Strategic Priorities for New York’s Museum Community in FY 2012

The following priorities comprise MANY's advocacy agenda for 2012

Preserving the Infrastructure:

  • Rebuild the New York State Council on the Arts.  In 1960, New York State was the FIRST in the nation to establish state arts agency.  NYSCA must be sustained as a strong independent entity, and its Museum Program as the primary funder of museums.  The FY2012 executive budget holds NYSCA’s local assistance funding to the FY2011 level of $31.6 million – while this is welcome news, it remains an astounding 58% below its highest point just two decades ago. This decline is unprecedented among state agency local assistance funding.
  • Restore the legislative line item of $450,000 to the New York Council for the Humanities.  This funding would provide a renewed, publicized offer of small grants ($3,000-$10,000) to the state’s best public humanities programs in communities from Long Island’s Five Towns to Niagara Falls.  Council funding goes to a wide range of museums and heritage organizations of all sizes and does not overlook smaller institutions in upstate cities and rural areas.
  • The Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program received $9 million in FY2011 and has not been reduced in the FY2012 executive budget.   These dollars are a good investment, because they allow organizations with ‘living collections’ to leverage public money against private gifts.  The catalyst of public money is what drives the engine for many museums across New York State.
  • Help ensure that SED has a deeper understanding of the museum community it regulates, the challenges it faces, and that it acknowledges the innovation, imagination and success of museum education programs across the state, recognizing that the educational contributions of museums are equal to those of libraries, archives and public broadcasting.

Collaboration and Partnership:

  • Create a seat at the economic development table for museums and cultural institutions because they are a driving economic force.  Help museums partner with business executives to find innovative solutions to the challenges of the new economy.
  • Uniform highway signage is desperately needed by museums and heritage organizations – indeed all cultural institutions – particularly in smaller communities and rural areas.  Let’s help audiences find these great places!
  • Urge government to see museums and heritage organizations like the small businesses that they are.  Yes, they are nonprofits providing communities with important educational and cultural services, but they are also employers facing skyrocketing health care and energy costs.
  • Create a fund for cash-strapped museums and historical organizations to buy time for restructuring, thus forestalling the pressure to turn collections into cash.
  • Build easy-to-access information about museums and their education programs into State Education Department curriculum standards so that teachers are aware of the programs available to them and are encouraged to use museum resources in classroom instruction.

Innovation and Oversight:

  • Appoint a Regent who is a museum professional. Doing so would acknowledge the complexity of museum governance and give an equal voice to a community the Regents charter.
  • Help the museum community plan for growth. The Regents grant 20 to 30 provisional charters annually to new museums, but with diminishing resources available and long-established organizations struggling to maintain funding and audience, no organization should enter the field without substantial endowment, making it questionable whether more museums results in better cultural heritage stewardship or education.
  • Create a committee that will work with the Attorney General’s office, the bankruptcy courts, Board of Regents, and the Museum Association of New York to address the complex questions surrounding deaccessioning, providing a voice for extraordinary collections imperiled by fiscal crisis, bankruptcy or dissolution.