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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!

  • December 21, 2020 12:23 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Museum Association of New York formed a new partnership and created the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History to support the state’s smallest history-related organizations. In three grant rounds, the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History funded 69 organizations across New York State $147,808.72.

    “MANY was able to quickly assess the urgent needs of the history community and was an invaluable resource during this difficult time,” said Deryn Pomery, Director of Strategic Initiatives of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. “We were impressed with how they mobilized and advocated for the museum community and assisted us in the grant review process.”

    Grant applications were reviewed by a panel that included MANY Board, MANY staff, and Pomeroy Foundation staff. Eligible organizations did not need to be members of MANY to apply. 

    Total Amount of Funds Dispersed by Grant Round

    Total Number of Grants by REDC 

    Total Amount of Funds by REDC

    Round 1

    In Round 1, 31 organizations with budget sizes of $100,000 or less were awarded grants ranging between $1,000 and $2,000, totalling $50,808.72. More than 170 organizations applied totaling almost $300,000 in requests. Funds were used to purchase computer hardware or software, gain internet access or expand bandwidth, pay for utilities, and secure facilities and collections. 

    The Fulton County Historical Society (FCHS), was awarded $1,558. Since closure at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, FCHS began to think more carefully and creatively about virtual programming, experimenting with online programming, and social media use to improve their digital presence and expand their reach. FCHS used the funds to purchase a laptop computer and to update the museums’ hardware and software in order to develop more online programming. 

    Round 1 Grantees

    Anderson Falls Heritage Society

    Black Rock Historical Society

    Brentwood Historical Society

    Broome County Historical Society

    Clinton County Historical Association

    Darwin R. Barker Library and Museum Association

    Fulton County Historical Society

    Gates Historical Society

    Hastings Historical Society

    Historic Red Hook

    Historical Society of the Tonawandas, Inc.

    Historical Society of Woodstock

    Howland Stone Store Museum

    Interlaken Historical Society

    Java Historical Society

    Lodi Historical Society

    Macedon Historical Society

    Mastic Peninsula Historical Society

    Montgomery County Historical Society

    National Bottle Museum

    Nunda Historical Society

    Oswego County Historical Society

    Peekskill Museum, Inc.

    Preservation Association of the Southern Tier

    Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association

    The Warsaw Historical Society and Gates House Museum

    Town of Madison Historical Society

    Town of New Scotland Historical Association

    West Bloomfield Historical Society

    Wappingers Historical Society Inc.

    Yaphank Historical Society

    Round One of Grants by REDC

    Round One Grant Amount by REDC

    Round Two

    The Pomeroy Fund expanded eligibility in Round Two to organizations with an annual budget size of $150,000 or less but organizations needed to be open to the public no fewer than 250 hours, including program delivery hours. Organizations that received funding in the 1st round were not eligible. Grants were made on a sliding scale between $1,000 and $5,000 based on budget size. The Pomeroy Fund received 112 applications requesting $367,000. 18 organizations were awarded a total of $50,000.

    Applicants shared details regarding their public programming both onsite and virtual, identified the wide range of audiences served, and the ways in which they engage their communities through unique and distinct partnerships. 

    The Livingston County Historical Society used its $4,000 grant to support general operating expenses including salary for the only paid staff person. This staff person was essential in creating a safe reopening plan for the museum. 

    The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF), an all volunteer organization, used its $1,000 grant to cover the cost of internet services and its email service to its members and supporters. The grant helped the NAHOF maintain and expand their virtual reach to their local, state, and national supporters and promoted the organization to develop more online programs. 

    Based on a follow up survey administered by MANY that assessed rounds one and two, when asked to specifically name items purchased with grant funding, 35% of awarded organizations mentioned computers and related hardware such as printers. 22% mentioned software like Microsoft Office or Past Perfect. Others mentioned using funds for general operating expenses like utilities and staff salaries. When asked what impact the grant had on staff, organization, and/or community, 34% mentioned increased community engagement and connecting with their community virtually, 20% mentioned increased access to collections through digitization, and 10% mentioned building security. 

    Round Two Grantees

    Beacon Historical Society

    City Island Historical Society

    Constable Hall Association, Inc.

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance

    Friends of City Reliquary, Inc.

    Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh

    Greece Historical Society

    Livingston County Historical Society

    National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum

    North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association

    Phelps Mansion Museum

    Sodus Bay Historical Society

    The Coney Island History Project Inc.

    The Historical Society of the Town of Chester

    The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society

    Waterville Historical Society

    Webster Museum and Historical Society

    West Seneca Historical Society and Museum

    Round Two Number of Grants by REDC

    Round Two Grant Amounts by REDC

    Round Three

    In July, a 3rd round of funding was announced to provide an additional $50,000 in grants in a continuation of rapid response to history-related organizations. 21 organizations were selected to raise up to $6,000 for a 2:1 match by the Pomeroy Fund. Each submitted proposals that outlined plans for reopening, identifying multiple funding sources, creative ways to grow donors, and collaborative partnerships to find new avenues of support. 

    These participating organizations had until October 1 to raise funds in order to receive the match. 

    The Irish American Heritage Museum engaged their membership through their newsletter and social media channels. Their Board took an active role in raising the matching funds and was challenged to raise $1,500, half of the needed funds. The museum had 40 donors total and raised $6,355, $355 more than goal. 

    In Western NY, the Steel Plant Museum had 65 individual donors raising $5,013. The grant helped the museum stay open, with  funding dedicated to monthly rent and curator’s salary. 

    In a follow up survey, 30% said they used the funds to support operating expenses and staff salaries and 30% purchased and installed COVID safety measures including sanitation stations, wipes, gloves, masks, safety signage, plexi dividers, touchless amenities for bathrooms, and air filter upgrades.

    Round Three Grantees

    Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station Society

    Bundy Museum of History and Art

    Canal Society of New York State, Inc.

    Chenango County Historical Society & Museum

    Cincinnatus Area Heritage Society

    Cobblestone Society

    Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society

    East Bloomfield Historical Society

    Freeport Historical Society

    Gates Historical Society

    Half-Shire Historical Society

    Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands

    Irish American Heritage Museum

    John Brown Lives

    Robert Jenkins House and Museum

    Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry

    Slate Valley Museum Foundation

    Sodus Bay Historical Society

    The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

    The Steel Plant Museum of Western New York

    Round Three Number of Grants by REDC

    Round Three Grant Amount by REDC

    Throughout each grant round, the high response by the history-related organizations in New York State demonstrates how deeply museums have been affected by the pandemic and how much support will be needed moving forward. MANY thanks the Pomeroy Foundation for their rapid response to aid our historical societies and history museums. 

    “We are very proud of our work with MANY, and through our partnership, were able to provide much needed emergency funding for 69 small history-related organizations struggling during the pandemic,” said Deryn Pomeroy.

  • December 21, 2020 12:16 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Greener Museums in 2021?

    Q and A with Joyce Lee, FAIA, LEED Fellow, WELL AP

    Logo, company name Description automatically generatedIndigoJLD Green + Health;

    Joyce Lee, FAIA, WELL AP, LEED Fellow is the President of IndigoJLP Green + Health, providing green health, planning, benchmarking, and design services with a focus on cultural facilities. We spoke with Joyce about how museums are working towards being greener spaces, some of the challenges they face, and how museums can become more sustainable with green energy.

    MANY: What is your favorite NY museum and why? 

    Joyce Lee: I have many favorite museums.  Having served as Chief Architect for New York City OMB, I have always been an admirer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.  But there are plenty of wonderful museums north of the city that I love because of the stories they tell.  The Everson in Syracuse; the Corning Museum of Glass near the Finger Lakes; the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the George Eastman Museum in Rochester.  And as a mid-century modern fan, I took my family to the Empire Plaza in Albany to soak in the sculptures and works of architecture. A socially distanced glorious afternoon was spent in Albany during this apple picking season.

    George Eastman Museum

    Corning Museum of Glass

    What NY museum building projects have most interested you? 

    Having the Queens Botanical Gardens achieve the first LEED Platinum for a New York City government building was definitely a highlight.  The master planning phase already identified water as a common theme and its symbolic importance in this multi-cultural community.  Water is a scare resource. Making it central in the building design of the administration building was so smart and forward-looking. I also encourage everyone to visit the Garden to see the roofscape of this building; it is highly functional in addition to its aesthetics, catching the sun, channeling water and piloting a green roof when there were so few precedents.

    Highlighting water in constructed wetlands and composting toilets makes everyone acutely aware of our symbiotic relationship with clean water. The relevance today is astounding as climate change causes more flooding than ever before.  The deluge of unhealthy water vs. precious clean water resonates all over the world.

    Queens Botanical Gardens

    Has environmental impact always been a concern in your work? 

    Having contributed to the PlaNYC environmental blueprint under Mayor Bloomberg, I find his vision giving a much larger context for my earlier green building work. My team was overseeing a city program when we had to report on over 200 million sqft of public facilities, including museums and libraries. Sustainability and awareness of environmental impact was just simply a better way to manage these assets.  

    My firm’s current cultural institutions work is still very connected to the cities and neighborhoods that they serve.  As trusted institutions and pillars of the community, museums can educate and inspire a future that is not only just, equitable, but beautiful and climate positive for our next generations.  

    The trust factor in museums is also about authenticity. Museums need to talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to carbon.  Since museums can be enormous carbon emitters, they need to be better steward of the environment too.  It will give museums much credibility when they use the climate platform towards COP 26 and beyond.

    What are some of the sustainable operations and challenges museums face? 

    Although many people believe that car and truck emissions are the biggest contributors to Co2 in the earth’s atmosphere, we now know that buildings in fact contribute at much higher levels (up to more than 70% in cities). Since Co2 is so invisible to many museum professionals, I always start by saying planting a tree for shading can have energy impact.

    We know that lighting is critically important for collections and exhibitions.  The good news is that LED technologies have grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade.  It behooves every museum to find the right LED lights for their space and gallery. Same with HVAC operations in the building where continuous commissioning could save much money, give better control of the collection environment, and increase human comfort. Now there is even low-cost financial programs for energy efficiency and COVID related strategies.  But all this requires retooling our business practice and listening to experts. The biggest challenge?  Complacency.  

    Museums are known as energy intensive organizations, why and what can be done? 

    Yes, since the publication of my benchmarking article in late 2017, many museum professionals have been surprised to learn that a museum can be more carbon intensive than a hospital.  Most museums have 24/7 collections rather than 24/7 patients. And the back-of-the house staff sometimes have so many responsibilities that managing energy efficiency has not been a priority.

    Thanks to the recent ASHRAE Chapter 24 guidance, there are many new advances. They include the range of temperature and relative humidity rather than an absolute number, like 70F or 50%.  The gradual drifting has been well tested now for various material. The relaxation from strict numbers can save a lot of energy and money.  Exhibit design including local micro-climate control display can also make a huge difference in galleries, taking human heat generation into account in high traffic areas. 

    Continuous air monitoring and AI driven analytics can pinpoint energy saving opportunities while improving air quality and ventilation. Finally, the design of large volume spaces, behind-the-scene spaces as well as the tightness of the building envelope can be defining factors if one is comprehensive about retrofits.

    How can a museum that was built 100 years ago become a green building and become more sustainable? 

    Believe it or not, many older buildings constructed before the age of air-conditioning and elevators tend to be greener, more humane buildings than those in later eras.  With a robust building mass and large windows, there is a lot to work with already.  Remember this summer those buildings with operable windows and cross ventilation are those making headways too with fighting COVID?  

    Then there is the time value of carbon.  The older the building, the lower the embodied carbon, which is a good thing.  Every demolition creates enormous construction waste, some of which could be toxic, like asbestos, and much is still landfill bound. Retaining the building and creatively adapting it with today’s functions have many promises for museums.  In our recent UN Climate Week webinar, we highlighted MoMA’s embodied carbon video in our webinar booklet.  It is an important reference.

    Who in the organization should be responsible for/own the work? Operations? Facilities? 

    Ideally everyone should have sustainability in the job description. Having the CEO embrace the concept is certainly a leadership move.  Having sustainability and climate action discussed in board meetings is enormously helpful.  Do not forget that the incoming generation of donors are very versed in this topic and may be driving Tesla cars already. The staff at the museum needs to be equally knowledgeable and savvy in their own domain, whether it is collections, education, facilities or communications.   

    Start with asking how one can use climate action as a way to lower operational cost.  Is every long and short haul flight necessary?  Do lights have to be on in all the current areas? Do we have guidance for event planners to save energy and water? Can we revisit setpoints in the building?  Are there savings in trash removal? In this financial environment, who would want to be wasteful?  This “waste-not” mindset could be applied in many ways.  Please check out past winners of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Sustainability Excellence Awards.  

    How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your work?

    I am so saddened by the fatalities in this country.  If there is a silver lining, it is the rapid recognition of quality indoor environments.  Museums offer this exemplar environment to the public. This summer I collaborated with a number of built environment experts to encourage the World Health Organization to be clearer about indoor aerosol transmission.  It is a subject that I have been studying with other scientists since early this year before the lockdown. We started looking at air changes, filters, efficacies of ultra-violet lights and bipolar ionization for clients. 

    While conservators have been taking the lead to measure air around the collections, we now know that continuously monitoring air quality is beneficial for human beings and collections in a museum. As for touchless faucets and toilets, adding in sensors and upgrading to low flow toilets can be synergistic strategies for health (lowering virus transmission) and the environment.  

    Then there is the design of the outdoors.  Many museums could create well-conceived outdoor functional spaces while enhancing its urban design and contribution to the community. Even a rain garden is an amenity. Most regions of New York can have meaningful three-season active or contemplative spaces so that the visitors have more choices to engage with the institution.

    What can a museum expect to save when they invest in green technologies?  

    We talk about the benefits of greening already, healthier for people and smarter for collections.  It is not unusual to save 20-50% utility costs through an intensive analysis of the current operations. 

    Adding on to efficiency savings is the incorporation of state and local financial incentives. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has programs to help New York institutions.  Take solar for example, a photovoltaic array could take Kwh off more carbon intensive grid electricity.  Both the Sciencenter in Ithaca and the New York Hall of Science have been early adopters of renewable energy.  

    Once the solar array is paid off, the institution could harness the clean electricity for free. It is very possible to generate green power cheaper than the museum buying it from the grid while getting very close to achieving carbon neutrality.

    What are the short-term as well as long-term returns?

    The short-term return is sending an immediate message to your visiting public and potential donors that the museum action is part of the solution, not part of the problem. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has made a sustainability resolution in 2019 with the global museum community.  

    By following the Paris Agreement principles, there are implementation avenues like operating expense reduction and capital expenditure avoidance through a shared savings model, commonly called an Energy Services Agreement.

    Long term savings could be quite attractive.  As a rule of thumb, for every $100,000/year in energy savings (around 1/3 of annual bills), the museum could identify $500,000 upfront capital improvement it does not need to fund. 20% of the $100K/yr savings could go towards reducing annual museum budgets and 80% would go to the Service Agreement to equipment payments and comprehensive maintenance. Every capital plan or campaign should benchmark its annual energy and water bills and go through this exercise to maximize its year-over-year savings and long-term returns.

    For museums who have made progress in reaching green building status, what is the next step?

    This is by no means exhaustive; many in the embedded list already have LEED status by 2019 for design and construction.  The goal now is to operate green, paying attention to all aspects of the institutional operations, from exhibits to catering, staff commute and air travel as well as managing waste and recycling.  In addition to Energy Star Portfolio Manager, the international ARC platform is very comprehensive and aligns with private companies that report on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance).  I am encouraged to find many interested museums in the commonwealth countries as well.

    Museums can now demonstrate action not only in programming and operations, one can also lead by example through the museums’ investment portfolios. I am thrilled to be partnering with the CEO of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY, to offer an American Alliance of Museums (AAM) free webinar on Endowments and ESG on February 17. We hope it will be very enlightening.

    Joyce Lee FAIA, WELL AP, LEED Fellow, is president of IndigoJLD Green + Health providing green health, planning, benchmarking, and design services with a focus on cultural facilities. Joyce served under Mayor Bloomberg as Chief Architect at the New York City OMB. Her work has received numerous awards from USGBC, AIA, and HHS. She is on the University of Pennsylvania adjunct faculty. Her practice continues to assist cities to strengthen community sustainability, and help organizations reach carbon and wellness goals.  She can be reached at

  • November 24, 2020 9:48 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is thrilled to announce that 98 museums from across New York State have been selected to participate in “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility”, an IMLS CARES Act grant project designed to help museums impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic share their collections and reach audiences who cannot physically visit their museums. 200 staff will be trained to use new hardware and software to develop programs that will engage their communities and reach new audiences.

    We are honored to be awarded IMLS CARES act funding and excited to be able to make an impact on the work of our colleagues and their museums across New York State,” said Erika Sanger, MANY Executive Director. “We are living in an age of transition, experience a radical shift in our ways of learning and communicating. The group selected captures the diversity of our shared history in NY and our nation. The stories embodied in the museums’ collections and the storytelling talents of their interpretive staff are the heart of the project.”

    In this two-year project, museums will identify a program to virtually deliver to their audiences, focusing on developing programs from stories found in their collections that reveal cultural and racial diversity in their communities.

    “We are delighted to have been chosen for this project and cannot wait to get started,” said Brenna McCormick-Thompson, Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor Curator of Education. “We feel we’ve only just begun to tap into the potential virtual programming has to serve our community.”

    Your support in expanding our virtual programming will help us to further engage our community and tell stories in an authentic way,” said Miranda Sherrock, Rome Historical Society Museum Educator.

    “We are looking forward to the assistance with new technologies and hardware for delivering innovative and culturally relevant content to our existing and new audiences, as well as the valuable experience of working in a cohort of organizations,” said Gabrielle Graham, Community Partnerships & Adult Programs Manager, Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve.

    Project Participants by NYS Regional Economic Development Region

    Capital Region

    Albany Firefighters Museum

    Crailo State Historic Site

    FASNY Museum of Firefighting

    Hart Cluett Museum

    Historic Cherry Hill

    Irish American Heritage Museum

    Schenectady County Historical Society

    Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site

    Slate Valley Museum

    The Children's Museum of Saratoga

    The Hyde Collection

    The Olana Partnership

    The Sembrich

    Thomas Cole National Historic Site

    Underground Railroad Education Center

    Central NY

    Canal Society of NYS

    Children's Museum of Oswego

    Colgate University Museums

    Erie Canal Museum

    National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum

    Oneida Community Mansion House

    Onondaga Historical Association

    Seward House Museum


    Finger Lakes

    Finger Lakes Museum

    Gates Historical Society

    Genesee Country Village & Museum

    George Eastman Museum

    Holland Purchase Historical Society

    National Women's Hall of Fame

    Rochester Museum & Science Center

    Seneca Falls Historical Society

    Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

    Waterloo Library and Historical Society

    Long Island

    Eastville Community Historical Society

    Hofstra University Museum of Art

    Long Island Explorium

    Nassau County Museum of Art

    Planting Fields Foundation

    Southampton African American Museum

    Southampton History Museum

    The Cradle of Aviation

    The Whaling Museum & Education Center


    Boscobel House and Gardens

    D & H Canal Historical Society

    Ellenville Public Library & Museum

    Gomez Mill House

    Historical Society of Newburgh Bay

    Hudson River Maritime Museum

    Mid-Hudson Children's Museum

    Mount Gulian Historic Site

    Museum at Bethel Woods

    Percy Grainger House

    Putnam Art Council

    Westchester Children's Museum

    Mohawk Valley

    Arkell Museum & Canajoharie Library

    Fulton County Historical Society

    Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute

    Old Fort Johnson

    Rome Historical Society

    Schoharie County Historical Society



    Children’s Museum of the Arts

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

    El Museo del Barrio

    Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College

    Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

    King Manor Museum

    Lower East Side Tenement Museum

    Museum at Eldridge Street

    Museum of the City of NY

    New York City Fire Museum

    New York Transit Museum

    Historic Richmond Town

    Staten Island Museum

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Voelker Orth Museum

    Wave Hill

    North Country

    Akwasasne Cultural Center and Museum

    Fort Ticonderoga

    John Brown Lives!

    North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association

    Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site


    Southern Tier

    Arnot Art Museum

    Art Center of the Southern Finger Lakes

    Hanford Mills Museum

    Roberson Museum and Science Center

    Schuyler County Historical Society

    The Bundy Museum of History and Art

    The History Center in Tompkins County

    The Rockwell Museum

    Western NY

    Buffalo History Museum

    Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve

    Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

    Chautauqua County Historical Society

    Fenton History Center

    Robert H. Jackson Center

    Salamanca Rail Museum

    The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

    Western New York Railway Historical Society

    This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [CAGML-246991-OMLS-20].  

    Project Participant Map

    # # #

    About IMLS

    The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and related organizations. The agency’s mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

    About MANY

    The Museum Association of New York inspires, connects, and strengthens New York’s cultural community statewide by advocating, educating, collaborating, and supporting professional standards and organizational development. MANY ensures that New York State museums operate at their full potential as economic drivers and essential components of their communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

  • November 23, 2020 3:53 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    What would it be like to experience an immersive exhibition outside of a museum space? With canceled or postponed exhibitions affecting many museums this year, the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum at Alfred University created a Full Capacity, a new, virtual reality exhibition on the Museum’s website. The exhibition features the work of Diedrick Brackens, Lisa Marie Barber, Coco Klockner, and Jeanne Quinn who were invited to imagine a virtual space based on their studio practice and created artworks that are completely original and can only be experienced in virtual space.

    Why Virtual Reality?

    “As a member of the older generation, I found myself caught inside an inescapable digital frame without a map,” said Wayne Higby, The Wayne Higby Director and Chief Curator at the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum. “I began to wonder more about reality and virtual reality.”

    The Museum closed on March 16 and Higby along with the University community began working from home. For Higby, electronic media became a lifeline. “One thing seemed clear: communication will never be the same.” 

    The pandemic also affected artists, leaving them without studio spaces and without resources. The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum recognized this time of uncertainty and offered support to artists. An idea kept bouncing in Higby’s head. “I said to myself the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum should mount a virtual reality exhibition–an exhibition that would not be a video posting of in-reality art works, a gallery tour or a performance,” said Higby. “Therefore, the art works presented in Full Capacity are totally original and can only be experienced in virtual space.” 

    The Museum invited Guest Curator, Kelcy Chase Folsom to facilitate the virtual exhibition. He writes, “I am interested in the two-dimensional experience as it is the fabric of digital communication, one of the few vital links to each other and to new, image-based ideas. When I think of exploration in a digital space, I want to see it all, and Full Capacity invites this notion that space and time are perpetually saturated.”

    Higby met Folsom in 2015 when Folsom joined the faculty of the Division of Ceramic Art, School of Art and Design at Alfred University as the Robert Chapman Turner Teaching Fellow. “Folsom is a significant player in the conceptualization of the exhibition,” said Higby. “He is an accomplished ceramic and mixed media artist. He is also a very articulate and informed observer of contemporary art and ceramic art.” Higby called Folsom about creating a virtual reality exhibition and asked him to be the Guest Curator for the project. “It was Folsom who introduced me to other virtual reality exhibitions.” While thinking about Full Capacity and at the Folsom’s suggestion, Higby browsed several digital projects by the New Museum and their collaboration with Rhizome. “Full Capacity differs from much of this work, because it is by artists totally unfamiliar with VR process and technology,” said Higby. Full Capacity provided a new perspective for both the artists and designer facilitator-collaborator. “The results are surreal, dreamlike, beautiful and haunting,” said Higby. “They move slowly and are unlike the clamor and pumped up energy of the typical video game. The technology tricks are not especially obvious or overtly exploited.” 

    The VR Experience

    How visitors to the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum website enter Full Capacity

    Full Capacity can only be viewed with the use of a tablet, computer, or iPhone. Visitors can experience the exhibition through a portal on the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum’s main website. “I enjoyed seeing it on a large screen, desktop computer, like a widescreen movie,” said Higby. The virtual panoramic installations are interactive. Viewers can click on and maneuver through the image to change their viewing perspective. Using an iPhone, users can experience this by moving their phone through real space. “The viewing processes are engaging and new discoveries are available at each viewing. Like the experience of looking at all works of art, rewards are dependent on how much time one is willing to spend with an individual work,” said Higby. Some of the VR experiences feature ambient music, and Diedrick Brackens’ exhibition is based on a poem where you can hear him recite it in the context of his VR piece. The poem commemorates the lives of three black teenagers, Steven Booker, Carl Baker, and Anthony Freeman, who drowned after being picked up by the police and put into a boat that capsized on Lake Mexia during the Mexia, Texas Juneteenth celebration in 1981. 

    The four artists were chosen by Folsom with Higby. “Folsom’s point of view included the idea of inviting artists with no prior experience with virtual reality work who utilized materials such as ceramic, fiber, and mixed media from entirely different artist viewpoints,” said Higby. After each artist was chosen, Folsom invited them to collaborate with designers at Primal Screen, an award winning multi-platform design agency specializing in animation. Each artist was asked to provide written descriptions or preliminary drawings based on each artist's studio practice in response to a painting by Ryan Mrozowski, the painting of the daisies that is the image used to enter the exhibition. “The thought here was often we look at the two-dimensional image of a painting we visually enter the space of the painting and may, in fact, imagine a world beyond,” said Higby. “This is an experience particular and unique to each individual viewer.” Folsom writes, “Ryan Mrozowski’s painting, Shifted Flowers, is the entrance into this virtual world. I understand Mrozowski’s work as a framed version of what I think I witness rather than what I actually see the assumed image of movement in a moment.” Folsom checked in with the artists every couple of weeks to help facilitate their work with their individual designer-collaborators at Primal Screen. In total, the VR exhibition took six months to complete. 

    Ryan Mrozowski’s “Shifted Flowers” serves as the background for the main entrance to “Full Capacity” on the Museum’s website

    Is this the future?

    Full Capacity is an experimental exhibition. “The first goal was to offer something to our membership and visitors locally, regionally, and worldwide at a time when the Museum was closed or only open to the on campus community...for the Museum, Full Capacity was an excellent way to learn and explore a creative opportunity handed to us by a severe limitation,” said Higby. Moving forward, Higby imagines that this VR approach could be incorporated into future exhibitions either as a stand-alone or in conjunction with other themed exhibitions. At this point in time, there are no immediate plans to host another virtual reality exhibition. “As director and chief curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, I enjoy very much working with living artists and collaborating with them on a variety of ideas. This is, at least in part, because I am a producing living artist myself and also a Professor of Ceramic Art with a deeply invested interest in artists’ ways of thinking and doing. I do envision for the Museum more collaboration with artists and guest curators.”

    Learn more and experience Full Capacity:

  • November 23, 2020 3:52 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    TikTok. It’s a word that you’ve probably heard at least a few times over the last nine months. It’s not describing the sound a clock makes but a popular short video app. It’s full of dancing, lip synching, and now museums who are experimenting with the app to reach new audiences; museums like the Cradle of Aviation on Long Island. The Museum has a strong social media presence with 15,000 Facebook followers, 2,500 followers on Instagram, 3,500 followers on Twitter, and 302 subscribers on YouTube. They created their TikTok in January and in March they saw a dramatic increase in followers and engagement on the platform. At the time of this article, the Cradle of Aviation Museum has 51,200 followers and 566,700 likes with 154 videos. 

    What is TikTok?

    Museum Next’s Jim Richardson describes it best. “The content is mainly around dancing, singing and lip synching to music, movies or sound bytes. Users create short looped videos, then have the option of adding music and Snapchat style stickers or filters. While hashtags make the content searchable.” The app has over a billion downloads, making it a more influential  social media app than Instagram. 

    TikTok has been around for a few years, but app downloads increased in the fall 2019 making it the free number one free iOS app in the United States. It is especially popular with Gen Z and Millennial audiences. In a blog article by Cuseum in April 2020, it mentions that TikTok can help engage museums “Gen Z and Millennial constituents, who are increasingly abandoning more traditional social media platforms like Facebook.” TikTok has more than 800 million users worldwide and 25 million in the United States.

    Who’s on TikTok?

    “The assumption was that it’s all middle school kids on TikTok, but that turned out to be incorrect,” said Cradle of Aviation Creative Manager Rod Leonhard. Leonhard downloaded the app for himself back in fall 2019 to explore the hype and to see what creators were doing with the app before starting the museum’s account. “I became obsessed with the app exploring all of its features and basically tried everything to see what would stick. It’s a lot of fun and there are a lot of very talented content creators on this platform. It’s very addictive.” When the platform began to grow in March, Leonhard noticed something interesting about their demographics. “The demographics are very similar to our Instagram audience. We found the adults on the platform with our content.” The Cradle of Aviation didn’t identify an audience to target before creating content, but the museum has found their audience. Since the pandemic, platform users have grown beyond the Genz audience. “The hashtag #over30 has 9.4 billion views, #over40 has 3.2 billion views, and #over50 has 800 million views,” said Leonhard. TikTok provides analytics like other social media platforms including data on specific hashtags.


    “We include #cradleofaviation in all of our posts and that hashtag has 6.8 million views, 5.5 million of those views are thanks to #educatortom posts,” said Leonhard.

    The most popular Cradle of Aviation TikTok has 2 million views. It features “Educator Tom” or Tom Barry, the museum’s Assistant Director of Education. “He brings edutainment online,” said Leonhard. “Short videos on the history of ingenuity and innovation in aerospace.” In their most popular video, Tom demonstrates an early aviation ‘rotary’ engine. “The Mazda automobile rotary engine folks went nuts claiming it was a radial engine,” said Leonhard. The video has over 400 comments, most debating about whether or not it’s a rotary engine. “Who knew there were so many motor heads on TikTok? But asking questions can get good engagement.” The museum continued the conversation in the comment section asking viewers questions like, “why doesn’t the gun shoot the propeller off?” or “why were toys during WW2 made mostly out of wood?” The video is 12 seconds long and has been watched for 6,797 hours, liked more than 70,000 times, and shared more than 300 times. 

    “As a platform, it’s more democratic with its algorithm than other platforms,” said Leonhard. “You put a piece of content out there and if people engage with it, it gets shown to increasingly larger groups of people. We can put the same content on other platforms and it goes nowhere without a paid boost.” 

    Finding an Authentic Voice

    “We had a bunch of ideas for the platform when I started the account back in January but as always, things go sideways. Things you think are going to perform great, viral content go nowhere. It seems like TikTok is notorious that the bloopers or outtakes do much better than the perfect take,” said Leonhard. Leonhard and Barry along with Curator Peter Truesdell spent a couple of hours just before the museum closed for NY on Pause back in March and shot 50 videos. “We really thought we were only going to be out for two weeks back in March so we wanted to shoot a bunch of stuff.” TikTok videos are short. “We learned not to bury the lead but to quickly get people’s attention. Tom is the CEO of ‘come here’ and waving people in.” Most videos are Tom waving the viewers in close to take a closer look at a specific artifact or to highlight a story.  “During the first two months of the pandemic we gained around 40,000 followers. Tom’s natural and authentic enthusiasm is contagious and a perfect fit for TikTok. We’ve received a lot of touching comments about how we really helped people stay connected during this difficult time.” After the museum shared those 50 videos, Tom set up a green screen in his dining room at home and recorded videos. Leonhard then added in the appropriate backgrounds. 

    The museum also utilized their docents to share their knowledge on certain stories and spaces throughout the museum. “There’s not much planning. Tom just walks up to them, asks questions and they’re off,” said Leonhard. Keeping a simple premise has proven to be the most engaging videos on the platform for the Cradle of Aviation Museum. 

    What’s Next?

    “I’d like to see the Educator Tom persona to keep growing and to do live remotes from other New York State museums,” said Leonhard. “We have a nice following and I think it would be mutually beneficial if we made some road trips to go live from other museums and talk with curators and docents about their artifacts and happenings. People love that stuff.” 

    For Leonhard and the Cradle of Aviation Museum, TikTok has become their best engagement rate platform compared to their other social media channels. “It’s a great place to tell stories and to be experimental and capture a generally younger demographic and audience and introduce them to the Museum.”

    Learn more and explore the Cradle of Aviation on TikTok: 

  • November 23, 2020 3:47 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    On March 25, 2020, the Senate voted unanimously, 96-0 in favor of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, the CARES Act passed the House and was signed into law. This $2.2 trillion CARES Act economic stabilization plan allocated $200 million in supplemental funding to assist cultural institutions affected by the coronavirus. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) received $75 million to allow cultural organizations to retain staff to preserve and curate humanities collections, advance humanities research, and maintain buildings and core operations. $75 million was appropriated to the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) to fund current and recent arts endowment grantees, and subgranting funds for local arts agencies. $50 million was designated to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including by expanding digital network access, purchasing Internet accessible devices, and providing technical support services to their communities. New York State museums received just over $5.3 million in federal funding through the CARES Act in 37 grants.

    National Endowment for the Humanities

    Twenty three museums in all ten of New York State’s REDC districts received NEH CARES Act Funding totaling $3,356,134. Most funding allocated retained museum staff and to fund digital and distance learning resources. 

    NEH Funding to NYS Museums

    Capital Region

    Historic Cherry Hill


    The retention of two staff members to expand remote learning opportunities about African Americans at Historic Cherry Hill

    Central NY

    Seward House Museum


    Retention of the only two full-time education positions currently staffed at the Seward House Museum for the development of digital learning materials and expanded public access to digital archives.

    Finger Lakes

    George Eastman Museum


    Retention of 19 full-time employees to sustain, expand, and institutionalize the museum’s digital programs. The project will digitize and create online access to films, webinars, artist talks, online videos, and virtual tours of the Eastman Museum and collections. Audio tours and podcasts for the mansion, garden, and exhibitions will also be produced.

    Long Island

    Putnam History Museum


    The retention of three existing positions and the creation of a new project manager position to adapt three planned exhibitions for outdoor display on museum grounds and create related digital content.

    Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages


    Continued employment of museum educators to enhance and expand virtual learning opportunities for K–12 students.


    Katonah Museum of Art


    The retention of five staff members to produce a variety of humanities-based online programming for adults and children.

    Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center


    Needs assessment and planning for digitization and web publication of collections documenting Edward Hopper’s early life, with funding to support three staff members and one consultant.

    Mohawk Valley

    National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.


    Salaries for museum staff who will create virtual education experiences and access to the museum’s digital collection.

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute


    The hiring of a full-time staff member and the retention of another part-time staff member to continue an ongoing multimedia project showcasing a nineteenth-century American decorative arts collection.

    New York City

    American Museum of the Moving Image


    The retention of seven staff members, plus additional staff and consultants, to update digital platforms, expand content for online exhibitions, and conduct public and scholarly programs.

    Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum


    The retention of four staff to make the museum’s digital archive more accessible and develop six humanities-based “digital features.”

    American Folk Art Museum


    The retention of twelve staff to develop and implement online programming, website upgrades, and strategic planning.

    American Jewish Historical Society


    Retention of six staff members to present live-streamed programs with the archivist and historian guiding audiences in the examination and contextualization of historical documents. 

    Center for Jewish History


    The rehiring of two employees, and restoration of hours and salaries for 21 other core staff, who would ensure ongoing and expanded access to sources held by the nation’s largest repository of archival materials on Jewish-American history and culture.

    Frick Collection


    The retention of twenty-two staff members to develop and produce online programming on the Frick collection.

    Jazz Museum in Harlem


    Retention of a senior scholar to curate the museum’s online content.

    Lower East Side Tenement Museum


    The retention of sixteen permanent staff to expand walking tours, conduct research, and develop a new exhibit. 

    Museum of the City of New York


    A multi-part series of programs that includes documentation and collections activities focused on experiences of New Yorkers during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Friends of Alice Austen House, Inc.


    The retention of five staff members to implement a virtual tour and related resources.

    North Country

    North Country Children’s Museum


    Six months of salary for the executive director.

    Fort Ticonderoga Association


    Development of online education resources for grades 3—12 and increased accessibility of more than 5,000 items from its collection.

    Southern Tier

    History Center in Tompkins County


    Retention of four key staff members who will work to enhance youth programs, increase archival digitization, and expand online exhibits for the public.

    Western NY

    Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society


    The retention of six employees and rehiring of one from furlough to produce and distribute a collection of history podcasts, videos, virtual events, and online exhibitions.


    National Endowment for the Arts

    Eight New York State museums were awarded a fixed amount of $50,000 each totalling $400,000 in funding from the NEA. These funds were only available to organizations that had received an NEA award within the past four years. Nationally, only 3,700 organized qualified. 

    NEA Funding to NYS Museums

    Capital Region

    Albany Institute of History & Art

    Long Island

    Long Island Children’s Museum

    New York City

    Queens Museum of Art

    Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

    Studio Museum in Harlem

    Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling

    Friends of Alice Austen House


    nstitute of Museum and Library Services

    IMLS awarded $13.8 million to 68 museums and libraries in CARES Act Grants. 1,701 organizations applied for funding requesting $409,251,399. Five New York State museums received $1,299,907 including the Museum Association of New York for “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” Project supporting 100 museums with hardware, software, and training to develop virtual programs focused on stories from their collections revealing cultural and racial diversity within their communities.

    IMLS Funding to NYS Museums

    Iroquois Indian Museum


    In response to increased interest in digital experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iroquois Indian Museum will create and launch eight virtual tours. The tours will highlight Iroquois and Haudenosaunee culture, including an introduction to the Iroquois and its communities, its relationship with nature, early technology, formation of the confederacy, oral history and storytelling, stereotypes, and the unwritten language of Wampum. The series will kick off with a live virtual opening reception of the museum's new feature gallery exhibit, Identity/Identify, which was originally scheduled to open in April 2020. The virtual visits will be freely accessible on the museum's website.

    Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum


    The Intrepid Museum will develop and deliver virtual education programs to approximately 12,000 New York residents over two years. The museum will produce educator-ready resource sets for virtual synchronous teaching on 20 distinct multidisciplinary topics, with modifications for specific audience types. Each set will include an interactive lesson plan, links to freely available EdTech resources, and embedded formative assessment tools. The museum will share project materials with local and state library systems to address capacity challenges that some library systems are experiencing in their efforts to serve their audiences in this transitional time. The sets will also be accessible on the museum's website for audiences who prefer to experience these programs on their own time. The project's overarching goal is to contribute to the overall social-emotional wellbeing of its diverse audiences, channeling positive energy, and providing opportunities for social connections.

    International Coalition of Sites of Conscience


    The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience's "Sites of Conscience: Strengthening Museums to Foster Social Resilience" project will equip leaders from 10 museums, serving over a million visitors annually, to help its communities emerge stronger from the pandemic. Through a targeted training program, group mentoring, and one-on-one support, two museum leaders from each of the 10 museums and historic sites will gain the skills needed to address the community needs they have identified as priorities and support the resilience of community members affected disproportionately by COVID-19. Following the training program, each museum will receive a stipend to launch an innovative, community-centered engagement program that serves its specific local needs. A robust evaluation plan will measure the impact of the synchronous virtual training on the museum professionals and the impact of the community projects on local audiences.

    Everson Museum of Art


    The Everson Museum of Art will build on its early efforts to serve its community through a variety of virtual programs during the pandemic. From artist studio tours to in-depth object studies to downloadable artmaking projects for kids and guided virtual exhibition tours, the museum's new online opportunities provide flexible, cost-effective access to its collection, exhibitions, and expertise. The staff will improve its digital presence by developing live 30-minute virtual lessons that combine an online tour using 360-degree video technology, guided by a trained museum educator who joins the group via video-conference technology. The programs will be designed to support age-specific learning goals and stimulate a level of engagement and curiosity similar to an in-person visit. Project evaluation will include participation tracking, collection of demographic data, and both quantitative and qualitative participant feedback.

    American Libraries and Museums Awarded $13.8 Million in IMLS CARES Act Grants 

    Federal Funding to Humanities NY and NYSCA

    Additionally, federal funding was also appropriated to state grant making organizations to re-distribute funding. Humanities NY awarded nearly $1M in federal funding to 197 NY cultural nonprofits ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. Humanities NY reviewed 325 applications requesting nearly $3M in funding. 106 museums were awarded a total of $533,450. View the fill list of HNY CARES Grants.

    The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) was awarded $580,000 from the NEA. Funds were intended to assist arts organizations and their employees in enduring the economic hardships caused by the forced closure of their operations due to COVID-19. To be eligible museums must have been awarded a general operating grant from NYSCA in fiscal year 2020 either through a new grant or as part of an ongoing multi-year grant, have no more than $1.5M in total organizational revenue, and have no outstanding NYSCA grant reports. NYSCA awarded four museums $10,000 each: Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, Ganondagan State Historic Site, Schweinfurth Art Center, and the Whaling Museum and Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor.

    Read more about the CARES Act funding here.

  • October 28, 2020 1:00 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Early voting has begun across New York State and in the weeks leading up to the 2020 Election, museums are providing resources about voter registration, how to mail in an absentee ballot, voting early, and leading conversations about the current state of American democracy. Museums are using their platforms to contribute to civic engagement and to encourage voter participation. 

    Museums As Voter Resource Guides

    The American Alliance of Museums encourages museums to engage in nonpartisan voter activities. In response, many museums are using their resources to educate their visitors and online followers in voter education and providing information about voting registration, polling locations, and more. While museums cannot support or oppose a candidate or a political party, museums are providing critical information to encourage new voters and educate existing voters about how, where, and when to vote. 

    Voter Information

    The New-York Historical Society has a link in their Instagram bio that directs visitors to— a website to help people make a plan to either vote early, vote by mail, or on election day. The Everson Museum of Art has a button visible on each page of their website linking to The clear goal is to ensure that people know how to vote, where to vote, and when to vote. The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) held a voter registration event on National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 22. From 9 to 5, anyone could stop by the museum to either register to vote or to check their voter registration. Across social media, museums are tagging #EveryVoteCounts that asks their followers to share voting plans, tag a friend to make sure they have a voting plan, and to make sure others are registered.

    Voting Exhibitions

    In conjunction with the event, CMoG opened an exhibition dedicated to the voting process, Transparent: Voting in America that explores issues surrounding a core value of democracy—that the voting process is fair and open to scrutiny. It also highlights the invention of the glass ballot box from the 1880s alongside a series of historical cartoons to demonstrate how glass ballot boxes were symbols of a free and fair election.” 

    Corning Museum of Glass’ temporary exhibition Transparent: Voting in America

    Other museums are also using their collections to create exhibitions about voting and its history. The Chemung County Historical Society’s virtual exhibition, Vote! Chemung County. The Historical Society create a new website devoted to the history of who got to vote (which discusses voter disenfranchisement and voting rights), how people voted from the earliest voting in the United State–voice voting to paper ballots, absentee ballots, the first voting machines in the late 1800s, and electronic voting of today, and a virtual catalog of election memorabilia that features local and national election items from the mid-1800s through 2016. This virtual exhibition’s goal is to share the history of voting while reminding people that when you vote you are part of history. 

    Leading the Conversation

    Museums are hosting dialogues to exchange thoughts and about the current state of American democracy. The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) created “Women’s Suffrage and Voting Rights Now”, designed for kids but open for all, about how voting rights have evolved in NYC and for participants to discover diverse leaders within the women's suffrage movement and the tactics they used to expand voting rights. MCNY’s Curators from the Couch program also hosted a live-steam discussion between Puffin Foundation Curator Sarah Seidman with Dr. Peniel Joseph, the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin and organizer Brea Baker to discuss voting rights connected to the museums’ Activist New York exhibition. 

    OUR FLAG, 2017. Acrylic on canvas. Ed Ruscha. Brooklyn Museum

    The Brooklyn Museum is leading a conversation about how the arts can play a role within the current state of American Democracy. On November 2, visual artists Ed Ruscha and producer Swizz Beatz will discuss how artists are using their platforms to contribute to civic engagement in electoral politics and beyond. The Brooklyn Museum has a page dedicated on their website, Make Your Vote Count, that encourages those eligible to get informed and to vote. The museum has offered public programming throughout the month of October leading up to the election to “bring us all together in strengthening democracy.” The Brooklyn Museum is also serving as a polling site for both early voting and on Election Day. 

    Leading up to Election Day

    According to AAM’s Museum Facts Data, 97% of Americans believe that museums are education assets for their communities and that the American public considers museums the most trustworthy source of information in America. As Election Day approaches, museums are continuing to serve their communities and be a reliable source of information for voters. Museums are sharing accurate and nonpartisan voting resources and are helping to strengthen voting awareness. 

    Further Reading / Resources

    AAM’s Nonprofit Voter Resources Guide—Yes You Can!

    AAM Nonprofit Voter Resource Guide PDF

    Nonprofit Vote

    Resetting the Table: PURPLE

    Election Trust Project

    NYU to Host Early Voting for 2020 Election

    Vote Early NY

    Plan Your Vote

    Early Voting in New York: 5 Takeaways

    Engaging New Voters

    Can I Vote

    League of Women Voters

  • October 28, 2020 12:41 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    FANTASTIC FOUR# 52 Jul 1966, First Appearance Black Panther, Collection of John A. Vasquez

    Dear Members of MANY’s Museum Community, 

    In my junior year of college, I took my first art history class. When we arrived at Chapter 8 of Janson’s History of Art “Early Christian and Byzantine Art,” I was completely lost. Christian art had not been included in my life experience. In multiple visits to museums I learned the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution of the story. In the process of learning how to decode the narrative art, I also learned that good storytellers shape their message to the medium in which it is carried.

    From the origin of human language to oral traditions, from the walls of cathedrals to highway billboards, from the written word to the printed page, and from comic books to Hollywood films, storytelling has evolved and adapted in tandem with our tools of communication. The twin pandemics of Racism and COVID-19 are driving the need to change the ways museums tell stories as well as the stories that are told. We could all use some remedial study time to learn and share stories about the people of our state and our nation that weren’t told to us when we were young.

    Museums are creating and maintaining exhibitions displayed in physical galleries and in virtual spaces. If museums were not working in digital media before the pandemic, they are now telling stories with the technology at hand whether their audience is in their buildings or at home. It may soon become less important how we tell our story as long as we leverage the power of narrative to engage our audiences with the familiar and the unfamiliar.

    I’d like everyone who reads this letter to think about how their museum could tell a unique, authentic story in a digital or virtual media that reveals cultural and racial diversity within their communities. We are accepting applications to participate in Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility through October 30th. If you are interested, but need more information, or perhaps a bit more time to submit the paperwork, please reach out to us

    We also need you to tell the story of your museum and how it has been impacted by COVID-19. The NY State Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee is accepting written testimony through November 11. Please let committee know how your museum has been affected by the pandemic. Send your testimony to My testimony that was delivered live on October 21 is included in our October newsletter and can be watched here; I start at 1 hour and 12 minutes into the roundtable, after the Bronx Zookeeper talks about the Sloth.


    With thanks for your support,

  • October 28, 2020 11:47 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Lavada Nahon

    Interpreter of African American History

    NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

    Long before Black Lives Matters took to the streets, there was a move to bring the under-told stories of enslaved and free Africans and their descendants to the forefront at museums in New York. Although the desire remains, the present reality reflects a greater silence. Docents and interpretative staff have pushed back, citing ‘it’s not our story’ as the reason. But it is. In fact, it is all of our stories, it is American history, New York’s history. 

    As I approach the one-year anniversary of my position as the Interpreter of African American history for NYS OPRHP, my awareness of how we approach sharing the presence of the enslaved has shifted. We long for names or ‘hard evidence’ of their presence. Without it, we skip over them. All of us trip on the absence of material culture. 

    When we do have something to show the public, it generally falls into the range of what we’ve all been bombarded with, the chains, whips, and other instruments of torture. But what if there was more? What if lurking in the collection, forgotten, was a different type of evidence? 

    One of the thrills I’ve had in this new position is working with curatorial and archeological staffs at Peebles Island, NY State Museum, and other locations as they re-examine artifacts collected years ago that were discounted because they didn’t fit into the European narratives most museums wanted to share. They also were forgotten because those conducting the archaeological digs and parallel areas of research didn’t understand the cultural placement, purpose, or value of the sites and the objects unearthed. Re-examining collections across the region with fresh eyes and a broader understanding has revealed a treasure trove of items linking directly to African cultural and spiritual traditions. Many of these objects have lingered in their neat storage plastic bags since they were first discovered. 

    Collections I have seen in my brief time at OPRHP include cowrie and other shells (pictured below) not from our region; seed beads (often blue) and other beads; items marked with ‘X’s’ with and without circles, including spoons, pottery and on architectural remains like mantels and doorjambs; pieces of quartz crystals and mica; buried cookware or small barrels that held marked spoons, sharps-bent nails, pins, broken pottery and knives; ax heads that had been buried outside a doorway; a Brazilian coin (pictured left) , buttons, and ‘Sankofa’ marks; and even peanuts buried under hearth stones. The range is amazing. Things that obviously are not from North America, or items that have been purposefully placed together. Things that can’t be completely linked to Indigenous or European cultures may speak to third leg of the stool, that of Africa.

    These items generally would have been found during archeological digs or when spaces were being renovated. They show up on the exterior corners of houses or within the structures around hearths, windows, cellars, garrets or places where the enslaved would have lived. I’m on a search to increase the number of locations where these objects and architectural evidence can be found extending across the entire state. Any assistance you can give would be greatly appreciated. I ask you to please go back into your collections with fresh eyes. Africans were here, let’s finally see them, learn to speak of them, with or without names.


    Lavada Nahon is the Interpreter of African American History for the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Nahon has interpreted the lives of free and enslaved African Americans across the mid-Atlantic region, with an emphasis on the work of enslaved cooks in the homes of the elite class. Her expertise around cooking and dining spans the 17th to 19th centuries and cuts across cultures, encompassing Dutch, British, French and African traditions. 

  • October 28, 2020 11:40 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    On October 21, 2020, MANY’s Executive Director, Erika Sanger testified at a roundtable presented by the New York State Senator José M. Serrano about the Impact on COVID-19 on our state’s arts and cultural institutions. The roundtable gave the arts and cultural community the opportunity to highlight the important contributions that cultural organizations make to New York’s economy and how those contributions have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The committee is accepting written testimony through November 11. Please take a moment to let the NY State Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation committee know how your museum has been affected by the pandemic. Send your testimony to

    If you missed the Roundtable you can watch it here:

    Erika’s comments and slides appear below. On the recording, her remarks start at 1 hour/12 minutes, after the Bronx Zookeeper talks about the Sloth. 

    I am Erika Sanger, Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York. We help train museum professionals and offer museums a platform to amplify their messages, exchange information, and learn from one another across disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic locations. We conduct research and issue reports that paint accurate pictures of our sector and advocate for museums on the state and national level. 

    I am going to be sharing information we have been gathering over the past year that is available as downloadable pdfs from our website. These are the most visited pages on the site as we have become a “go to” resource for information about museums and Covid-19. 

    One of the first questions that is important for us to consider is “Why were museums in such a vulnerable position when Governor Cuomo declared NY on Pause by Executive Order on March 20, 2020?”

    A third of the museums that responded to our 2019 State of NY State Museums survey ended 2018 in a deficit position. Most museums earn two thirds of their income from admissions, special events, and retail sales. When museums closed their doors, that income was lost overnight with no way to compensate. 

    The deficit positions in which many museums operate created situations in which part-time staff salaries were tied to earned income. Before COVID–19, in museums with budget sizes under $499,999, part time staff outnumbered full time staff by almost 2:1. At museums with budget sizes over $500,00 there was an almost equal ratio of part time to full time employees. 

    There will be more about staff impact later in this testimony. The next survey we conduct in early 2021 will help reveal how the pandemic has altered staff compositions structurally. 

    Historically, and pre-pandemic, museums were heavily dependent on private funding. Less than half were getting funding from the state and only one in five received federal funding. Corporate support is quickly approaching state support as a keystone of a museum’s financial profile. 

    The American Alliance of Museums estimates that museums are losing $33M a day because of closures in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, New York’s museums were losing $3.5M a day. New York’s loss is 10% of the total loss of our nation’s museum community. This chart represents weekly loss by average amount lost. The Southern Tier region most closely parallels the statewide data, where NYC data shows the greatest losses. Note that we needed to change the scale on the “y” axis to accommodate scope of loss in NYC. 

    We know that some museums quickly responded to the pandemic with staff lay-offs and reductions in hours. Education and Visitor Services staff were particularly hard hit by furloughs and lay-offs. As a field, we have lost the most racially and culturally diverse, digitally knowledgeable generation to enter the museum sector. 

    We also know that many museums worked very hard to find solutions to keep staff employed by changing tasks and ensuring their safety by finding ways for them to work from home. Museums also took the necessary steps to help protect our vulnerable elders by suspending volunteer programs.

    Despite the best efforts of New York State’s Congressional Delegation, the Federal response for funding opportunities available to New York’s museums was disproportionate and inadequate. Federal funds allocated in the CARES Act went to states and museums that never “closed.” To speed the distribution process, the NEA and NYSCA restricted funding to museums who were successful in obtaining grants in prior years. $30M of the $50M of Institute Museum and Library Services funds were immediately set aside for libraries. In April, $1.75M was allocated to the NYS library who announced just last week that they will soon share an application and distribution plan. 

    Despite those obstacles, more than two thirds of the museums who responded to the survey held out hope for government support.

    We are all grateful for assistance from all of our funders, but we know that some emergency funding programs were more successful than others in meeting the immediate needs of the field. The Payroll Protection Program was confusing, difficult to access, and did not serve the field beyond mid-July, before many of NY’s Museums were even allowed to open to the public.

    The largest amount of funding was sought to cover staff salaries to keep museum professionals employed and serving their communities. NY State has generously funded Capital Improvement Grants across the state investing millions of dollars in the restoration and improvement of museum facilities in the past ten years. However, state funding for programs and general operating support has never recovered from the 2008-09 reduction levels, leaving museum staff in a precarious position when the pandemic struck.

    Actual distribution of relief funding was disproportionate to the tremendous need of the arts and cultural community and museums in NY. 

    $165 M of CARES ACT funding was distributed through the NEH, NEA, and the IMLS. $6 M or 3.5% of that funding went to NY’s museums who experienced 10% of the negative economic impact of the pandemic on our nation’s museum community. 

    • NEH assisted 23 museums

    • NEA assisted 8 museums

    • NYSCA assisted 4 museums

    • Humanities NY assisted 106 museums 

    The chart does not include second round of IMLS Cares Act funding which hadn’t announced at time we published this report.

    The PPP served largest number of museums, the EIDL reached one in five, and private foundations reached one in four museums. 

    A deeper dive into the PPP reveals further inequities in relief funding distribution. 81,075 loans were made to businesses in NY. 142 of those went to museums; 76 were $150,000 or more and 66 were under $150,000. 7,062 Museum Jobs in New York were protected, 5338 of those were in NYC. 

    We collected data for the estimated reopening timeline in August and at that time, no one anticipated delaying their opening past September. As we know, reopening guidelines shifted and now many of our state’s museums are not scheduled to reopen until the spring of 2021. 

    Many of you who are following these issues closely have heard of the American Alliance of Museum’s recent national survey. One of the questions they asked was if museums believed they were at risk of closure in the next 16 months absent additional financial relief. The national response was 16% felt they are at risk of closure; in NY we are at 23%. 

    How can NY State help museums?

    Extend attendance capacity beyond 25% as soon as it is safe to do so.  Museums were already one of the cleanest indoor public building environments to maintain the safety of our collections. With COVID-19 compliant safety measures in place, such as increased cleaning, upgrades to air filtration systems, hand sanitizer stations, temperature checks, mask requirements, and contact tracing, museums are now among the safest indoor spaces. 

    New York could also provide critically needed additional funding to support museums that pre-pandemic employed 60,000 New Yorkers and had a $5.4B impact on our state’s economy. 

    What is MANY doing to help?

    We are honored to receive $498,407 IMLS CARES Act Grant that will help us support 100 museums across NY State with hardware, software, and training to develop virtual programs. Thank you for listening.

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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