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

Click here to download the 2018 MANY Annual Report.
  • March 28, 2019 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On March 16, I got a sneak peek at the new Tompkins Center for History and Culture where The History Center, is now located right in the heart of Ithaca’s Downtown Commons. The new Tompkins Center for History and Culture was designed to stimulate thought and create a lasting impression for its visitors. 

    To prepare themselves for this new space, all twelve organizations who call this incredible refurbished building home: The History Center, the Tompkins Chamber, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Visit Ithaca, Wharton Studio Museum, Historic Ithaca, Community Arts Partnership, The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Discover Cayuga Lake, Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation, Discovery Trail, and the Christopher Community Planning Center, all played an important role in its redesign. I spoke with The History Center Executive Director Rod Howe about the The History Centers' role in the design process and how they will use the space. Rod Howe, Executive Director of The History Center told me that this new building will view the history and culture of Ithaca and Tompkins County as a P.L.A.C.E. (people, land, architecture, culture, and the environment).

    The History Center in Tompkins County analyzed and adapted their collection interpretation. As part of the process, they asked themselves: Should there be an expectation for visitors to start at a certain point? Was there too heavy a concentration on facts and figures? Should the exhibition design be more open and have visitors leave not with all the answers but a lasting impression?

    P.L.A.C.E. is reinforced in the main hall in five exhibit towers that use different communication styles to connect with visitors. Each tower concentrates on one part of P.L.A.C.E. and uses digital interactive screens, artifact displays, images and videos. The gallery has an open design that allows visitors explore based on their interests and choose how they approach the towers.  

    The space has revitalized and transformed a former bank building, but maintained elements of the original architecture. Its principal designer, Tessellate Studios, incorporated key architectural elements from the bank like using one of the vaults as a “story vault” to house Tompkins County oral histories. Visitors can record their own stories in this vault and listen to others.

    Part of the new exhibition space is the research library. It’s not tucked away on a different floor, or even behind a solid wall but on display as part of the exhibition and viewable through a glass wall that overlooks the main hall. This strategy not only lets people see in real time the research done by museum staff and volunteers, but lets visitors know that the library is accessible and open.

    Yet, one of the most compelling parts of this new space wasn’t the incredibly technologically advanced towers but the acknowledgement and influence in the exhibition design of the Cayuga Nation.

    The Cayuga Nation does not view time as linear. When designing a timeline for Tompkins County they also interpreted the history of the Cayuga Nation in a nonlinear form with images that reflect the people, land, architecture, culture, and environment of the Cayuga Nation.

    The History Center will also observe a land acknowledgement at the beginning of events and gatherings. Land acknowledgment is an important way to show respect and move toward correcting the stories and practices that have erased Indigenous people’s history and culture by inviting and honoring the truth. It is usually a statement that acknowledges the traditional people of the land.

    The Center isn’t expected to open until later this Spring, but touring the exhibition space and seeing it in its final construction stages provides a clear vision of their objective to create not only a destination but a gathering space for locals. It is a space that will open as the new home for twelve organizations: The History Center, the Tompkins Chamber, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, Visit Ithaca, Wharton Studio Museum, Historic Ithaca, Community Arts Partnership, The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Discover Cayuga Lake, Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation, Discovery Trail, and the Christopher Community Planning Center. While all of these organizations will have their own offices, they will cohabitate in their events and gatherings in the exhibition space of The History Center. All twelve organizations contributed to the overall design and structure of how this building would be repurposed.

    The History Center’s goal (along with the other organizations at the Tompkins Center for History & Culture) is to have visitors begin their Tompkins County experience here by stimulating thoughts that will linger throughout their trip and seek out other experiences. For locals, The History Center hopes to give ownership to its community as this new space becomes a gathering space and meeting point.

    EDIT: A previous version of this article suggested that The History Center was the primary designer of the Tompkins Center for History and Culture but all twelve organizations that also contributed to the design and use. 

    Learn more about The History Center:


    Learn more about the Tompkins Center for History and Culture:


  • March 28, 2019 7:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Dyckman Farmhouse is the oldest remaining farmhouse on Manhattan Island in New York CIty and serves as a reminder of the city’s rural past. This Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse was built by William Dyckman in around 1785. Today you can find the Dyckman Farmhouse in a small park on the corner of Broadway and 204th street in the Inglewood neighborhood.

    Over the past four years, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Executive Director Meredith Horsford has focused on making the museum an inclusive community resource through expanded public program offerings and a growing list of neighborhood partnerships. Under Horsford’s supervision, the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum has added board members from the local community, installed bilingual interpretive signage, increased local partnerships, and began working with artists to create exhibitions.

    Meredith grew up in the museum world. Her mother, Gretchen Sorin, Director and Distinguished Professor of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, has spent her entire professional career working in and for museums. It might have seem inevitable that Meredith too would enter the museum field, but she took a slightly different path through historic preservation and worked for the Historic House Trust for about ten years.

    When Meredith started as the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Executive Director, she realized that the farmhouse did not have a strong relationship with the community, and the neighborhood did not view the farmhouse as a resource and usable space.

    “I would tell people I was with the Dyckman Farmhouse and many responded with, ‘do you live there?’” Yet, instead of feeling discouraged, Meredith viewed this as an opportunity. The farmhouse was a blank canvas with lots of potential possibilities and all of those possibilities needed to incorporate the community.

    Historic house museums reaching out and engaging with their local communities is not a new concept, but what that historical content is and how the museum shares that history is evolving. By telling all of the stories of those who have lived in historic houses, including the indentured and enslaved, the historic house staff can engage new audiences.

    “We’re not a typical historic house… it’s important that we not just talk about the history of the Dyckman family.” There is the history of the enslaved and the history of the people that lived on this land long before the Dyckman family built their farm.

    Part of creating an inclusive museum environment is telling this history. The Dyckman family had slaves. The stories of the enslaved are important to the history of the site. Meredith and her team have been working with local officials for proper recognition beyond the farmhouse site to mark a burial ground where some of the enslaved from the Dyckman Farmhouse are buried.

    The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum also looked to the community's artists as new museum partners. The museum has local artists exhibit each quarter which has helped to connect the museum to its artistic neighborhood. The museum is also partnering with author Peter Hoffmeister to create a year-long art installation project inspired by the history and stories of the enslaved peoples who lived there and how specific Dyckman family members felt about slavery.

    Historic buildings are prioritizing their spaces to serve as a neighborhood gathering space housing meeting, business incubators, and targeted events for new audiences. “Our community is around 70% Spanish speaking but we didn’t have any bilingual signs,” Meredith said. Her Director of Education Naiomy Rodriguez was able to translate and redesign the museum signage to include Spanish. Developing these signs created a physical acknowledgment to its neighbors that this was an inviting and inclusive space that attracted a new audience.

    The Dyckman Farmhouses’ bilingual signage and inviting artists were all part of Meredith’s goal for the museum to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. For her, it was about learning and understanding who the museum audience was or could be. Having a breakdown of who wants to come to your site or asking who are you trying to attract and how can you communicate that all are part of her focus to create an inclusive museum environment.

    By increasing different types of public programming, creating a comfortable and welcoming environment, and making the museum seen as an inclusive community resource are just key parts in developing a sustainable future for this historic house museum. Moving towards the future with a complete and inclusive narrative are helping the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum better serve its community and fulfill its mission.

    Learn more about the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum:


  • March 27, 2019 3:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear members, friends, and colleagues,

    One of the first questions I was asked when I became the MANY Executive Director was “when are you going to do a salary survey again?” We were very fortunate that the AAM had just taken on the enormous task of conducting a national salary survey and we were eager to be included. Since that survey was published in 2017, it has been suggested to me on numerous occasions that “New York is different” and “we need our own data.” As I have traveled around the state, I’ve been collecting questions that people have asked me about New York Museums.

    NYS Education Department wanted to know how we work with schools, tourism partners wanted to know how many people from outside NY were coming through our doors, and architects wanted to know how many of museums were in landmarked buildings. Last fall we put a call out to field and gathered questions that museums wanted to know about each other. We received several about museum partnerships with community organizations, many about state and federal grant funding, and more than I could count about museum staff and salaries.

    Last week we launched our first survey of the field designed to gather answers to these and other relevant questions. Answers will be aggregated, analyzed, and the report will be shared with the state’s legislators, funders, the NYS Education Department and museum colleagues. It will help you see how your Museum fits into the incredibly rich and diverse picture of Museums in New York State. It will also allow MANY to help you with real, current, and accurate data for new advocacy initiatives.

    It has taken the 56 people who have responded already about a half hour to answer the survey questions. So, while we are getting ready for the annual conference and packing up to head to Cooperstown, grab a cup of coffee (or tea or) and click here to add your voice to the State of NY State Museums 2019.

    Thanks in advance for your time and your data,

    Erika Sanger

  • March 18, 2019 9:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York Announces 2019 Awards of Merit

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) has announced their 2019 Awards of Merit that will be presented to twelve individuals, museums, exhibitions, and programs from across New York State. The Awards of Merit were judged for programs conducted in 2018 and will be presented as part of the Museum Association of New York’s 2019 conference “Access and Identity” at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, NY on Monday, April 8, 2019 at 8 AM.

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

    The Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award recognizes a board member or staff leader that saw their organization through a critical challenge or significant opportunity in a creative, effective manner. Kate Bennett, Past President of the Rochester Museum & Science Center will receive this year’s most prestigious award. Members of the committee noted that her work at RMSC was exemplary for the field and that she led the organization to new levels of community engagement, relevance, and sustainability.

    The Rising Star Award recognizes a museum professional who is under the age of 35 and currently employed at a cultural institution. The Rising Star displays creative thinking and inspired institutional change. The Rising Star for Education/Public Programs was awarded to Kara Augustine. The committee was impressed by her work and thought-provoking approach to public programming at Historic Huguenot Street. The Rising Star for Collections/Exhibitions was awarded to Miranda Peters. The Award Review Committee was impressed by Miranda's work and how she continues to contribute meaningful work to the collections management of Fort Ticonderoga and how generously she shares her work with the museum community. 

    The Award of Merit for Individual Achievement recognizes devoted staff and volunteers who are instrumental in moving their organizations forward over a sustained period. This year the committee recognized Starlyn D'Angelo for the volume and scope of work she completed in her tenure as Executive Director, her tireless motivation and significant achievements at the Shaker Heritage Society that will have lasting benefits for generations to come. 

    The Excellence in Design Award, sponsored by the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME), recognizes an exhibition produced by a cultural institution that articulates content through engaging design and creates a satisfying visitor experience. The Excellence in Exhibition Design was awarded to Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination by The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The committee was impressed with its bold exploration of how the Catholic imagination has shaped the creativity of designers and how it is conveyed through style and narrative. The exhibition utilized several different gallery spaces starting at The Met Fifth Ave and ending at The Met Cloisters.

    The Hudson River Train Tour App by Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and OnCell for an Award of Merit in Excellence in Digital Design. The committee thought it was a compelling submission remarking that. “...this is one of the best things happening in our state and should get recognition for how it connects the public to our history and heritage.”

    The Innovation in Collections Access Award recognizes exemplary projects that broaden access, preserve, and catalog museum and heritage organization collections. This year the committee recognizes Where Slavery Died Hard: The Forgotten History of Ulster County and the Shawangunk Mountain Region by the Cragsmoor Historical SocietyThe research revealed in the video was extensive and took tremendous effort for an organization of this size and resources. The story told is engaging and revelatory. The Historical Society took an impressive step towards telling difficult stories.

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

    Volunteer- $100,000

    Living History Day, Boston Historical Society

    Hosted by SUNY Fredonia, the Living History Day was offered on Thursday, June 7, 2018. It featured reenactors and highlighted different cultural and historical perspectives. Seven selected schools and the community were invited to participate.


    Teaching with Primary Sources, Warwick Historical Society

    The education team at the Warwick Historical Society received a Library of Congress grant to create a Teaching with Primary Resources Program to implement in the Warwick Valley Central School District. The Warwick Historical Society’s teaching team, 13 volunteer teachers, connected with children and young families and searched through the society’s storage barns, historic homes, and archives for artifacts that told the community's stories. Using these primary sources, they created a catalog of lessons and programs for elementary school students to adults.


    Art Travelers through Time, Hofstra University Museum of Art

    This year-long elementary school program is a transformative learning experience for third grade students and teachers from nine school districts and was nationally recognized by the IMLS and the NEA. It links works of art from the Hofstra University Museum of Art to school curricula, expanding and deepening classroom studies through experiential and interdisciplinary learning.

    Over $1,000,000

    Take It Down: Organizing Against Racism, Rochester Museum & Science Center

    Using the removal of a racist panel from the historic Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, NY, the Take It Down: Organizing Against Racism exhibit and related programs benefited the public by galvanizing conversations around the racial inequity that has divided Rochester. Community receptions, panels, and rich discussion-based programs at each Take It Down exhibit venue demonstrated the exhibition’s ability to serve as a springboard to address issues of social justice in the Rochester community.

    The Citizenship Project by the N-Y Historical Society will be presented with a MANY Board of Directors Special Achievement Award. They noted that the project transcended several of the Award Categories, was outstanding, relevant, innovative, groundbreaking and in the words of one of our reviewers "a truly brilliant use of museum resources - to the benefit of not just those who are new to our country - but to the community as a whole."

    The Award Ceremony will take place at 8:00 AM on Monday, April 8, 2019 at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, Cooperstown, NY. Photo opportunities will be available. For further information please contact info@nysmuseums.org or 518-273-3400.

  • February 27, 2019 7:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Looking for a way to develop content and engage your community? The Museum on Main Street’s Stories: YES program offers a great way to share local history. The Stories: YES initiative helps students connect to local history and understand its significance by building skills in interviewing, research, and creating non-fiction narratives that are shared with the community through exhibitions, social media, and digital video exhibition kiosks.

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is bringing the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Traveling Exhibition “Water/Ways” to New York State starting in June at the Erie Canal Museum and ending at the East Hampton Historical Society in April 2020. MANY has partnered with the New York Folklore Society to help find and share local water stories with high school students in Amsterdam, NY as part of the “Water/Ways” community programs.

    Stories: YES was created to help museums strengthen or develop new relationships, with kids, youth groups, teachers, or schools. These students and teachers use the art of interviewing and filmmaking to research and share local water stories.

    At the end of January, I joined a workshop hosted by the New York Folklore Society that taught students basic filmmaking skills, like pre-production planning and interviewing on camera. Media Consultant and Communications Lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Dr. Lillian Spina-Caza provided helpful resources for the students and New York Folklore Folklorist and Executive Director Dr. Ellen McHale taught how to conduct an interview. Despite the freezing and snowy weather, these students arrived with an enthusiastic attitude and eager to learn.

    During the training, students not only learned interviewing and filmmaking, but analyzed “Water/Ways” student films from previous exhibitions. This immersive and engaging way to capture local history teaches students lifetime learning skills and allows them  to participate professionally in the community.

    Students first watched interviews without sound and then only listened to the audio before putting both elements together. Students were able to focus on and identify positive and negative attributes of the film by isolating the audio and video. They identified things like the background music was too loud and made listening to the interviews difficult. They also noticed other things like corresponding “b roll” footage with relevant narration and using two different camera points of view for the interview subject to add variety to the video and enhance the story narrative.

    Then, students used cameras, tripods, and boom mics provided by the New York Folklore Society to film mock interviews as practice. Lillian taught the students to frame their subject and making sure the camera is level with the subject’s eye line and to not put the subject in the middle of the frame, but slightly to the left or right of the center of the frame. Students needed to be aware of lighting, and where the interviewee sat. Lillian had them choose the interview spot and right away they noticed the need for natural light and opened up the shades. The students were conscious of the background of the interview, opting for a wall that wasn’t too busy. They even arranged the shelves to make them more visually appealing. Ellen taught the students about asking opened ended questions. Asking questions that require more than a yes or no response and engaging the interviewee with follow up questions was tough for the students at the beginning. Once they became more comfortable being the ones who asked the questions, they began to have intriguing conversations. The only other real struggle was the weight of holding up the boom mic, but they adjusted their position to sit on the floor to capture the subject’s sound which made it easier for them to hold the mic boom.

    These students came ready and excited to learn. I was immediately impressed by the students ability to take initiative. As an amateur film maker, I found the day educational and it was fun to talk about different film editing software and film making tools. I am a believer in that it doesn’t matter what type of film making hardware or software you have, but what matters is the ability to tell a story, an approach that was echoed throughout the day.

    The “Water/Ways” exhibit is enhanced by participating host sites abilities to connect local stories to the exhibition concept. There are a lot of community stories waiting to be told. Stories about local history, culture, and traditions. These are the stories of a community. Using community members, like students who have a desire to learn and develop their skills, can provide a wealth of information that add value to any exhibition.
  • February 27, 2019 7:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When the Cooper Hewitt Museum reinstalled their galleries in 2014, their priority was to provide access to their physical and digital collections, which number more than 200,000 objects. Allowing visitors to interpret an exhibition in their own ways creates a unique and personal experience for every individual. Letting visitors engage with an exhibition and understand the collection on their own terms can offer much more meaningful museum experiences.  

    But how could a museum allow visitors to navigate and engage with exhibits and their digital collection at the same time? The Cooper Hewitt invented the Pen and Interactive Tables as tools to help visitors navigate the museum and learn about the collections. With the Pen, visitors can “collect” and save objects they find in exhibitions and then revisit those saved or “collected” objects when they return home using a code on their museum ticket.

    The Cooper Hewitt also wanted to increase public access to the collection. At the Interactive Tables found throughout the museum, a river of objects floats in the center. Using the Pen or a finger tip, objects can be dragged to a home base and the display expanded for  more information. Visitors can recall items saved on the Pen to the Interactive Table to learn and play with color and pattern with “design it” elements built into the table. Visitors can use the Pen tip to draw on the interactive tables and then save those designs.

    This technology empowers the visitor to interpret the collection and exhibitions on their own terms and curate their own experiences. It is a great tool for tourists, or first time visitors to explore the scope of the collection and to save and share what they liked. Yet, it is also a resource for researchers and designers to return to over and over again and have a different interaction each time.

    During my visit to Cooper Hewitt, I spoke with Adam Quinn, Digital Product Manager, who shared the history of this technology as well as its the future. “A lot of your experience in the museum revolves around the Pen,” Adam told me. It’s been four years since the Pen debuted, so what’s next for digital engagement at Cooper Hewitt? Adam said that the museum team is always looking at what they’re going to do next, what the ideal visitor interaction should be and learning what people love about the museum now. The Pen is iconic to the Cooper Hewitt, but what else can or should the museum do to further enhance a visitor’s experience during and after their visit?

    Opened in 2014, the Immersion Room is a major feature of this interactive and immersive use of its collections, in this case of digitized images of wallpapers, originally collected by the Hewitt sisters, and is one of the most exciting spaces in the museum. In the Immersion Room, visitors can view the digital wallpaper collection using an Interactive Table highlighting wallpaper patterns. Adam described that using the Interactive Table and Pen in the Immersion Room lets you not only explore the wallpaper collection, but manipulate digitized images and become a wallpaper designer in your own way.

    It is a completely interactive space and with the large projections on two of the walls, you can transport yourself into the design. “The room is designed to reach a wide audience and allow interactions that are interesting to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons,” Adam said. The technology appeals to multiple targeted audiences -- tourists and first time visitors, museum members who are designers, and kids. The Immersion Room’s intuitive interface  appeals to multiple audiences and allows visitors to go as deep into the collection or design learning and experimentation as desired. That can mean just drawing a wallpaper design, seeing it projected onto the walls, taking a picture with your cell phone, or a designer using the room to explore the collection for research and inspiration.

    Moreover, beyond the specialized experience that the Pen and the Immersion Room can offer to visitors, the digital image technology also creates an organic promotion for the museum. The Pen is designed to allow visitors to save their favorite collection items, “bring” them home with them, and share their museum experience. They can also share with their friends or the world, via social media. Scrolling through the #immersionroom on Instagram, or visiting the tagged photos on the Cooper Hewitt’s Instagram page, there are hundreds of visitor self photos engaging with their wall paper designs that generate a lot of engagement in likes and comments.

    Cooper Hewitt isn’t fearful that by making their digital collection accessible that they are losing control of their content or even a possible revenue source. Their priority is making their collection as accessible as possible.

    The final phase of a visitor’s experience at Cooper Hewitt is after they’ve left the museum. Cooper Hewitt calls this the “post-visit experience.” By prioritizing access to the collection, Cooper Hewitt lets visitors relive their museum visit long after they’ve left. This unique and personal approach to exhibition interpretation creates a connect between the museum and its visitors and allows the visitors to shape their museum experience.

    @cooperhewit Instagram feed #immersionroom

  • February 27, 2019 7:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On January 31, I joined a DHPSNY webinar about deaccessioning led by Dyani Feige, Director of Preservation Services for the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts during which she said that “Deaccessioning is part of being a good collections steward.” Deaccessioning can be a helpful resource to manage an overwhelming or irrelevant collection if done correctly.

    Deaccessioning is the permanent removal of previously accessioned materials from an institution’s collections. Unaccessioned materials, like undocumented items, long-forgotten loans, and “doorstep donations” are all property that because of its undocumented status can strain an institution. New York’s Museum Property Law created a mechanism that allowed museums resolve old loans and ownership of undocumented property like unreturnable loans  and undocumented property, meaning property that the museum is not able to determine the lender, donor, owner, or deemed as “found in collections” to make a legal claim for ownership. The law allows institutions to properly deaccession those items. The law also prohibits museums from using the proceeds from deaccessioning for anything other than acquisition, preservation, and care of collections.

    There are a number of reasons why an institution might turn to the deaccessioning process. Although the process can differ from institution to institution, it can be a tool when a new collection policy is implemented, or a systematic evaluation conducted  to determine what is appropriate for a collection or a re-evaluation of the collection storage space. An institution might make the decision if it is in the process of becoming more professional in their collections stewardship or hiring a collection manager or archivist with an information science background.  

    When a museum is in a transition or it is clarifying and and consolidating its collections scope, it might choose to deaccession objects its collection.

    An institution needs to have a strong policy and guiding framework to follow New York State laws and deaccessioning process best practices. It is important to share the collections policy and interpretation strategy publicly going forward and provide strong reasonings as to why collection items are being deaccessioned. It is also an opportunity to engage with the public and provide education about good collections stewardship and field questions and concerns.

    “Deaccessioning can be a positive mechanism for collections stewardship…” Dyani said. “Understanding the proper deaccessioning process and the implementation of transparency is key. Always collecting for the sake of collection when an organization cannot care for these objects, cannot make them accessible, or cannot properly use them for interpretation can do these objects a disservice.”

    Institutions can also look to “good neighbor deaccessioning.” Good neighbor deaccessioning is where one institution can look to others to see if any objects would bolster the mission of a cultural organization in a same town, county, or region. Perhaps that neighboring institution has better resources, or a potentially deaccessioned object is more relevant to their interpretation strategy. It could be as simple as items that are part of a set going to another institution. This form of deaccessioning creates good will among any community concerns while also contributing and strengthening another organization’s mission. It’s not always a clear option, but it is a great one to start with when thinking about deaccessioning.

    The success of a museum may rely on how it develops relevant content that appeals to visitors, members, and donors. Its collections are the museum’s most valuable resource when shaping mission, creating programs for visitors, and developing earned income opportunities through merchandising and licensing.

    However, museums might have accessioned objects that cannot be given proper care, are duplicates, do not fit collecting scopes, or are part of a set owned by  another institution. All are practical reasons to look at deaccessioning.

    Institutions that choose to deaccession collection items should review their policies, but also have a clear communication plan to maintain public trust and remain transparent by publicly stating what is being deaccessioned, the reasons why, and where the proceeds from the sale are designated.

    Deaccessioning can be a helpful resource to manage an overwhelming or irrelevant collection. Having important objects in your collection is great, but the ability to develop content turns a collections into a valuable, relevant resource.

    Further Reading / Resources

    Documentary Heritage & Preservation Services for New York


    Society of American Archivists


    Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC)


    Museum Association of New York Museum Property Law


    American Alliance of Museums Code of Ethics


    Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies by John Simmons


    Great examples and justifications for decisions

    Collections Conundrums: Solving Collections Management Mysteries by Rebecca Buck and Jean Gilmore


    Discusses the gray area and hard decisions in collections management

  • February 27, 2019 7:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    NYS museums delegates with Senator Chuck Schumer, Museums Advocacy Day 2019

    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    I am writing from AAM’s Museum Advocacy Day where 300 museum professionals will be speaking up for museums on Capitol Hill — 26 are from 18 of New York’s Congressional Districts comprising the largest delegation represented. New York State Congressional Representatives are critically important to federal funding for museums. The new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee is Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17). Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) is the author of the IMLS re-appropriation letter in the Senate and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY20) is one of the bill sponsors in the House.

    On our visits to Congress tomorrow, we will be thanking our legislators for their support of the IMLS, NEH, NEA and other federal agencies who fund museums. We will be asking for an increase in funding to the IMLS and for changes to the current tax laws. We have an especially energetic group with us, but most museum people I know are not natural political activists. As I traveled around the state last fall, I asked a few well-spoken and passionate  museum leaders to join us and got some very blank looks, a couple of head shakes, and at least one “no way.”

    So why is it that museum professionals who can stand in front of an auditorium filled with 500 peers or in a gallery with 30 kindergarteners don’t feel comfortable talking to their assembly members or congressional representatives? Is it an extrovert vs. introvert thing? I don’t have an answer because if you haven’t noticed, I really enjoy talking to anyone, anywhere, anytime about why museums are important. But I can tell you that advocacy takes assiduity, which happens to be the motto of the City of Albany and is defined by Miriam Webster as “persistent, personal attention.”

    Although I wrote about this January, not everyone saw the letter, so I want to be sure to bring everyone up to speed about what happened with the Museum Education Act (MEA).The MEA would have created a grant program within the New York State Education Department that could have funded things like school groups and school buses, publishing curriculum on websites, teaching classes to adult learners, and creating exhibitions that align to New York State education standards in museums located in high need, low resourced communities.

    MANY board and staff, legislators, Member of the Board of Regents, New York State Education Department Commissioners and staff, Museum professionals and supporters, worked for more than a dozen years, and we took it to farthest possible point in the legislature. It passed both houses unanimously - which I have since learned is not a common occurrence. The MEA was vetoed by the Governor with a note about how the bill would duplicate funding in already in the NYSCA budget.

    Disappointed? Yes, Discouraged? No. Because whether we can speak out in Washington or in Albany, we do know how important our field is to education, to tourism, and to our community as we are the anchor institutions who tell the stories of art, history and culture in, for, and with our communities.

    The more MANY has grown over the past couple of years (on February 22 we had 646 active members) the more I learned that as an organization of our size and scope, it is important for us to build an advocacy platform upon which all museums, regardless of their location, budget size, or discipline can stand on together. It is important that MANY moves forward in ways that include as many of of members as possible and help them serve as many of their constituents as possible.

    You can join us as we advocate for museums in Albany March 11 and 12 at Tourism Action Day and or if you can’t make it to Albany, please let us know how you are speaking out for your museum.

    With regards from our nation’s capital,

  • January 30, 2019 6:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

    — William Faulkner

    Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I found myself in the Old City of Jerusalem, leaving a note to her in a crevice of the Western Wall. I was there with a group of academics who had convened in Israel for the International Council of Memorial Museums conference. I’m not a religious person and neither was my grandmother but standing at the base of this ancient and venerated wall made me think about her, and about the profound impact of the past on the present. I wanted my message to her to join the countless other prayers, letters, and wishes in the Wall, to become part of an intricate but interconnected road map made up of traces of human experiences on the surface of stones that spanned empires. The gesture was one small way to honor her existence and our bond. After all, you remember life with life, as American scholar and Judaist, Dr. James E. Young had remarked in his keynote address just days earlier.

    As a curator at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, I am uniquely exposed to how people choose to honor the departed at a public site of tragedy and remembrance. These gestures continue to move, inspire, and surprise me with their creativity, even as the distance between 2001 and the present deepens. From launching charities in honor of their loved ones, to leaving notes tucked into a name – one of nearly three thousand incised on the parapets surrounding the 9/11 Memorial’s twin reflecting pools -  the forms in which people remember and commune with the deceased feels as boundless as the historical continuum itself. Some of these memorialization efforts are strikingly familiar, while others are more specific to circumstances framing 9/11. Some might come to re-define the course of a person’s life, while others are quieter gestures woven into a private moment on a seemingly random day.

    Additional ones, however, come to the Museum as a carefully chosen physical object, photograph, or spoken remembrance gifted on behalf of a victim. Early in my tenure at the Museum - nearly six years prior to its 2014 opening, when we only had sketch renderings of what the anticipated exhibition spaces might resemble - I was particularly struck by the donation of a pocketbook and its contents, that had been recovered at Ground Zero. The items belonged to a 37-year-old bond trader who had treated her mother and others to a birthday celebration at Windows on the World the night before. The receipt from the occasion at this renowned restaurant – located on the 107th floor of the Trade Center’s North Tower - was among the recovered pocketbook contents donated to the Museum by her mother and brother. The items were part of the inaugural display of personal effects tied to victims in the Museum’s exhibition, In Memoriam.

    Everyday objects, like these, which managed to dodge destruction characterize a significant part of the 9/11 Museum’s permanent collection. Paired with stories about the individuals to whom these items belonged – contributed by those who knew and loved them - can imbue these artifacts with a very humanizing energy that undercuts the abstraction of mass tragedy. These memorial artifacts do not always bear the patina of Ground Zero, however. Sometimes, the object’s potency lies in the fact that it was left at home, or by the bedside of its owner on the morning of 9/11 and presumably could have been one of the last things they touched. Other times, it can illuminate a specific aspect of a life lived in the form of a pair of leopard print-patterned clip-on earrings that were worn by a Brooklyn-born, Staten Island-dwelling 62-year-old mother of three; an Argentina national soccer team jersey worn by a passionate fan – a young Argentinian-born firefighter killed in the line of duty; or a poetry and song-lyric journal filled with the gorgeous Bengali script of a 26-year-old woman who worked with her husband at Marsh & McLennan – both of whom perished that day.  These glimpses into the lives of people killed on 9/11 are shared with us through the offerings of the living who have chosen to nurture their loved ones’ memory at a public site of remembrance. This affirmation of our shared humanity and the transcendent sorrow of loss contribute to the resonance of such sites of collective pilgrimage, enabling them to communicate with generations across time and cultures.

    I initially came to the Western Wall without the intent of leaving anything behind. However, the sight of people congregated at its ancient base, drawn there from all over the world to perform their rituals – religious or otherwise – moved me to perform one of my own and leave a piece of my story – my grandmother’s story – within the historical continuum. Dwarfed by the incredible scale of only a segment of the retaining wall that once protected the Temple Mount, the notes that fill its crevices, touched and finessed into place by the hands of many, seem delicate and ineffably human in juxtaposition with the towering and formidable limestone. The act of leaving one behind was as deeply personal to me as it was a shared experience with everyone there on that October day. The timeless and cross-cultural nature of remembrance rituals is something that I hope people find moving when they visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum and other sites of mass trauma and violence, as a testament to the irreplaceable value of each and every human life. Perhaps they might be moved to leave their own tribute behind or find an unexpected connection to an everyday item like a young woman’s pocketbook.

    Photograph by Alexandra Drakakis

    Photograph by Amy Dreher

    Collection 9/11 Museum, Photograph by Matt Flynn

    Alexandra Drakakis is the Associate Curator at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and a MANY Board Member.

  • January 30, 2019 6:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Michaela Gaaserud

    Exhibitions have no limits when they’re created in virtual reality.  That’s what more and more museums are happily learning as VR pushes the visitor experience into a whole new realm.

    As immersive exhibitions stretch beyond physical walls, VR allows new, exciting ways for museums to connect and build relationships with visitors.  

    With VR, visitors can interact with people, artifacts, plants, animals, even distant planets, in an environment that transcends time and space. It also engages younger generations through the use of breakthrough technology and helps position museums as fun, rewarding destinations.

    As creative minds are challenged to offer better, more exciting experiential exhibits, museums are also finding that development costs for VR can be rough on the budget.  

    This is one reason that MANY members EXPLUS, Inc. and Frameless Technologies combined decades of museum exhibition development experience with cutting-edge technology to create The Way Box – a VR exhibition tool that provides museums an economical way to feature new VR exhibits on a regular basis.

    The Way Box is delivered built-out and ready to for visitors to experience the exhibition in virtual reality. It can be installed in museum of all sizes, with configuration options that range from 4 to 24 seats. Each visitor enters The Way Box and has their own VR station, equipped with a headset, interactive features (such as hand gesture hardware) and atmospheric enhancers (such as heat, cold, wind, etc.). The visitor then enjoys a personal, interactive, 5-7-minute VR experience.

    “The concept is simple, yet The Way Box solves many challenges faced by museums,” says Duncan Burt, President of EXPLUS, Inc. “It fits into limited space, doesn’t require custom build-out and can increase earned income.  It also delivers fresh exhibit content on a regular, predictable basis.”

    The Way Box also offers a subscription model for museums sharing a common focus (science, history, aviation, etc.). These themed subscriptions provide fresh, immersive VR exhibits where the content and technology are replaced/updated on an annual basis.

    The Way Box custom model allows for the development of unique VR experiences for specific museums that can be featured long term and replaced/updated as desired.

    According to Burt, “The Way Box makes VR accessible to museums with smaller budgets by essentially spreading the development costs among subscribers. It also delivers high-end interactive and atmospheric features that elevate the user experience.”

    The Way Box is rolling out in 2019.  For more information, contact Dave Coughlin at EXPLUS, Inc. at: dcoughlin@explusinc.com

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.

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