Dear Members of our Museum Community,
Welcome to our October edition of "This Month in NYS Museums. With the 2020 Election days away, we have created a new page on our website with resources on how museums can encourage voter participation in their communities.
Our NYS Museums and Voting article takes a closer look at some of those resources and how museums throughout the state are are contributing to the important conversation of American Democracy.
We spoke with Curator Vicki Reisman at the National Museum of Racing about how the museum undertook a massive construction project to transform their Hall of Fame experience during a pandemic.
In our guest article this month, Lavada Nahon, African American History Interpreter for NYS Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, asks museums to search their collections to bring the under-told stories of enslaved and free Africans forward.
MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger shares her comments and slides from her testimony 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.
This month's "Letter from Erika" illustrates the importance of being a good, adaptable storyteller.
Remember that applications to participate in our Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility will be accepted through Friday, October 30.
With thanks for your support,
Marketing & Communications Associate
Construction During a Pandmic: How the National Museum of Racing Reimagined its Visitor Experience
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (NMRHoF) was uniquely situated when the COVID-19 pandemic forced museums across New York State to close their doors to the public back in March. The Museum had already closed to the public on December 29, 2019 to undertake a massive, multimillion dollar construction project to transform the Hall of Fame visitor experience. Despite a two month delay and the challenges of working remotely because of the pandemic, the Museum kept its audience engaged and utilized the entire staff to work on projects that reimagined the museum.
In Search of Africa in New York
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.
Arts and Cultural Roundtable: Impact on COVID-19 on Museums in New York State
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter from Erika: Tell A Good Story
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 the 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.
NYS Museums and Voting
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.