move quickly and creatively. For me, I learned a lot and there’s a lot that I will take away from this experience about how to manage, how to keep people motivated, and how to continue the work that we’re doing. If we’re able to do all of this with these obstacles, just think of what we can do without these obstacles. 

    Also, the museum field got together and started working collaboratively on plans to reopen. We [NYC museums] met every Wednesday to create our policies and procedures for reopening. It was nice to see the collaborative, city-wide way of operating that created a bond within the field. But the pandemic has also challenged us to think differently. It’s been an interesting exercise when thinking about the traditional models and how we can adjust and reimagine this model. Hopefully when we come out of this, we take these lessons and implement them in our day to day to continue on. 


    Learn more about the Bronx Museum of the Arts: http://www.bronxmuseum.org/

  • December 21, 2020 1:49 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In a year that has pushed so much of our work and communication into virtual spaces, MANY has added new programs and resources for members on our website and now we are expanding your access to these resources. Beginning in 2021 all Organizational members will have the opportunity to add up to 9 additional contacts in their membership “bundle.” This means more of your staff, volunteers, and board members can benefit from your Organizational Membership with secure, personal access to MANY’s growing number of members-only resources. 


    What does this mean? Instead of having just one email that can login to your membership, and a second email that receives members-only communications, you can have a total of 10 users–each with their own email and password–who can view program recordings, register for events, and post opportunities to the MANY job board. 

    How does it work? Your current account holder will become the “bundle administrator” who can add members to your “bundle” and will have sole access to the account’s billing and renewal information. Once more individuals are added to your membership bundle, they’ll be able to set a password and will have full access to all the benefits of your Organizational Membership. We will share out more information on adding individuals to your membership in January.

    What are some of the resources our staff will have access to? Our Program Recording page includes the spring and summer Virtual Meet-Up sessions when we gathered together as a community on Fridays to connect, learn, and share ways to support one another in the first six months of the pandemic. Our Fall Programs, which include Humanities NY workshops, a series of discussions co-curated by Museum Hue on museums engaging in essential community work, as well as virtual tours and discussions with organizations in the Capital Region are also available at any time. Your bundle members will be able to register for events and automatically receive any MANY Member discounts for paid programs. Your bundle members will also receive all our MANY communications, including our monthly newsletter, Letter from Erika, and other notices about upcoming programs. 

    What else is coming up in 2021? We are excited that we’ll be extending our partnership with NYCON into the next year so active Organizational Members can purchase NYCON Affiliate Memberships at discounted rates. NYCON Memberships are valid from January 1 until December 31, 2021 so they may not be on the same calendar cycle as your MANY renewals. 


    If you have any questions about your membership, member resources, NYCON or getting your colleagues included in your membership bundle, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the MANY Administrator, Hadley DesMeules, hdesmeules@nysmuseums.org

  • December 21, 2020 1:44 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear MANY members, friends, and colleagues,

    As we prepare to put behind us a year that changed our lives, I am filled with gratitude for our museum community. Your calls, emails, notes in chat boxes, and social media comments gave us the hope and energy to face an unknowable future together with resolve and resilience. 

    We will need to find ways to sustain ourselves in the face of insufficient federal aid. I believe our strength as a field lies in our ability to remain creative, flexible, and adaptive. When we finally reach the other side of the pandemic, the need to advance equitable staffing practices, generate sufficient funding, and improve digital communications will still exist. In the face of so much loss, it may be hard to reflect upon and change the ways we add to our collections, develop our programs, and serve our communities, but success will come through rebuilding to fit new circumstances. 

    An article by James West Davidson in the July 9 Atlantic Monthly imagined the chapter in a future history textbook about the year 2020. A single chapter will never hold all this year has brought. Future authors and curators will dedicate entire books and exhibitions to this year. 2020 will become a signifier in the same way we understand 1492,1609,1776, and 1861. 2020 will be a symbol, a sound, and an image. It will take the distance of time to distill all of its meanings and learnings. 

    It falls to us to do the work to help future generations hear us loud and clear. Those of us who have lived through this year won’t be able to step back far enough to see the long term effects of 2020. But we can gather the evidence, collect the data, and share the incalculable loss to help future museum colleagues make sense of this year and ensure our museums continue to be integral and essential community partners.

    Look for a survey of NY Museums in the first quarter of 2021 so we can continue to hear you loud and clear. We need your support now so that MANY can be there to serve you as a vital resource, an ally, and an advocate. Every dollar helps. Click here to donate today and let us know how MANY can help you.  

     

    With gratitude and best wishes for the new year,


    Erika Sanger


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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