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Read original articles written by MANY's staff about Resources, Community, and Exhibits/Collections. Check out the Letters From Erika to learn about what is going on here at MANY!
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  • October 30, 2018 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     
    Image courtesy of the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum

    Get In Gear with Cycle Tourism

    By Star D’Angelo, Independent Museum Consultant

    According to the American Alliance of Museums, museums contribute $50 billion to the national economy. New York ranks as the second highest contributor, generating $5.4 billion annually1. That is nearly half of the $108.7 billion total tourism dollars generated in New York in 20172. Museums clearly are an important economic force in New York, but the numbers also indicate that there is also quite a bit of room for museums to grow within the tourism industry.

    Attracting more recreational tourists to museums is not a new idea, but the need to pay more attention to trends in this sector was reinforced this past September when I was invited to attend the NYS Bicycling Summit in Saratoga Springs. Organized by the New York State Bicycling Coalition, the Summit focused on a variety of topics related to bicycle safety and increasing interest in bicycling for recreation and transportation.

    Did you know that cycling tourism is the largest sector of the growing tourism economy? The Outdoor Industry Association completed a national study in 2017 that found that bicycling participants spend $83 billion on 'trip-related' sales, and generate $97 billion in retail spending3. In 2012, Parks and Trails New York released a study that found that the 277 mile long Erie Canalway Trail alone generated $253 million in sales, created 3,440 jobs, and generated 1.6 million annual visits4. Despite working at a museum located near numerous established bike paths, I was unaware that cycle tourism had become so popular! Museums and historic sites were mentioned repeatedly throughout the Bicycling Summit and I learned quite a bit about the mutual interests of cycling advocates and museums.

    Currently, New York State is actively expanding bike paths across the state and improving cycling safety as a part of its ongoing effort to increase tourism state-wide. Museums in the rural and scenic areas of upstate New York are especially poised to serve cycle tourists who increasingly express interest in exploring small towns within two to five miles of their route. They are seeking opportunities to experience a “strong sense of place” (a phrase that was frequently repeated during the Summit) and they spend more time in a single community than automobile tourists.

    It is important to be aware that cycle tourists have needs that differ from those of tourists who are traveling by car. As you can imagine, they need rest stops along their chosen route that provide for their basic needs such as a place to lock bikes and rest briefly. Cycle tourists also want to learn a bit about local culture and history and they are looking for interesting and entertaining diversions as they pass through each community.

    Here are some tips for encouraging cycling tourists to visit your museum:

    1. If your museum is located within five miles of an established bike path, pay attention to cycle tourism trends consider offering services tailored to the needs of cycle tourists. There is no single source of information about all bike paths in New York but the NYS Bicycling Coalition Provides regional resource information here.

    2. Provide a covered place to safely lock bikes during their visit. It may also be a good idea to keep a list of bicycle repair shops in your area for visitor use.

    3. Provide a bathroom facility and a safe, comfortable place to sit down and rest.

    4. Makes sure that your museum has an attractive and welcoming gift shop offering easily portable, locally produced items that reflect the unique character of your community. Ideally the shop will also carry items of use to cycle tourists such as flat repair kits and water bottles.

    5. Provide access to snacks such as bottled water and granola bars. Team up with a local restaurant for cross promotion of services if you can’t provide food on-site.

    6. Keep your tours and programs brief and engaging. Most cycle tourists will spend an hour or less at each rest stop. During the Bicycling Summit there were many stories about overzealous tour guides taking up too much time and offering too much information. This is such a common experience that it seems to be an insider joke among the cycling community! Train volunteers to offer a few engaging stories instead of attempting to provide a full encyclopedia of information.

    7. Check to see when bicycle tour groups will be moving through your area and adjust your operating hours to accommodate them. Far too many cycle tourists find that museums are closed when they wish to visit. In fact, summit participants repeatedly expressed frustration with attempting to access museums outside of 9-5 business hours.

    8. Meet with cycling groups to discuss cross promotion and other joint marketing strategies. You can find information about who is cycling through your area via the Ride with GPS website. Ride with GPS also provides ways to promote visitation to your museum through designated ambassadors, cycling route maps and other services.

    9. Cyclists may not have regular access to the internet so, provide marketing resources in the form of printed rack cards, brochures, and pocket maps that are easy to carry.

    10. Work locally to improve safety for cycle tourists. There were many concerns expressed about cycling through industrial districts and past numerous abandoned buildings in towns along the Mohawk River Valley, Hudson River Valley and other areas. Cycle tourists are especially concerned about personal safety. Provide maps and directions to assist them.

    11. If your museum works with developers to reduce adverse impacts for new construction within historic districts, advocate for bike path linkages to the historic district and/or your museum.

    12. Attend conferences related to recreational tourism. Pay attention to annual tourism studies released by New York and reach out to colleagues in other sectors of the tourism economy.

    With some thoughtful consideration of the needs of cycle tourists, even the smallest museums can benefit from this new and growing trend in tourism. During the Summit, I quickly discovered that bicycling advocates are eager to share information and to partner with museums to improve the experiences of cycle tourists. Let’s reach out and start talking about ways to support each other!

    The following entities offer resources that can help museums encourage increased visitation through cycle tourism:


    1American Alliance of Museums: https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-museums/museum-facts-data/

    2New York State Tourism Industry Association: https://www.nystia.org/news/2017tourismeconomics

    3The Outdoor Industry Association: https://www.adventurecycling.org/bicycle-tourism/building-bike-tourism/economic-impact/

    4Parks and Trails New York: https://www.ptny.org/application/files/2714/4604/5359/Economic_Impact_of_the_Erie_Canalway_Trail_Full_Document.pdf
  • October 30, 2018 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues

    If I am lucky along my travels, I can stop to visit a museum, meet an industry partner, or walk in one of our beautiful state parks. I wish I could accept every invitation extended along the journey, but my plans are frequently diverted before I can measure the miles to home. Last week time was on my side and I got to see the new Kids Rockwell Art Lab, across from a pizza place and three doors down from the ice cream store on Market Street in Corning. 

           

    The Rockwell Museum began thinking about the Art Lab as a way to continue to serve family audiences during a construction project to replace the second and third-floor gallery windows that required the removal of collections and the closure of the family engagement studio. A Market Street double storefront space was available and a satellite museum space was born. The Kid’s Rockwell Art Lab opened in mid-September on the day of Corning’s Harvest Festival. Three hundred people attended and great press coverage followed. Brian Whisenhunt, the Rockwell Museum’s Executive Director said that he knew that the Art Lab was a success when a toddler had a “melt-down” when told it was time to leave—an achievement indicator familiar to children’s museums and science center staff.

    Although the Art Lab represents a major new investment, the need for space during construction was real and the museum’s commitment to serving its family audiences is strong. With few low-cost, indoor winter activities available to families in the region, the Art Lab will be a creative option on a snowy day. Adult admission fees cover both the Art Lab and the Rockwell Museum and admission is free to kids 17 and under.

    As many local private foundation funds were committed when the need for space became apparent, and capital support was dedicated to the window replacement project, the Rockwell was challenged to secure enough financial support before they could open Art Lab’s doors. With creative re-use and a small budget, the Rockwell filled the space with activities from the museum’s family engagement studio, borrowed furniture, and recycled the admissions desk from a recently-closed department store. Along with the addition of two staff to the Visitor Services department, the biggest investments were associated with getting the Art Lab up to current building codes with the addition of bathrooms, wheel-chair accessibility, and a new coat of bright paint.  


    Future plans for The Kid’s Rockwell Art Lab include developing partnerships with teachers and high school students, changing activities three times a year to coincide with exhibitions on view at the Rockwell Museum, and hosting the traveling exhibition “Framed: Step into Art” from the Minnesota Children’s Museum in next summer when Corning will be filled with families visiting from out of town.

    I traveled thousands of miles and met hundreds of people in the past two months, all passionate about their work and committed to making their organizations relevant and sustainable. When funding is hard to find and space is limited by a construction project museums may choose to put a well-attended program on hiatus. The Kids Rockwell Art Lab is an excellent example of how engaging community, stretching resources, and applying creativity can help a museum reach a new level of success.

    My journeys this fall have been just as valuable as the destinations. Thank you for making me feel welcome at every place I have landed. I will be at the MuseumNext “Designing the Future of Museums” conference this week and will report back soon about lessons learned. We have two more workshops, and two more Meet-Ups ahead of us in November. I hope to see you along the way in either Utica or on Long Island!

    Wishing everyone safe travels,


    Erika Sanger
    Executive Director

  • October 30, 2018 9:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Brian Howard, Executive Director, Oneida County History Center

    I’ll start by stating the obvious--the arrival of the digital age over the last 15-20 years has been nothing short of revolutionary in its impact. The Internet has fundamentally changed the way people access information, and the effects on museums, historical societies, archives, and libraries has been profound.

    By and large, researchers are no longer compelled to visit ‘brick and mortar’ locations to access the information they seek. Genealogists were long dependent on historical societies and libraries for unique content--most of which can now be found on ancestry.com. To survive, our field has been forced to adapt. Smaller organizations, especially, have little choice other than to change or face extinction. That said, I am convinced that organizations like ours can continue to play a vital role in their communities. While nonprofits of all stripes need to be nimble in today’s marketplace, I’ll focus on what I know best—the experience of small museums and historical societies. But the lessons here should be applicable across many organizations.

    SERVING THE COMMUNITY

    Community service is at the heart of most small museums. Most draw their visitation and support from the immediate locale or a specific interest group; few are compelling enough to bring in the throngs of tourists envisioned in the literature touted by our local Tourism Promotion Agencies.  Rather than focus on bringing busloads of foreign tourists through the doors, I think it makes more sense for small facilities to innovate within the ‘box’ that defines their community.

    The Internet is a virtually limitless source of content but not context.  Say what you will about the value of online ‘communities’, they are no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Our public programming presents an opportunity to unite visitors via a common experience or dialogue.

    History exhibitions that link the past with the present are great tools to illustrate an organization’s relevance to the community. The redevelopment of inner cities and downtowns which were virtually abandoned in the 1960s and ‘70s occurs in the context of promoting identity. No matter how small our institutions are, we can contribute to this new approach to urban renewal by providing stories, images, and property information that reflect an area’s values and/or experience. Doing so via exhibitions provide visitors with opportunities to engage in dialogue that might not occur in an online or offsite setting.

    People still desire to come together to discuss topics of mutual concern. Organizations like ours remain a great venue for authors, subject matter experts, artists, and enthusiasts to interact with a live audience. Welcome them, frequently.  Don’t shy away from hosting political debates. Ask to host naturalization ceremonies for new citizens. More than anything, promote your organization as a vital physical and cultural resource in the community.

    COLLECTIONS ACCESS

    While times and technologies change, access to collections remains vital to museums.   Directors, curators, and designers (often, these are the same person) are constantly challenged to share their materials in new and innovative ways.  Traditional exhibits and conducting paper-based research haven’t fallen completely out of vogue, but both have been somewhat marginalized in the digital age.  The internet has been so pervasive in its reach that to deny its impact is counterproductive.

    The need to digitize our collections should be self-evident.  In the ‘old days’ (like the 1990s...) this involved contracting with a firm to photograph and transfer documents onto microfilm.  While this is still done, albeit digitally now, the proliferation of low-cost, highly capable scanners has seen this process move in house.  At my organization our digitization effort began a decade ago, and the impact has been profound.

    Since 2009 we have scanned over 30,000 images. They were in all formats—prints, nitrate film, glass plate negatives, and more. The main archive is housed on our server with backup copies on DVD. One set of disks is housed on site and another is in a safety deposit box at a local bank. The originals are preserved here, too, but since they were scanned they have been virtually untouched. What to do with original documents after they are digitally preserved is a topic for another article.

    We have also digitized our entire newspaper archive and are now plowing through our manuscript collections, estimated to be over a quarter million documents.  Like our photo collections, there has been little need to access the original papers since digitization. Their most prevalent use has been in our exhibit galleries, where use of original materials is the priority.

    It should be noted that all the scanning and organization has been completed with our volunteers.

    Digitization has transformed the way we do business.  The speed with which we deliver content has been dramatically increased.  Thanks to electronic access, the following activities have become everyday parts of our operation:

    • Television—We provide images for a “Hidden History” segment on our local ABC affiliate, airing weekly on their evening news broadcast.

    • Social Media—Our vast holdings provide the basis for regular posts on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, reaching over 6,000 followers.

    • Print—We provide articles and images for two local magazines—Mohawk Valley Living and Greater Utica—published monthly.  Local newspapers also use our images.

    • Property Research—The revitalization of our local downtown has seen many property owners in our library, reviewing our digital archive for pictures of the buildings they are rehabbing.

    • Infrastructure—The City of Utica and the New York State Department of Transportation have both made extensive use of our digital holdings in local or regional improvement projects, including the creation of a roundabout in downtown Utica and the rebuild of the Route 5/8/12 Arterial, which is the main roadway through our area.

    • Businesses—We have generated substantial revenue via the sale of high-resolution prints to local businesses, restaurants in particular, who have adopted a historical theme in their décor.

    • Books and Merchandise—Over the last few years we have published several books in house, making extensive use of our photo collections.  We are also a primary source of images for other authors writing about the greater Mohawk Valley.

    Very little of what I described above would have been possible without electronic access to our holdings.  While it may sound daunting, the digitization process has been relatively easy to implement; it takes time but it is not complicated.

    While small museums and historical societies are constantly resource challenged, that does not mean that they cannot be vital and relevant to the communities they serve. I encourage every organization like ours to take a proactive approach and embrace technology, and reap the resulting benefits.  Please contact me if you have any questions!

  • October 30, 2018 9:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     

    At the Crossroads of Equal Rights

    By Billye Chabot, Executive Director, Seward House Museum

    Perhaps to an outside observer, Auburn, New York would seem an unlikely setting for an Equal Rights Heritage Center. But if you look closer, the history that happened here puts Auburn at the crossroads of equal rights and at the epicenter of several defining moments in the continuing struggle for social reform.  

    Opening at the end of October, the Equal Rights Heritage Center is owned and operated by the City of Auburn.  The Center will promote heritage tourism and will highlight the themes of Equal Rights and the role of New York State from a historical perspective. Exhibitions will feature the abolitionist movement, the fight for social justice and human rights including rights for women, refugees, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community. It will serve as a visitor information center, house a Taste New York Market, and provide offices for our tourism and downtown partners. Additionally, the Center will allow for reflection on the legacy of passionate concern for the equality of all human beings and encourage dialogue on a variety of topics fundamental to the theme of equal rights.

    “This is a downtown revitalization project for our city designed to support and boost our historic and cultural sites locally and regionally," Mayor Michael Quill said. "We thank the Governor and our state legislators for their support. We look forward to working in partnership with the Auburn BID, the Cayuga County Office of Tourism and all our historic and cultural sites to make this project a success."

    Since Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul’s public announcement of the Equal Rights Heritage Center in September 2017, the Seward House Museum has worked with our community partners to assist us in thinking strategically about the many ways the Center will impact the Museum.

    With the thread of equal rights woven throughout the narrative of the interpretation of the Seward Family, we now have an additional opportunity to explore, ask questions, dig deeper, and engage audiences while navigating the tensions of our shared history. This may lead to the development of emerging perspectives and programming which can encourage new ways of considering the past. For example, questions like, who gets to participate, and who has the right to be a citizen, are still relevant today and connect our history to a national narrative.

    The Equal Rights Heritage Center will certainly add to the Seward experience as visitors move from the Center to the Seward House and gardens, and on to Seward Park, creating a type of heritage campus.  The natural partnership between the Seward House Museum and the Center will provide a unique experience to bring our stories alive in the most compelling of ways. We look forward to the Center’s opening and dedication in this fall.

    Is the building open yet? Click here to view the live webcam and track the progress!

  • October 16, 2018 1:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    Yesterday I attended two meetings where state support for museums in New York was discussed. The first was a strategic planning workshop for the New York State Council on the Arts and the second was the Cultural Education Committee meeting of NYSED’s Board of Regents.

    NYSCA plays an essential role in funding our state’s museums and cultural organizations. The Strategic Planning Workshop included an overview of recent programs and funding in each of NY’s 62 counties. In FY18, $41 million was awarded for program support and $20 million for capital projects; 60% of the program support funds went to organizations with budget sizes under $1 million. 

    In the museum program, applications from museums with budget sizes under $1 million were reviewed separately from museums with larger budget sizes. We know this shift in policy has made a difference. Since the 2018 funding was announced, several MANY members who had not previously received NYSCA grants were awarded general operating support, often the most difficult funds to secure.

    I was pleased to sit at a table with the staff of three Capital Region museums, Yolanda Bostic, Principle Policy Analyst for the Assembly Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development Committeeand Elissa Kane, Community Liaison for Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, who reminded us that it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up in support of NYSCA funding. NYSCA will be hosting nine more strategic planning workshops across the state before the end of the year. Lord Cultural Resources is working with NSYCA to engage stakeholders, conduct research, and identify issues and opportunities. We encourage all museum professionals in our state to attend these workshops and support NYSCA’s strategic planning process.

    The dates, times, and locations of these Regional Constituent Workshops will be announced soon. Details will be posted on NYSCA’s website.

    I ended the day at the Cultural Education Committee meeting of NYSED’s Board of Regents. The meeting ended with the Commissioner’s Office reiterating budget priorities which included funding for the Museum Education Act. We will soon share advocacy tools you can use to include your voice in support of the MEA as we await the governor’s signature.


    Thank you for your support of NYSCA and the MEA.

    Sincerely, 


    Erika Sanger
    Executive Director

     


  • September 25, 2018 4:32 PM | Anonymous

    One of the most important – and sometimes most difficult – questions museum leaders must ask themselves today is one that may seem to have a simple answer, but in reality, is far more nuanced than it appears. 

    How can I make my museum accessible to everyone? 

    The deeper root of this question lies in one thing: a museum’s resources. How can a museum use its resources – human or otherwise – to make their collections, exhibitions, and staff accessible to the diverse communities they serve? At the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in Rochester, NY, the staff faces the challenge of understanding how to properly utilize all available resources in order to create a safe, open, and diverse space for the deaf community – and all the various communities in Rochester – head-on.

    The Dyer Arts Center opened its doors in 2001 with a mission of showcasing artwork created by students and alumni of NTID, along with works by nationally and internationally known artists, all of whom are deaf, hard of hearing, and allies of the deaf community. Besides the Gallaudet University Museum in Washington, D.C., the Center is the only arts center in the United States whose sole focus is collecting and exhibiting artwork by deaf individuals. As of this year, the Center’s permanent collection is home to over 1,000 pieces created by deaf or hard of hearing artists – the oldest piece in their collection is from 1925.

    Tabitha Jacques, who has been Director of the Center for three and a half years, says that the work she and her staff do to service the deaf community is an opportunity to represent their culture. “Often people don’t understand that people with disabilities may have a culture, and deaf people definitely have a culture,” she says. “This is an invaluable resource for deaf people, for deaf young people, to come in and take pride.”


    This semester, the Center is home to three different exhibitions, each of which take inspiration from the idea that the Center is a space for the deaf to manifest pride in their community. The first exhibition, 50 Artists 50 Years, the NTID 50th Anniversary Art Exhibition, opened this summer in celebration of the NTID’s 50th anniversary. Located in the Elizabeth W. Williams Gallery (the Center’s main exhibition space), the 50 Artists 50 Years features art created by 50 different NTID alumni artists, along with pieces from the Center’s permanent collection. This exhibition, along with a mural by NTID alumna Susan Dupor on display in the Glass Room, will close October 20.


    For the second half of the semester, the Center will zero in further on the theme of pride and accessibility with two new exhibitions, Cultivating Connections and 6x6 Deaf Pride. Cultivating Connections, which will open November 2 in the Williams Gallery, will be a celebration of the Rochester community as a whole. “We have solicited artwork from anyone in the Rochester community, deaf or non-deaf,” Jacques says. “The point is to have a diversity of artwork representing the collective of Rochester.” Jacques’ initial plan for the exhibition was to focus solely on local deaf artists, she says. “But then I thought, ‘Well, why am I now siloing the deaf artists from the Rochester community?’” Because the Center is primarily an exhibition space for deaf artists, up to 50 percent of the artists exhibited in Cultivating Connections will be deaf or hard of hearing, while the rest of the artists will be anyone from the Rochester community as a whole.

    The Center’s third exhibition of the semester, 6x6 Deaf Pride, also opening November 2, will take a similar approach to engaging the community as Cultivating Connections by inviting deaf and hard of hearing artists, interpreters, and allies to submit small, 6x6 artworks that focus on what deaf pride means to them. “I wanted to give the opportunity to ask people, ‘Why don’t you represent yourself? Who are you as a member of the community?’” Jacques says. All of the artwork displayed will be up for sale, with the proceeds going directly to the Center.

    While inspiring deaf students and visitors to find pride and empowerment through a celebration of deaf culture is the primary goal of the Center, Jacques says that other museums need to utilize their resources to create accessible spaces for deaf and hard of hearing people, too. “Deaf people have different needs, and that doesn’t mean that they can’t absorb information,” she says. “Museums really are an alternative educational center in some ways, [where] you can engage the person in learning. But if the person doesn’t have an accessible space, then you’re blocking them from being able to learn.”

    This block, Jacques says, has had a serious impact on the actual amount of cultural education available to deaf people, nor have there been any solid methods for documenting and collecting art by deaf artists. “For me, I feel like this is a necessity. We have to do it,” she says.


    But how can other museums do what the Center, a university-backed museum, does? “It’s vital to partner with the community,” Jacques says. “Step one: be open-minded. Deaf people historically have had a negative relationship with museums…engage the deaf community in the discussion.”

    Earlier this year, the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) reached out to Jacques and other community members to get their input on a new exhibition they were prototyping on the science of sound. Jacques says that after they sent their initial didactic information, she and the others noticed the approach the RMSC was taking was too paternalistic. “It was more medical, focusing on hearing loss,” she says. “One of the members of our team talked to them about the concept of deaf gain and other concepts, like, it’s not bad to be deaf. It’s not a loss if you’re deaf. If you’re born deaf and you grow up deaf, you haven’t lost anything because you’ve never had that in your life.”

    The RMSC listened to the feedback from Jacques and her team and added information about deaf gain to their prototype. “I was so appreciative because they were very open-minded,” Jacques says. “They wanted our feedback, they wanted our input, they wanted to partner with us, and they wanted to recognize deaf people because they do know that deaf people are critical mass here in Rochester. 

    So, to circle back to the question that all museum leaders are asking themselves in an age where the recognition of diverse identities is directly correlated to a museum’s accessibility, how can we make our museums more accessible to everyone, and why should we? The first and most important step, as both Jacques and the RMSC have shown, is to be open to accepting and listening to oft-forgotten voices.

    “Deaf art has been in the works for over one hundred years, but there’s no real space to actually show it and talk about it and learn about it,” Jacques says. “I feel honored to work in this area and to continue the mission of making sure that the deaf community all over the world cherishes who they are and what deaf culture has produced and will continue to produce into the future.”  

  • September 25, 2018 4:24 PM | Anonymous

    “What does it mean to become an American?”

    This is the question the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library (N-YHS) posed when they launched the Citizenship Project in response to the change in United States immigration laws in January 2017. The Citizenship Project, which officially launched in July of that same year, is an initiative to help green card holding immigrants living in New York become American citizens. Since last July, the N-YHS has been providing free civics and American history classes and other educational tools for aspiring New Americans, helping them to prepare for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalization exam.

    The idea of marrying the N-YHS’s mission to promote a love for history through education and programming with the USCIS naturalization test was, for the N-YHS, the logical next step in their goal to engage the communities they serve. “We have a long history at the New-York Historical Society of telling untold stories, and we also have a long history of teaching over 200,000 schoolchildren [American history] each year,” says Jennifer Schantz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the N-YHS. Schantz also handles all legal affairs for the N-YHS and oversees the Citizenship Project.

    The N-YHS’s long history of preserving New York history and promoting education stretches all the way back to its founding in 1804, when it became the first museum to open in New York State – in fact, their museum predates the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by 70 years. According to their website, the eleven founders of the N-YHS lived through the American Revolution; their experiences living under British occupation led them to believe that “New York’s citizens needed to take decisive action to preserve eyewitness evidence of their own historical moment.” The founders feared that “’dust and obscurity’ would be the inevitable fate of accounts and artifacts if left in the hands of private individuals,” and thus, the N-YHS was born.

    Now, the N-YHS is bringing the founders’ original mission of preserving history and telling the American story to the 21st century with the Citizenship Project. “It’s a perfect project for us,” Schantz says.

    Here’s a little background behind the core inspiration for the Project – helping aspiring New Americans become citizens: By the end of 2017, there was a backlog of nearly 730,000 pending naturalization applications at the USCIS, according to a report from the National Partnership for New Americans, an alliance of immigrants’ rights groups. In 2017, there were over 925,000 applications for naturalization submitted to the USCIS, the report says. To put that into perspective, the USCIS naturalizes approximately 700-750,000 immigrants as citizens each year; 716,000 New Americans were granted citizenship in 2017.

    These numbers are indicative of the times aspiring New Americans are living through – with the change of immigration laws and an increased divide on the debate of immigration to the United States, the pressure to obtain citizenship is higher than ever. But with the help from the N-YHS, the daunting task of applying for citizenship, taking the 100-question exam, and waiting to hear from the USCIS is made easier.

    The Citizenship Project is made up of a 24-hour in-depth course that uses art and documents from the N-YHS’s collection to help its students study for the naturalization exam. But the coursework goes beyond rote memorization of American history and civics. Students are introduced to the N-YHS’s collection of objects and documents, giving them the chance to interact with the history they’re studying. “It allows the students to dig deeper, because it doesn’t only address the questions themselves, but also talks about what it means to be a citizen and the rights and obligations of citizenship,” Schantz says. “It’s not lecture; it’s interactive. It’s a really sort of vivid way to make these stories come alive.”


    Schantz says that, since the launch of the program in July of last year, her team has taught over 1,000 students to date through the direct services provided in their galleries. Since then, the N-YHS has brought the Project outside of their walls, offering classes off-site. “We find that a lot of people prefer to stay in their neighborhood,” she says. “Our third venture is to develop an online course, so that everyone in the nation, New Americans or even students, can benefit from our collections.”

    In addition to their on- and off-site classes and the upcoming online course, the Citizenship Project’s team of educators has also begun offering teacher-training courses in partnership with the USCIS. In April, the N-YHS hosted an all-day training with the USCIS for other community organizations and museums who wanted to bring the educational methods the Citizenship Project’s educators use in their own programs.


    The impact the Citizenship Project has had on the N-YHS’ community has been tremendous, according to Schantz. Last year, the N-YHS hosted two naturalization ceremonies in their galleries, one of which was presided over by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who had reached out personally to ask if she could participate. “It was a wonderful day,” Schantz says. “The new citizens were so proud to be in the audience and to hear her speak and talk about how meaningful it is to become an American.”


    For Schantz, the Citizenship Project is a true reflection of the N-YHS’ primary goal as a cultural institution. “Our mission is to make history matter, or ‘because history matters,’” she says. “I think that the most effective programs are those that adhere to the vision and mission of the institution, and so what’s beautiful about the Citizenship Project is that we’re doing what we do best – teaching American history and making history matter.”  

    Photos courtesy of Don Pollard.

  • September 25, 2018 4:15 PM | Anonymous

    What are museums without their curators? Who else would dedicate their time and responsibility to the cataloguing, maintenance, and interpretation of an institution’s collections?

    For Anastasia James, Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, the role of the curator as storyteller is what has drawn her to this kind of work. This semester, James has worked hard with her team on the curatorial design of not one, but three new exhibitions at the Dorsky. We spoke with her to learn more about her love of history and art, her mission as a curator at a university museum, and what visitors at the Dorsky can expect from the fall exhibitions.

    How long have you been working in museums?

    I have been working in museums for 10+ years in various curatorial capacities.

    What made you want to be a curator?

    I knew I wanted to work in museums from a very early age. I have always been curious about history. Fun fact: I began volunteering for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History when I was about 10 so it is never too young to start! Joking aside, the path to being a curator isn’t always easy and I would say that the reason I stayed on the path was due to a number of mentors who have, over the years, provided encouragement and support in ways that have deeply affected me and I am grateful from their support.

    What’s your favorite thing about being a curator?

    Hands down, my favorite thing about being a curator is that I get to tell and share stories through the display of art and the creation of catalogs. I genuinely believe that it is through the making of art and the sharing of diverse stories that communities become stronger and strangers become allies. Although I have a sophisticated understanding and passion for art and culture, I like to play with the idea of expertise by promoting a variety of voices in order to make the arts accessible to a more diverse audience. A few ways that I do this is through the display of both popular and fine art forms, a prioritization of accessible language in the galleries, and through more playful types of programming that challenge the format of the stuffy lecture.

    When did you officially start at the Dorsky?

    I began my position as Curator of Exhibitions and Programs about a year ago, Fall 2017.

    What’s it like working in a university museum?

    Early formative experiences, youth programs in fact, opened the door to a career where, from my position of privilege in cultural institutions, I have been able to provide safe spaces for people through the conduit of exhibitions and programs. One of the main reasons I accepted this position was because I knew that I would be working for and with a diverse student body. At SUNY New Paltz, where the student body is majority minority, I want to say to the students that The Dorsky sees them and that we value diversity and inclusion and that it is important to me that this be reflected in our programming.

    Tell me about the exhibitions coming up this semester at the Dorsky.

    This semester we are opening three new exciting exhibitions: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: The Trans List, an exhibition by the acclaimed photographer of 40 portraits of transgender individuals curated by me; Alive and Yelling: Trans Zines and Radical Subcultures curated by two SUNY New Paltz students in conversation with and in reaction to The Trans List; and Community and Continuity: Native American Art of New York curated by Gwendolyn Saul and John P. Hart of the New York State Museum. Additionally, on view are works from our permanent collection and Time Travelers: Hudson Valley Artists 2018.


    David Bunn Martine, Mandush, Shinnecock Sachem of the 17th Century, 2013, acrylic and oil on canvas, courtesy the New York State Museum.

    What’s your vision for the 2018-2019 school year?

    My vision for the upcoming school year is to create exhibitions, programs, and publications that prioritize alternative narratives–projects that aim to not only bring visibility to diverse identities, but empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

    What’s the most exciting exhibition and/or program happening this semester?

    One exciting program we have on the calendar is a performance by author, actor, gender theorist, recovering Scientologist, and transgender pioneer Kate Bornstein. I polled the students on who, out of the subjects of The Trans List, did they want to visit our campus and unanimously they told me Kate. So, I made it happen. She will be performing a brand-new performance titled, “Trans: Just for the Fun of It.” I expect a lot of buzz around this event as she is currently starring in the Broadway play “Straight White Men.” 


    Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Alok Vaid-Menon, 2016, inkjet print, courtesy the artist; Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Laverne Cox, 2015, inkjet print, courtesy the artist.

    Do you have a favorite exhibition you’ve worked on since you started working in museums?

    Oh, there are so many! I have been so privileged to work on exhibitions and publications with an incredible group of artists.  As I continue to develop my curatorial voice, it has become a priority for me to exhibit artists whose practice turns a critical eye on subjects of identity. Most recently, my retrospective, “Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show” which travelled from the Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF to the ICA Philadelphia and then the CAM Houston featured 30 years of work that seamlessly blended comedy and neurosis in such a way that questions about identity become a commentary on the self/other. In addition to curating, I have also edited a number of books including “Billy Name: The Silver Age, Works from Andy Warhol’s Factory” and “Brigid Berlin: Polaroids.” I see my editorial work as an extension of my curatorial practice and the process of making a book is very similar to curating an exhibition in that it requires prolonged engagement with an artist or their work which is something I find extremely rewarding.

    Tell me one fun fact about yourself – museum/art-related or otherwise!

    My first job in the art world involved cataloging Andy Warhol’s underwear.

    Learn more about the Dorsky’s current exhibitions here.
  • September 25, 2018 4:15 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,


    A couple of weeks ago we sent out the call for proposals for our 2019 Annual Conference. In case you missed it, you can find the call and the proposal form here.


    I hope you will take a few minutes to read the call and think about the ways in which your experience and your voice can help strengthen us all as museum professionals. We selected Cooperstown, the historic Otesaga Resort and Hotel, and Mohawk Valley cultural institutions for our conference because of their deep roots in American history and the arts. There will be great food and drink, a phenomenal lakefront view, and 400 museum professionals - who could ask for more?


    We received hundreds of pages of comments about last year’s conference, including that 90% of Rochester attendees were likely to come to Cooperstown. People attend the MANY conference because it is aspirational and inspirational. It helps people connect with colleagues and learn about new approaches they can bring back to their organizations. We look to include sessions that give useful, practical guidance, build skills in content areas, explore new philosophies, and shift ways of interpreting collections.

    I’ve been thinking about Access and Identity - the 2019 Conference theme - as an important exercise in collective intelligence. I like to think about the conference in this context, because we crowdsource content, assess with peer review, leverage our social capital to create fabulous special events, ask you to help us share through social media, and lastly, assess with a polling system. A strong sense of who we are and who we want to be as New Yorkers and New York museums can emerge in a conference like ours, where we can create a space to discuss and perhaps even safely disagree about our future as a field and make room for the broadest definitions of identity as museum professionals and as institutions.


    Proposals for Access & Identity are due October 24, 2018. You can download the call for proposals here and the proposal form here.


    Feel free to pick up the phone and call us to talk about a proposal or the conference. We love to hear from you!


    See you on the road!



    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director, MANY

  • August 28, 2018 2:50 PM | Anonymous

    As fall begins, the MANY staff and board know we will be seeing colleagues in September in Catskill, Canandaigua, Fort Ticonderoga and in Cooperstown for 2019 conference planning. But there are so many opportunities for museum professionals in October, it could be renamed “Continuing Education Month” and we could start a new tradition with all of the choices of places and ways to learn.


    I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said that all of the museum professionals I know enjoy learning. We devour texts, track down clues to unlock mysteries, and joyfully attempt to decode beauty in nature, art, and material culture. Learning from peers in small group settings may be my favorite way to learn.


    I’ll start the month of October at the Long Island Museum Association’s Roundtable at the Long Island Children’s Museum on the first. On the 4th, I’ll be at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center in Nyack at MANY’s Mid Hudson Meet-Up at the Hopper House.


    On the 10th in Syracuse, I will participate in the “How to Facilitate Community Conversations with Humanities New York” workshop at the Erie Canal Museum, tour the museum, and welcome colleagues for our Central Region Meet-Up.


    Coming from the education and development side of museums, my most recent learning has been in exhibition and facilities design. I am beyond excited for our behind-the-scenes tour at Hadley Exhibits on October 11th in Buffalo. I hope that you can join us there for our tour, Meet-Up, and special workshop, “How to Write Labels Your Visitors Will Want to Read,” led by Erin Doane, Curator at the Chemung County Historical Society.


    Growing up on Manhattan Island with the East River outside my window, I learned at an early age that water both connects and separates us — we crossed New York Harbor on bridges, through tunnels, and stood at the back of the Staten Island Ferry, watching the skyline fade. At the New York State Canal Conference October 14-16 on Staten Island, participants will celebrate the role that New York Harbor has played in the success of the State’s historic inland waterway system.


    On Tuesday, October 16, we will continue our waterfront celebrations at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s new DUMBO location with a Humanities New York workshop, a tour, and a Meet-Up with the Brooklyn Bridge acting as a backdrop to frame our conversation.


    From the 140th annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, to the Re-Visioning Change workshops in the Southern Tier and Capital Regions where the most highly rated presenters from our annual conference will reprise their presentations and interactive programs for colleagues who couldn’t make it to Rochester, MANY will be present all season to help shape the future of our profession.


    I’d love to hear from you if you will be learning alongside me this October! Send me an email and let me know where I might find you in the next chair or gallery.


    Safe travels,


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