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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 19, 2021 9:13 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is excited to announce a new regrant partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to distribute 100 grants of $5,000 to assist New York museums with capacity building. 

    Grants will be awarded for museums to respond to pandemic-related challenges, help build financial stability, strengthen board and community engagement, update technology, support leadership, and change systems to address diversity, equity, access, inclusion, and justice. 

    "The economic struggles resulting from the pandemic have impacted arts institutions especially hard, threatening many of the organizations and partnerships that play such an important role in our state's vibrant, healthy communities," Governor Hochul said. "These grants will provide the critical funding arts partnerships can use to access public support and bolster creativity in local communities."

    “Museums and art institutions are some of our best tools for preserving New York’s rich history and folk traditions, and for highlighting communities whose narratives have been marginalized or erased,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Over the last year this industry has suffered tremendously in the wake of the pandemic, which is why I fight every year in the Senate for Institute of Museum and Library Services funding. NYSCA’s $575,000 investment in the Museum Association of New York will ensure our communities can continue learning from New York’s many wonderful museums and storied history of art, music, dance, language, and literature. I will always fight to support these essential community institutions and to make educational and cultural opportunities more accessible for all.”

    “We are excited to partner with NYSCA to distribute this state funding,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger. “This is an incredible opportunity to help support New York’s museums and increase access to NYSCA funding.”

    “NYSCA supports local artists and non-profits by administering vital funding to regrant partners across all regions of our great state,” NYSCA Executive Director Mara Manus said. "Our Fiscal Year 2022 strategic goals prioritize expanding eligibility and increasing access for the full and richly diverse ecosystem of artists and arts organizations of New York. Museum Association of New York regrants are critical to NYSCA's mission to develop and support the diverse spectrum of artists living and creating in New York State."

    "We are grateful to Governor Hochul and the Legislature for their recognition of the critical role the arts play in the health and vitality of New Yorkers and our economy. This historic Fiscal Year 2022 investment in the arts is essential to New York's multi-year recovery, our collective spirit, and the revival of local economies," NYSCA Chairwoman Katherine Nicholls said. "Since NYSCA announced their opportunities for Fiscal Year 2022, they have deployed critical funding and hosted numerous virtual convenings on an expedited timeline to reach the outstanding arts organizations and artists of New York State. On behalf of the Council, I am proud of their dedication to reach new applicants - including new partnership grants - which in turn will inspire artists and the communities in which they create."

    “This is an amazing accomplishment for the Museum Association of New York,” said MANY Board President Suzanne LeBlanc. “What we are about to do for a hundred museums across the state with the support from NYSCA, is far-reaching and will make a huge impact on museums and museum professionals in New York State.”

    This grant program partnership with NYSCA was developed in direct response to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Partners for Public Good (PPG) study “Market Analysis and Opportunity Assessment of Museum Capacity Building Programs” report published in March 2021.

    “Advancing and supporting America’s museums through our research efforts is core to IMLS’s mission,” said IMLS Deputy Director of Museum Services Laura Huerta Migus. “That this report inspired direct action and success on this scale is inspirational and an important model for the field.”

    Guidelines will be available on the MANY website in January 2022 and the application portal will open in February with applications accepted through April and announcements made and funds distributed in May. 

    For more information email info@nysmuseums.org or call 518-273-3400.


    # # #

    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. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums 

    About the New York State Council on the Arts 

    The Council on the Arts preserves and advances the arts and culture that make New York State an exceptional place to live, work and visit. The council upholds the right of all New Yorkers to experience the vital contributions the arts make to our communities, education, economic development, and quality of life. Through its core grantmaking activity, the Council on the Arts awarded more than $40 million in FY 2021. Through the statewide grants and regrants program, the council supports the visual, literary, media and performing arts and includes dedicated support for arts education and underserved communities.

    The Council on the Arts further advances New York's creative culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the council is an agency that is part of the Executive Branch. For more information on NYSCA, please visit www.arts.ny.gov, and follow NYSCA's Facebook page, Twitter @NYSCArts and Instagram @NYSCouncilontheArts

  • October 12, 2021 10:30 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Partners with Museum Hue to Produce “Museums Support Democracy” series

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce Museums Support Democracy, a series of six virtual programs created in partnership with Museum Hue and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

    Programs will explore Museums and Civil Rights, Visual and Performative Protest, Environmental Justice, Healing Historical Legacies, Ethical Collections, and Multiplying Interpretive Lenses. Each topic will be presented and discussed by museum professionals from a broad range of locations and disciplines featuring the work of culturally responsive museums. 

    “Museums serve vital roles as educational, cultural and historical resources for our communities,” Congressman Paul Tonko said. “This pandemic shuttered museums across the nation and—without strong federal support—threatens to close many facilities permanently, endangering tens of thousands of jobs and risking the loss of treasured heritage. Since the beginning of this crisis, I have pushed for critically-needed relief for these cultural sites. I am ecstatic to see funding delivered through our American Rescue Plan and congratulate the Museum Association of New York on this deserved award that will give voice to diverse perspectives and enable museums to continue to educate and inspire those in our Capital Region and beyond.”

    “With NEH ARP funding, the Museums Support Democracy virtual program series will allow us to partner with Museum Hue and combine expertise to inspire museum professionals across the nation as we approach the US Semiquincentennial,” said MANY Executive Director Erika Sanger. “We are honored to be able to share the exceptional work being done in museums  who work with communities, audiences, and stakeholders to promote democracy."

    “Many of our museums' approaches and pedagogy places people and community care at the center of their practice and makes meaningful connections between their constituencies' experiences and their offerings (exhibitions, programs, and social services). They provide the framework and thought-leadership needed today more than ever to push forward racial, cultural, and economic equity,” said Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham, Executive Director of Museum Hue.

    These programs will bring together like-minded people who are separated by geography, discipline, and the size of their institutions but joined together by similar issues and passions.

    This is the second MANY virtual program series produced in partnership with Museum Hue. In 2020, “Essential Work in the Cultural Field” a five-part virtual discussion series featured museums working with their communities to address urgent needs exacerbated by the national health and economic crisis. That series reached hundreds of museum professionals in 31 states. 

    Museums Support Democracy programs will be held January - March 2022, participation free, advance registration required. 



    For more information email info@nysmuseums.org or call 518-273-3400.

    # # #

    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. Visit https://www.nysmuseums.org 

    About Museum Hue

    Museum Hue is a nationally recognized organization that works to paint a larger portrait of the arts and culture field by providing greater support and recognition for Black, Indigenous, and people of color throughout museums and other cultural entities across the United States. Founded in 2015, Museum Hue has partnered and collaborated with arts and culture entities throughout the nation. Visit https://www.museumhue.com/ 

    About the National Endowment for the Humanities

    Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov 


  • September 30, 2021 9:38 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)


    Outside The Rockwell Art Lab on Market Street in Downtown Corning, NY


    Dear Friends, Members, and Supporters,

    I write from Great Camp Sagamore on day two of the Museum Institute. It is sunny and  cold by the lake. By the end of the week, most of the green leaves on the trees will turn red and gold. The remarkable presenters are challenging us to believe in our power to create positive change in partnership with our fellow arts, history, and cultural organizations and with our community. 

    The extraordinary historic structures, the fabulous food, and the collaborative nature of the Museum Institute makes coming here to learn together a unique experience. Twice a day we hear the shuffle of feet on the road and a Sagamore staff person talking about the Vanderbilt family, the architect Durant, and how this National Historic Site was created and maintained. The tours reminded me that Great Camp Sagamore is more than a site for learning and gathering. It is a tourist destination that helps fuel the Adirondack economy. 

    Many of our state’s museums are tourist destinations that continue to operate in the face of enormous challenges as we approach the end of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums that before the pandemic created programs and spaces for interdisciplinary conversations, partnered with schools and libraries to promote civic education, and encouraged multi-generational learning through family programs were equally devastated, but are perhaps recovering a bit faster because of their deep roots in their communities.

    Grants from federal and state agencies through the American Rescue Plan funds are helping museums on the road to recovery by funding programs and operations. I believe that the future financial sustainability of our organizations will go beyond tourism and destination marketing to capacity building programs that emphasize the ways in which museums engage with their community, steward their historic structures, and tell stories that reflect everyone who calls our state and our nation home. I also believe it is time to go beyond data, charts, and graphs and use images to show the ways that museums work with people who pass through our doors and interact with digital media.

    Steve Seidel, the Director of the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education once asked me to consider taking pictures as part of a program evaluation. He challenged me to photograph what learning looked like. With this letter I extend that challenge to you who work in and with museums. What does audience engagement look like in your museum? 

    Do you have images taken before March of 2020 of galleries filled with school students? University students? Do you have pictures that show docent training? Art making? Continuing education programs? A citizenship ceremony? A behind-the-scenes photograph that shows all the people it takes to produce an exhibition? An image of your cafe where visitors are finding respite? Volunteers helping at a festival? These are only suggestions - I know you know where to find the folder with your museum’s favorite images.

    We will begin collecting these images on October 1 to share with the field, with funders, with stakeholders, and with municipal, state, and federal legislative representatives. We will share the images on MANY’s social media feeds that now reach more than 20,000 museum professionals. We want to remind everyone of the important role that museums played in our community before March of 2020 and how we can work together in the future to educate, to enrich lives, and to serve as places of healing. 

    Send your pictures to Megan Eves at meves@nysmuseums.org. Include a caption of 100 words or less with the name of your museum and text that describes the activity in the picture. We look forward to sharing the joy and the hope that these images will bring for the future of our state’s museums.


    With thanks, e





  • September 30, 2021 9:30 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science is developing an affordable imaging system to help museums and libraries preserve and expand access to their collections. Funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities, this project aims to create low-cost spectral imaging systems and software to recover obscured and illegible text on historical documents. This past summer, RIT’s Imaging Science Department partnered with RIT’s Museum Studies department to bring this system and software to three cultural organizations: the Rochester Public Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, and Genesee Country Village & Museum. Students scanned 50 documents and artifacts and provided feedback to the Image Science Department. 


    Working with scientist Tania Kleynhans, Ph.D. (Imaging Science) system, Courtney Barber and Katie Keegan, class of 2021 museum studies graduates, are testing a multispectral imaging system created at RIT and intended to expand access to materials by revealing content that may not be immediately visible due to damage, deterioration, or erasure. This project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Photo by Gabrielle Plucknette-DeVito, courtesy of RIT Museum Studies Program.

     

    Spectral Imaging 

    Spectral imaging collects images of objects across the  wavelengths of light and is an effective way to reveal fading text on historic documents undetectable to the human eye. “If you take a photo with your cell phone, the camera only captures three wavelengths of light–red, blue, and green. Any normal photograph has those three colors because that’s how our eyes work. It’s what we see,” said Tania Kleynhans, Associate Scientist at the RIT Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. “But there are a lot of colors that also have what we would call information. So if it’s a red shirt, only the red light is reflected off of it. What we do with our system is capture the in-between red and green and in-between green and blue and then also further into the shoulder of wavelengths of colors from the ultraviolet to infrared,” explained Kleynhans. “It captures the colors that our eyes can’t see.” Kleynhans and her team developed the software for this system to be able to capture 16 different colors. “Normal software programs like Photoshop are not really geared towards working with pictures that aren’t in three colors.” 



    Using spectral imaging, the process of capturing images of objects in many colors or wavelengths of light, to reveal obscured or illegible text and drawings, museum studies students are imaging historical documents to reveal content that may not be immediately visible due to damage, deterioration, or erasure. The images are acquired by lighting the object with sixteen narrow-band LED sets that are used to illuminate the object, one set at a time. Photo by Gabrielle Plucknette-DeVito, courtesy of RIT Museum Studies Program.

     

    Testing the System 

    Once the system and software were developed, RIT worked with its Museum Studies undergraduate program and travelled with the system to the Rochester Public Library, Rochester Museum & Science Center, and Genesee Country Village & Museum.

    “I choose these three institutions specifically because I wanted to have three different types of institutions like an AAM accredited science museum, a library that may have massive documents, and then another collecting museum that has a lot of assorted materials,” said Dr. Juilee Decker, Professor and Director of the RIT Museum Studies program. “Part of what the students were doing was not just testing the software to help the system become more efficient and user friendly, but also tasked with instruction writing for building and breaking down the system.” 

    The imaging science team was able to build something that was relatively low cost. These systems normally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, this new system costs between $5,000 and $20,000.

    Large institutions, like the National Gallery in the UK have conservation labs with systems like this for use on-site. They are usually framed within the construct of conservation and conservation science. “For me I see this as preventative conservation because discoverability was our goal with the grant, but you can also use the system to see if there are initial stages of wear or deterioration,” said Dr. Decker.

    “A big part of what helped by having this system travel to different sites was to show the curators that it’s not something to be afraid of and that it is something easy to do,” said Kleynhans. “It is possible if you need to use it, use it.”

    Kleynhans noted that while the system has had some great success, it’s also not magic. “Sometimes the [faded or illegible text] is just not there but we can enhance certain areas of a document or can make changes to the color of the document that can make it easier to visualize which does help a lot.”

    “Our goal for this project primarily was discoverability and accessibility. I think that RIT was well-positioned with having both the image science program as well as the undergraduate museum studies program that is predicated around collections, hands-on-experiences, and the intersection of technology. I think this was the perfect match for us.”

     

    Partner Experience and Discoveries

    For Brandon Fess, Librarian at the Rochester Public Library participating in this project was a “no brainer.” “I’d known Juilee [Dr. Decker] for a number of years and she put me in touch with Tania Kleynhans and the rest of the team from the image science department,” said Fess. The library has a fairly modern collection but Fess identified a number of historical documents about which they had questions. 

    One of these historical documents is an 1816 pamphlet about a proposed canal project. “There’s seemingly a blank page and we’ve been trying to figure out if this page was intentionally left blank, missed by the printer, or since it’s iron gall ink, did that page fade?” said Fess. He hasn’t seen the final images yet, but imaging thus far did reveal text on the page but it is still to be determined if it was faded text or reverse text burn from the page underneath.

    Another document was a 1792 manuscript map that shows the modern town of Irondequoit in the northeastern part of the city of Rochester. “The map interested us because it was rediscovered in our collection three years ago. It’s a manuscript piece on valium and it's been hard for me to tell if the map had been an actual draft or if it was a manuscript copy,” said Fess. “Because of the work of the students and Tania [Kleynhans] it is now clear that it is a manuscript copy which helps us contextualize it because we know it is not the only map showing this exact area of that time period. It appears that several of these maps were drawn by the same draftsman for the partners involved with the division of land in that township.”

    The Rochester Public Library also has a large Sanborn map collection. “With Sanborn maps there’s always the issue of having paste-ins.  I have yet to see an unpasted Sanborn map. So I kind of tossed it out there to the team to see if we could read what was underneath the paste downs,” said Fess. “The team said sure we’ll give it a try–not thinking that it’ll work . But when I saw the preliminary results, the team and I were surprised because you could actually see through the paste downs and in fact you could see them quite well.” For Fess and the Rochester Public Library it was an unexpected but appreciated opportunity. “We definitely want to follow up on the 1816 canal pamphlet and would almost certainly want to do a digital reconstruction of the whole pamphlet to make it available.”

    Genesee Country Village & Museum provided a few objects, maps, and journals to the team. “There wasn’t anything that was quite shocking or revealing. I think one coolest things was we were able to see one of the diaries that had a lot of cross outs. It was difficult to read and the imaging allowed us to read what was underneath those cross outs,” said Amanda Wilck, Collections Manager at GCV&M. “We were able to find out that this woman who owned this diary had actually reconstructed her entire list about spinning and the different types of spinning so instead of having ten points there are nine because she crossed one out. It was really interesting to see that in real time and to just read out loud together with the researchers what was being said and learn new information.”

    The RIT team also experimented with scanning a 3D object at GCV&M, a medicine bottle from the mid-1800s. “It is a black medicine bottle that is maybe the size of a liquor bottle today,” said Dr. Decker. “It was really dirty and the label was barely visible but when we imaged it you could really see the imagery on the label pop out and reveal a lot of the details.” Wilck and her colleagues found a reference image online to confirm the label on the bottle. “It was also a case to say that we can actually image 3D items,” said Decker.

    “It was really amazing to see these students get out in the field and do the work,” said Wilck. “They put the whole machine together by themselves. It’s really encouraging to see RIT and its museum studies program move towards that technological route and give their students the agency to get a project like this done.”

     

    Students examine a medieval document from the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. Photo by Gabrielle Plucknette-DeVito, courtesy of RIT Museum Studies Program.


    What’s Next

    RIT hopes that in the next year and a half of the NEH grant to have as many different universities, museums, and libraries using the system and software. “We want to show people what’s available and how it works,” said Kleynhans. At the end of the grant, the documentation for the system and software will be open source and available online for other institutions to use. “A museum or library likely won’t build it themselves, but there are many universities that have engineering departments and their students are often looking for projects for their senior capstones and with information that we supply can be built in-house.”

    RIT wants more museums to come to their imaging science team with their historical documents and use the system and software. “We’re trying to find objects to see what the limitations are with the system,” said Kleynhans.

    “The capacity and the ability that we have as an education system to share this tool and to make it more accessible to institutions across the state is really important to me because part of what we do at RIT and our programs is to provide opportunities for our students who are emerging professionals to work in this space and learn how to use this technology,” said Dr. Decker. “So I feel like we have a real commitment to try to share the knowledge and the capacity that we have here. I don’t want anyone to feel that this is beyond their reach because part of what we’re trying to do is to make this accessible.”

     

    Learn more: https://www.rit.edu/science/spotlights/rit-students-discover-hidden-15th-century-text-medieval-manuscripts



  • September 30, 2021 9:20 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Humanities NY awarded a total of $1.2M in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to 120 NYS cultural nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These SHARP (Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan) Operating Grants focus on organizations with a core humanities mission and range from $1,000 to $20,000. Grants can be used to cover day-to-day activities or ongoing expenses such as staff salaries, utilities, and rent, as well as for humanities programming and professional development. HNY awarded $710,000 to 67 NYS museums located in every REDC region. Other organizations funded include the Greater Hudson Heritage Network who received a $10,000 grant, New York Folklore who received $20,000 and the Museum Association of New York who were also awarded $20,000. 

     

    List of NYS Museums Awarded HNY SHARP Funding

    Albany County Historical Society, Capital Region, $17,000.00

    Chapman Historical Museum, Capital Region, $15,000.00

    Children's Museum of Saratoga, Capital Region, $5,000.00

    Columbia County Historical Society, Capital Region, $10,000.00

    Historic Cherry Hill, Capital Region, $20,000.00

    Irish American Heritage Museum, Capital Region, $5,000.00

    Rensselaer County Historical Society, Capital Region, $15,000.00

    Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Capital Region, $15,000.00

    Underground Railroad Education Center, Capital Region, $10,000.00

    Cayuga Museum of History and Art, Central NY, $15,000.00

    Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, Central NY, $5,000.00

    Erie Canal Museum, Central NY, $10,000.00

    Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, Central NY, $8,500.00

    Oneida Community Mansion House, Central NY, $5,000.00

    Onondaga Historical Association, Central NY, $10,000.00

    Seward House Museum, Central NY, $20,000.00

    Friends of Ganondagan, Finger Lakes, $20,000.00

    Genesee Country Village and Museum, Finger Lakes, $20,000.00

    Geneva Historical Society, Finger Lakes, $10,000.00

    National Women's Hall of Fame, Finger Lakes, $15,000.00

    Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion, Finger Lakes, $5,000.00

    Preservation Long Island, Long Island, $20,000.00

    Three Village Historical Society, Long Island, $5,000.00

    Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, Long Island, $10,000.00

    The Whaling Museum and Education Center, Long Island, $20,000.00

    Committee to Save the Bird Homestead, Mid-Hudson, $5,000.00

    D&H Canal Historical Society, Mid-Hudson, $5,000.00

    FASNY Museum of Firefighting, Mid-Hudson, $10,000.00

    Gomez Mill House, Mid-Hudson, $5,000.00

    Historical Society of the New York Courts, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Hudson River Maritime Museum, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Huguenot Historical Society, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Mid-Hudson Heritage Center, Mid-Hudson, $5,000.00

    Mount Gulian Society, Mid-Hudson, $10,000.00

    Putnam History Museum, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Sing Sing Prison Museum, Mid-Hudson, $15,000.00

    Historical Society of Woodstock, Mid-Hudson, $3,000.00

    Iroquois Indian Museum, Mohawk Valley, $10,000.00

    Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, NYC, $5,000.00

    Coney Island History Project, NYC, $5,000.00

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, NYC, $11,000.00

    Alice Austen House Museum, NYC, $10,000.00

    Historic House Trust of NYC, NYC, $5,000.00

    King Manor Museum, NYC, $5,000.00

    Morris-Jumel Mansion, NYC, $15,000.00

    Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden, NYC, $15,000.00

    Museum at Eldridge Street, NYC, $20,000.00

    Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, NYC, $5,000.00

    Museum of Music & Entertainment in NYC, NYC, $2,000.00

    Old Merchant's House of NY, NYC, $5,000.00

    Queens Historical Society, NYC, $13,500.00

    Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, NYC, $10,000.00

    Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant History, NYC, $10,000.00

    Waterfront Museum, NYC, $5,000.00

    Fulton County Historical Society, North Country, $5,000.00

    Historic Saranac Lake, North Country, $20,000.00

    Fort Ticonderoga Association, North Country, $15,000.00

    Chemung County Historical Society, Southern Tier, $5,000.00

    Chenango County Historical Society, Southern Tier, $5,000.00

    Corning Painted Post Historical Society, Southern Tier, $10,000.00

    The History Center in Tompkins County, Southern Tier, $20,000.00

    The Buffalo History Museum, Western NY, $10,000.00

    Fenton Historical Society of Jamestown, Western NY, $5,000.00

    Niagara County Historical Society, Western NY, $5,000.00

    Old Fort Niagara Association, Western NY, $5,000.00

    Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, Western NY, $10,000.00


    HNY reviewed nearly 200 applications from cultural organizations requesting over $3 million in funding. Just over 60% of applications were funded. HNY prioritized equitable grantmaking by considering geographic location, mission, and the importance of reaching underrepresented communities in its funding decisions.

    “To ensure that recovery funding reaches diverse institutions, HNY provides its resources to smaller organizations,” stated Sara Ogger, HNY Executive Director. “These partners are creative, nimble, and responsive to the needs of their audiences because their leadership reflects the demographics they serve. SHARP funds will help sustain them as they chart a way forward.”

    “Historic Cherry Hill has launched so many game-changing projects over the past couple of years, from the interpretive planning to digital initiatives to a new teen guide program and collaborative educational initiatives,” said Deborah Emmons-Andarawis, Executive Director of History Cherry Hill. “Our HNY SHARP grant will provide general support as we continue this important mission work. We are so honored to have received the highest level of funding.”

    “This HNY SHARP award will support our organization’s ability to present humanities programs, which are in response to our community’s evolving needs and interests,” said Jamie Smith, Executive Director at FASNY Museum of Firefighting. “As the only Museum in Hudson and the only humanities entity open year round, this community and beyond rely on us to bring them programming such as this, and to be a safe space for the community discourse.”

    “This grant is a tremendous help as we build back our organizational capacity during this time of ongoing pandemic-related disruptions,” said Amy Catania, Director of Historic Saranac Lake. “The grant also supports stipends for Humanities Scholars to host public programs in the coming year associated with our next exhibit, ‘Pandemic Perspectives.’”

    “Thanks to the financial support we received, the future of our organization looks to be very promising,” said Jessica Moquin, Executive Director at Chenango County Historical Society & Museum. “As the premier cultural organization in Chenango County whose primary purpose is to offer inclusive and relevant humanities programs, receiving this grant has ensured sustainability for our museum, while allowing us to respond to the needs of our communities.”

    “The HNY SHARP grant will provide “bridge funding” to help us weather the uncertainty of this post-pandemic transition. It will help us maintain staff; this staff will enable us to build upon our hard-earned virtual program success and resume on-site humanities programs when COVID is behind us,” said Eva Brune, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at the Museum at Eldridge Street.

    The objective of the 120 awards is to help organizations mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic by providing budgetary relief while visitation and school trip numbers remain below normal. Operating Grants also aided partners seeking to implement “hybrid” programming that is simultaneously offered in-person and virtually.

     

    See the full list of grants awarded here: https://humanitiesny.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/HNY-SHARP-Operating-Grant-Awards-List.pdf

     

    Learn more about HNY: https://humanitiesny.org/

  • September 30, 2021 9:15 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a special initiative of the Museums for America program. It is designed to support small museums of all disciplines in project-based efforts to serve the public through exhibitions, educational/interpretive programs, digital learning resources, professional development, community debate and dialogue, audience-focuses studies, and/or collections management, curation, care, and conservation. 

    Projects are expected to focus on a key goal identified in the institution’s strategic plan, reflect a thorough understanding of current practice and knowledge about the subject matter, and generate measurable results. 

    Inspire! Grants has three program categories and goals. Prospective applicants should align their proposed project with one of these three goals and one or more of the associated objectives. 


    Inspire! Project Categories

    Lifelong Learning supports projects that position museums as unique teaching organizations. The goal is to empower people of all ages and backgrounds through experiential and cross-disciplinary learning and discovery. 


    Objectives: 

    1. Support public programs, adult programs family programs, and early childhood programs

    2. Support exhibitions, interpretation, and digital media

    3. Support in-school and out-of-school programs


    The Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History was awarded $40,512 to create, pilot, and evaluate field trips and in-class lessons for over 500 2nd and 8th grade students. The Reher Center’s programming will connect students to immigrant experiences form local Mid-Hudson Valley communities, past and present as well as work with educators, teachers, and an evaluator to generate age-appropriate tours and digital lesson plans on the topic of present day and historic immigration in the Hudson River Valley. This will inform the Center’s development of future education programming. 


    Institutional Capacity builds the capacity of small museums to serve their communities by supporting institutional planning and policy development, supporting recruitment, training, and development of museum staff, and supporting technology enhancements. 


    Objectives

    1. Support institutional planning and policy development

    2. Support recruitment, training, and development of museum staff

    3. Support technology enhancements


    The Old Stone House and Washington Park was awarded $20,000 to help expand its permanent exhibition to include a digital component that acknowledges the museum’s presence on Lenape land. The museum will develop, implement, and assess the impact of the digital exhibition and corresponding exhibition programs. 


    Collections Stewardship and Public Access supports the role of museums as trusted stewards of museum collections. This program category focuses on the desire to improve long term collection care. It funds conservation treatments, rehousing projects, cataloging, and increasing collection access via digitization.


    Objectives

    1. Support cataloging, inventorying, and registration; collections information management; and collections planning.

    2. Support conservation and environmental improvement and/or rehousing; conservation surveys; and conservation treatment.

    3. Support database management, digital asset management, and digitization.


    The Cayuga Museum of Art was awarded $50,000 in 2020 to implement “Processing the Past: Digitizing Cayuga County’s Photographic History” which is a comprehensive inventory and digitization project that will complete an unfinished inventory of the museum’s photographic collection of approximately 7,000 still images. The project team will catalog photographs and match them with existing records. The Museum will scan and digitize this collection to maximize the long-term preservation as well as creating a database that allows for increased online access to the collection by researchers and the public.


    Grant amounts are between $5,000 to $50,000 for up to two years and there is no cost share requirement.


    Inspire! Grants for Small Museums uses four performance measures as a basis for understanding how well the grant program is meeting its goals and how individual projects are being managed. 


    Deep Dive–The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor

    Project Category: Lifelong Learning


    The Whaling Museum & Education Center received Inspire! Funding for their Reach! Initiative project that helped the museum expand educational programs to youth in underserved communities on Long Island.  IMLS funding helped the museum reach a new audience and increased community impact.

    This was the first IMLS grant The Whaling Museum has received since 2000. Executive Director Nomi Dayan said that the museum was waiting for the right type of funder for this project.

    “I felt like this worked because when we looked at their priorities it just seemed to align, even though their [IMLS] priorities are broad...they put a spotlight on reaching underserved communities. When I looked at past funded grants to see are they funding exhibits or are they doing more programming and I felt that this project dovetailed with a lot of previous programs that they had funded. I think the biggest change was judging small museums on their own and it makes such a difference,” said The Whaling Museum Executive Director Nomi Dayan.


    Museums for America v. Inspire! Grants for Small Museums

    “For many years we heard anecdotally that IMLS doesn’t support small museums, which isn’t true, but we understand that a lot of museums find it difficult to go through the process of applying for a federal grant,” said Reagan Moore, IMLS Museum Program Officer. “Small museums have been successful with Museums for America but we changed certain aspects of the process to make it simpler...like the narrative isn’t as long and the cost-share requirements isn’t required like it is in Museums for America.”

    “The cost share difference is a big think,” said Mark Feitly, IMLS Museum Program Officer. “I think places not only had the correct perception that they were too small to receive federal funding but they could not come up with the cost share and that it was too much of a challenge for them. We removed that barrier for them to request IMLS funds. [These institutions] can include staff salaries or whatever for cost share and that’s fine, but it is not required and will not affect their [grant] review in any way.”

    IMLS expected between 100 - 115 applications for the first round of Inspire! grants, but received over 200. They funded 30 totaling more than $1.1 million. This strong response confirmed the need for grant funding opportunities specific to small museums.

    Operating through a national lens, it is difficult for IMLS to define  “small.” A small zoo differs from a historical society -- or a museum in Kansas may differ not only in collection size but in metropolitan area population and demographics  from a museum in New York State with the same physical plant footprint. “We’re asking museums to make the case for why they are small,” said Reagan.

    Museums can use the following attributes:

    • staff size (paid and volunteers)

    • operating budget

    • collection size

    • building/property size

    • audience served

    • size relative to other organizations of similar discipline

    • geographical region


    Small Museum

    “We identify as a small museum...our tagline is Small Museum—Big Story and we’re the smallest whaling museum in the country,” said Executive Director Dayan. The museum also specified their budget size, staff, and collection size. “Our collection is the smallest. We have 6,000 objects and the largest whaling museum has 3 million.” The Whaling Museum also incorporated public perception into their small museum identity. “A lot of our visitors who leave online reviews will write ‘small museum but…’ or ‘this place is small but with a huge knowledge of whaling.’ In half of the online reviews, people mention our size because our physical building is small and people are surprised by how small we are when they come, but there is a lot packed in here...so not only do we think we’re small but that’s the public perception too,” said Dayan.


    Funding Allocations

    IMLS funding can support salaries for those working on the project. This can include existing staff or hiring new staff. A majority of applicants request funds to hire temporary staff for the project. For example, a museum could hire a curator for a two year contract position to help them execute the project.

    Peer reviews will comment on the sustainability for salary costs.

    "Reviewers will ask questions about the hire rate and what will happen to that person when the project is over. Successful applications discuss sustainability to keep that person on staff for as long as necessary," said Moore.

    Other examples of this include travel expenses for key project staff and consultants, equipment to improve collections storage and exhibit environments, staff and volunteer training, publication design and printing, program evaluation, adaptive and/or assistive technologies and other resources and services to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, and indirect or overhead costs. All proposed expenses must be explained in the budget justification. 

    IMLS does not fund construction costs, general operating expenses, contributions to endowments, the acquisition of collections, general advertising or public relations costs, social activities, ceremonies, receptions, or entertainment, and research projects. 


    Advice from IMLS for First Time Applicants

    “Successful applicants are the ones who have reached out to us...it’s not always the case but those who take the time on the front end to set up conference calls or email us to get feedback are more successful,” Feitly said.

    “We’re happy to help. We can’t read full narratives...but we’re happy to answer as many questions as possible,” said Moore.

    Moore also suggests having someone from outside the museum read through your application. “Often the application will use insider language, museum jargon, and if it gets to the panel stage in review, those reviewers from different disciplines might not understand.”

    IMLS recommends looking at their website, joining a webinar, and reading project descriptions. Reading through other successful applications is also helpful. “If you read a description and there is something that you want to know more about, you can submit a FOIA request, the Freedom of Information Act, using a form on our website to access that information,” Feilty added.

    He commented that the IMLS website is dense but it has a lot of resources. “We’re sharing exactly what we’re asking our reviewers to do in their assessment. You can see at what we’re asking our reviewers to evaluate and incorporate that into your narrative as well.”


    Successful Applicant

    The Whaling Museum focused on a well-rounded project and looked at the needs of the community. Director Dayan was also a peer reviewer for IMLS for three years.

    “I would encourage anyone to do that because it helps you get an insider’s view into the application process. When you read proposals side by side you start to see how applicants write a compelling case whether it’s the language they use or the content and approaches that they are taking," said Dayan.

    Director Dayan added that judging applications improves your writing and grant planning.  Dayan also recommends looking at examples. “Under the Freedom of Information Act you’re allowed to request copies of any funded grant...Don’t go at it alone. Look at what other museums have done successfully and try to use that as inspiration in formatting your own grant.”

    Other advice to a prospective applicant? “Communicating why the project matters and what community need it meets. A stranger will be reading this who has not been to your museum. For me it’s not enough to say kids will learn about whaling history but why it’s important for kids to learn about whaling history,” said Dayan.

    The Whaling Museum connected its strategic plan to the project and cited data. Supporting your narrative with research also strengthens an application.

    “The first thing we do when we have a grant idea is we call and pitch it to the funding organization… ‘is this something that you would fund? How can we strengthen this?’ Reaching out is so important to help you do the best job you can,” said Dayan.


    Other helpful tips?

    • Make sure your application components are consistent

    • Place the narrative questions into your word document when answering

    • Incorporate project impact throughout the narrative

    • Use your supporting documents and help drive the reviewers to your supporting documents

    Further Reading/Resources

    Inspire! Grants for Small Museums

    https://www.imls.gov/grants/available/inspire-grants-small-museums


    FY 2021 Notice of Funding Opportunity

    https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/2021-08/fy22-oms-igsm-nofo.pdf 


    IMLS Apply for a Grant

    https://www.imls.gov/grants/apply-grant/available-grants


    Eligibility Criteria

    https://www.imls.gov/grants/apply-grant/eligibility-criteria 


    Sample Applications

    https://www.imls.gov/grants/apply-grant/sample-applications


    NYS IMLS Funding Report

    https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/imls_funding_report_new_york.pdf


    IMLS Webinars

    https://www.imls.gov/webinars



  • September 01, 2021 9:16 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is seeking museum professionals interested in serving on the Board of Directors for the April 2022 - 2025 term from the Capital, Central, Long Island, Mohawk, New York City, Southern Tier, and Western New York Regions.

    We are committed to diversifying the Board by geographic region, museum discipline and budget size, differing abilities, skills, race, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, and age. We welcome applications from people who bring a range of skills and expertise.

    Applicants must be passionate about our mission, comfortable in leadership positions, known for innovation and creativity, constructive problem solvers, happy to share expertise with peers, and familiar with MANY programs.

    To nominate a colleague or yourself, send an application to the Chair of the Nominating Committee, Dr. Georgette Grier-Key via hdesmeules@nysmuseums.org by October 15, 2021. To access the nomination form click here.

    Applications will be reviewed by the Nominating Committee and selected candidates should expect to participate in an informational discussion with the committee as part of the application review. The committee will bring nominations for a full board vote at the December 8, 2021 meeting of the Board of Trustees. Applicants will be notified soon after.

     

    With hope you that you can help us create a Board that reflects all of our state’s museums, 



    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director


  • August 25, 2021 3:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    IMLS Building Capacity workshop for NYC museum participants at Fraunces Tavern Museum on August 11. Photo by Alex Cassetti

     

    Dear Members, Friends and Supporters,

    I was recently in a city that had their bus schedules on scrolling LED boards in their bus shelters. As I waited for my route to be posted, the LED board began flashing on and off with the words “ARRIVAL IS UNPREDICTABLE.” The other folks in the bus shelter gave me side glances as I burst out loud laughing. It seemed a metaphor for my state of mind as I once again masked up to meet the world safely.

    If there is anything that I hope we can take away from the past 18 months of fighting this world health crisis is that we can’t predict what will happen. We can only be as prepared as possible for change and adapt. One of my favorite quotes from the poet Maya Angelou is “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” 

    We know where we have been this last year and a half, and I was heartbroken when I had to tie a mask on again. I know I am not alone feeling stuck in a time machine. We continue our plans to gather safely in small groups this fall. We will be wearing masks and will be following protocols set by the museums in which we will be meeting. In NYC, that will require proof of vaccination. 

    We look forward to seeing you in person and gathering safely, with masks, until this pandemic becomes endemic and our lives become a little more predictable.

     

    With best wishes for the last days for summer,

     

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

  • August 25, 2021 2:36 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Founded in the 1970s by preservationists from across New York State, the primary goal for the Preservation League of NYS was to ensure that preservation had a centralized voice for the entire state. Today, Preserve NYS works with individuals, organizations, and municipalities to support historic preservation projects and strategically invests in rehabilitation projects through two signature grant programs Preserve New York (PNY) and Technical Assistance Grants (TAG). 

    Preserve NYS

    “A big part of our mission is helping to influence policy that ensures that historic preservation always has a seat at the table, especially when it comes to economic development,” said Janna Rudler, Grants and Technical Services Manager. “The League’s mission goes beyond advocacy though… we champion projects that show the essential role of preservation and community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, protection of our historic buildings, and historic landmarks.

    Preserve NYS supports its mission through a number of programs  including technical services, educational programs, outreach, webinars, and working with colleague organizations like municipalities or local preservation groups such as Preservation Association of the Southern Tier (PAST), Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY), Preservation Buffalo Niagara, and Preservation Long Island. “We work with our colleagues across the state to make sure that they are empowering people in their communities to help save their historic buildings,” said Rudler.


    The Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY received a $10,000 PNY grant in 2019. Photo courtesy of Preservation League of NYS


    There is also an Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards program that highlights projects, organizations, publications, and individuals that exemplify best practices in historic preservation. Awards are considered based on level of statewide significance, impact on underrepresented communities or overlooked history, effective solutions to current preservation issues, degree of difficulty faced, level of impact on the community, region or state, display of collaborative efforts, and design sensitivity to the historic character and fabric of the property. Previous award winners include the Graycliff-Isabelle Martin House, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Albany Housing Authority’s rehabilitation of houses in Albany’s South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods, including providing administrative space for the Albany County Historical Association.


    Grant Opportunities


    Preserve New York (PNY)

    Preserve New York provides grant funding for historic structure reports, building condition reports, cultural landscape reports, and cultural resource surveys. Applicants must be a unit of local government or a non-profit organization with tax-exempt status. 

    Grants made provide support for up to 80% of the total project cost; usually between $3,000 and $10,000.


    Technical Assistance Grants (TAG)

    Technical Assistance Grants provide support for consulting projects that will preserve cultural and historic resources. TAG supports professional services including architects, engineers, and other preservation specialists working with non-profit organizations and municipalities to preserve their buildings, structures, and other resources that serve an arts and/or cultural function. 

    Grants are up to $4,000 with a required 20% project cost match. 

    “Both grant programs focus on preservation planning,” said Rudler. “These are grants that help provide technical assistance and guidance on saving buildings. Both grants are intended to pay consultant costs to produce studies that help an organization see its way forward with their building if they’re not sure where to begin.” Rudler also said that these grant programs are helpful to organizations that know that something needs to be restored or preserved but are not sure who to contact. “Preserve NY can provide an architect or engineer that has a preservation background who can ensure any work done will preserve the historic integrity of the building.”


    The Cayuga Museum of History and Art was awarded $3,920 in TAG funding in 2021 for its Willard-Case Mansion and Carriage House roof investigation. Photo courtesy of Preservation League of NYS


    TAG was launched in 2012 to support specific projects that preserve NYS cultural and historic structures. “Our Technical Assistance Grants are a little smaller in terms of awards and they cover discrete projects relating to buildings and looking at specific issues,” said Rudler. “For instance, building condition surveys that look at a particular condition that a building is facing like windows or roofs.”

    Buildings do not have to be listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places to qualify for either grant program but the review panel does consider the architectural and/or historical significance of the building as part of the application evaluation process. 

    Both grants are partnership grants. “Our primary funder for these grants is the New York State Council on the Arts,” said Rudler. “NYSCA partners with us because they want to provide money for historic preservation but they like having the professional, vetting, and oversight that the Preservation League provides.”

    The Preservation League of NYS also received funding from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to support non-profit organizations on Long Island. “The Gardiner Foundation has supported PNY grants since 2017 but in 2020 they began providing funding for TAG for Long Island.” In addition, TAG also receives support from the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area (Hudson River Greenway). 

    “These preservation planning grants can help leverage larger capital grants down the road,” said Rudler. “For example, if you’re applying to the Environmental Protection Fund or through the NYS Consolidated Funding Application, having a Preservation League grant funded preservation study done first can give you a leg up because the state will see that you have done the preparation. So our grants have helped a lot of organizations. They start with a Preservation League grant and the resulting document and guidance helps them fundraise, apply for other grants, and lends credibility to their project.”


    2021 PNY Grant Recipient–The Science Museum of Long Island’s Norwood House & Carriage House, Photo courtesy of Preservation League of NYS


    In 2021, 32 applicants in 25 counties received a total of $297,996 in Preserve New York grants. Grant funded projects include a historic landscape report at Quarry Farm on the outskirts of Elmira, a building condition report for the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society–built in 1882 and the oldest surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario, and the Science Museum of Long Island’s Norwood House & Carriage House, and Leeds Pond Preserve. The building condition report helped inform and reorganize building space use, catalyzed preservation and restoration capital projects, and supported their plans to integrate the Leeds Pond Preserve into a museum campus. 


    Advice for Prospective Applicants

    “The first thing that I like to tell people is that our grants are fairly easy to apply to,” said Rudler. “We’re guided by the NYSCA application process but our process is a little more streamlined because these grants are so specific.” Preserve NYS also offers webinars to learn more about what the grants fund, what kind of eligibility is required, and general application tips. There are also a series of help sessions offered over Zoom that provide one on one help. 

    “We really like to provide a lot of support along the way. These grants are often the first grants that an organization applies for because they are the basis for larger grants later on.” Preserve NYS also provides a list of consultants that successfully completed grant-funded projects. “Applicants can access this list and that can help them choose the right consultant, especially if they don’t know where to start.”


    Pre-applications are now open for the 2021 Technical Assistance grants. 

    Pre-application is required to determine eligibility. Please review the TAG grant guidelines before completing the pre-application. 

    Pre-application deadline: Monday, October 11, 2021

    Grant application deadline: Friday, October 15, 2021

    Learn more about the Preservation League of NYS grant opportunities: https://www.preservenys.org/grants

    Learn more about previously funded projects: https://www.preservenys.org/pny-recipients 

  • August 25, 2021 2:33 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    At Watkins Glen, Tim Caza (L) and Dennis Gerber (R) deploy one of the RV Voyager's two side-scan-sonar survey units in preparation for examining the lake bottom in that area.


    Through underwater exploration, The Seneca Lake Archaeological and Bathymetric* Survey Project aims to preserve the history of New York’s Canals. The project uses state of the art equipment to capture never before seen images of intact Canal shipwrecks from the early 19th century discovered in the deepest parts of the lake. 

    This research project is a collaboration between the New York Power Authority, NYS Canal Corporation, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Museum, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Middlebury College, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and the Finger Lakes Boating Museum  where it will inform future interpretive plans. 

    The Seneca Lake Archaeological and Bathymetric Survey Project is occurring under permit through the NYS Museum and all remains and artifacts of the vessels discovered are the property of the State of New York.

    *Bathymetry is the measurement of the depth of water in oceans, rivers, or lakes. Bathymetric maps look a lot like topographic maps, which use lines to show the shape and elevation of land features. On topographic maps, the lines connect points of equal elevation. On bathymetric maps, they connect points of equal depth. –National Geographic

    The Project

    Art Cohn is the project’s principal investigator and scholar. He began conducting underwater archaeological surveys on Lake Champlain where he partnered with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. His focus turned to the Erie Canal and the Finger Lakes after working with NYS Canal Corporation and the Corning Museum of Glass’ 2018 GlassBarge project that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company relocating to Corning via New York’s waterways in 2018. Cohn and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum invited people aboard the Lois McClure that towed the GlassBarge to learn about what life was like on board a 19th century canal barge.  Cohn also created an educational booklet for the project. This experience ignited his ideas about the Seneca Lake shipwrecks. 


    Survey specialist Tim Caza prepares the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to be sent to record a shipwreck in the deep waters of Seneca Lake.  


    “In the booklet that I put together at the request of the Corning Museum of Glass, I teased the shipwreck story… by looking at Seneca Lake and what lies beneath,” said Cohn. “In doing this research we’ve gotten a little glimpse at the amount of activity on the lake.t is hard to appreciate that kind of work today with all the beautiful vineyards, but this was a hardworking canal-related waterway with many canal boats doing the work of today's interstate highways and tractor trailers.” Through his research and experience underwater mapping Lake Champlain, Cohn knew that there were cultural resources submerged in Seneca Lake. “I was convinced that Seneca Lake had the potential to produce a number of early canal shipwrecks and if we hit the grand slam we might even find a packet boat, the missing link in canal boat types archaeologically speaking. The wonderful incentive is that we are in the bicentennial period and the Buffalo Maritime Center is building one using what we know about construction 200 years ago with artwork and descriptions of packet boats for reference. Before now, we had never located an archaeological example.” The discoveries from the project come at the same time as an ongoing State-supported replica construction of the Seneca Chief, Governor DeWitt Clinton’s 1825 Canal packet boat, at Buffalo’s Canalside Longshed Building. On October 26, 1825 Governor Clinton journeyed from Buffalo to New York City on the Seneca Chief carrying two wooden barrels of Lake Erie water. Eight days later, he arrived at New York City and emptied the water into the Atlantic Ocean to marry the waters as a symbol of the importance of this canal.


    The Erie Canal at Salina Street in Syracuse NY c. 1900. Library of Congress 


    Packet boats traveled east and west along the Erie Canal from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. Even before the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, these passenger carrying packet boats began operating on the newly completed sections of the canal. Packet boats provided a smooth and speedy alternative to the stagecoaches operating on the often rough road systems until railroads began offering passenger service. Most packet boats fell out of use before the invention of photography and most of what is known of their design comes from paintings and illustrations. 

    Expeditions since 2018 have uncovered 17 vessels in their studies of Seneca Lake including what is believed to be the first-ever identified intact remains of a canal packet boat dating back to the early 1800s. “It doesn’t often happen quite that well,” said Cohn. “It’s a great reaffirmation that New York waters contain submerged cultural resources. We as a society need to know that, inventory them, protect them, learn from them, and preserve them for the next generation.”


    Finger Lakes Boating Museum

    The project originally included the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, but as the dynamics of the project shifted towards Seneca Lake and the Finger Lakes region, Cohn began thinking about where he wanted to center this phase “Where do we want to interpret what we find, where would you want to build the education programs, where would you want to start the exhibition design and it’s a Finger Lakes project,” said Cohn. Cohn searched for a Finger Lakes museum partner. 


    Outside the Finger Lakes Boating Museum in Hammondsport, NY


    “Art Cohn came to the museum a couple of years ago to give a talk about his underwater studies and told me that he was planning on relocating to the Finger Lakes region to start mapping underwater wrecks,” said Finger Lakes Boating Museum Executive Director Andrew Tompkins. The Finger Lakes Boating Museum agreed to serve as the administrative hub and fiscal sponsor for the survey project.

    The Finger Lakes Boating Museum has over 200 boats in their collection built in the region   between the early 1900s to the 1960s. The museum moved into the historic former Taylor Wine Company just outside the village of Hammondsport in 2014, to a 14 acre campus with 18 buildings. Tompkins saw this partnership as an opportunity for the museum to expand its interpretation.

    “Cohn brings a lot of expertise and this would be a completely different aspect to our museum,” said Tompkins. “It would help us expand from just pleasure crafts as well as bringing recognition to our museum. This research could bring in an entirely new thing about boating in the Finger Lakes for our museum to interpret in terms of these underwater wrecks and the underwater canal boats,” said Tompkins. “It’s something we’ve never really focused on before. The museum has a steam boat room where we interpret how steamboats pulled canal boats into the canal system but we’ve never really focused on canal boats.” Tompkins noted that there just aren’t a lot of canal boats left anymore. “What we have are small, hand built, scaled models. So to be part of this project is so important.” In addition to being the project’s administrative hub and fiscal sponsor, the Finger Lakes Boating Museum will also house the space to interpret the project. 


    Inside the Finger Lakes Boating Museum


    “I was impressed with the level of enthusiasm at the Finger Lakes Boating Museum,” said Cohn. “They’re kind of an up and coming museum and are doing the hard work to make the museum sustainable and looking towards the future.” Tompkins is the only paid full time staff person at the museum, but is working with the museum’s board to develop a plan on what kind of staff will be needed to accomplish these goals. The museum is also looking at plans and ideas of how the museum campus will look in the future. Some buildings are already undergoing renovation including a new visitor’s center that is expected to open next spring. Tompkins envisions that at least one building will be devoted to the project.

    “We’re on board to help Art and this project and are excited to bring more recognition to the museum and bring a whole new aspect to our interpretation.” 


    NYS Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

    One key goal of this project is to use the discoveries made during this exploration to enhance future curriculum and educational material for students learning about the Erie Canal and the State’s Canal system. 

    The NYS Canal Corporation in partnership with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor hopes to develop a series of educational resources working with teachers from school districts throughout the Finger Lakes region for NYS teachers and students in grades 6-12.

    “This is an exciting moment in the storied history of our State’s Canal system as we discover and further document these new artifacts,” said NYS Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The underwater research done in Seneca Lake will educate future generations and will also entice travelers to visit the Canal system to experience it for what it really is – a scenic waterway that tells the story of how New York emerged as the Empire State, and how our nation’s westward expansion was made possible.”

    “This collaborative effort is another example of how our extraordinary Canal heritage continues to be part of understanding and solving today’s challenges,” said Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Executive Director Bob Radliff. “We are excited to partner with the New York Power Authority, Canal Corporation, and Art Cohn and his research team, along with numerous Finger Lakes schools, to develop Next Generation learning opportunities.” 


    Future

    Researchers will continue their work through this fall and in the years ahead on Cayuga and Keuka Lakes. Cohn’s findings will help teach the public about the Erie Canal’s past during its bicentennial celebration that runs through 2025. The discovered vessels, many covered in zebra mussels, are described by Cohn as time capsules and informers of the past. “If you don’t share it with the public then you’re not doing your job,” said Cohn. “A big part of my job is to figure out  the many different ways I can make this information available.” Cohn’s findings are already being shared at free public lectures throughout the Finger Lakes this summer and at the Finger Lakes Boating Museum and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. 

    For Cohn and this project, partnerships have been essential. “The more ways we can develop the information that can be utilized by organizations and institutions to help share a body of knowledge with the public then we’re going to do that as best we can.”


    Learn more about this project: https://americancanalsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Seneca_Lake_Survey_2019_ONLINE_VERSION.pdf 

    Learn more about the Finger Lakes Boating Museum: https://www.flbm.org/
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