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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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  • January 12, 2021 12:41 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 by Rowland Scherman, Courtesy of NARA

    Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

    On January 6, as I watched the white supremacist, fascist mob breach and defile the halls of Congress, learned about the stabbings at the Capitol in Albany, and read about the Confederate flag tied to the door of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was stunned. After a couple of anxiety-filled days and mindless activity, I moved to a place of outrage and renewed my commitment to take action and speak out.

    The violent, attempted overthrow of our democratic republic on January 6 has renewed my commitment to defend the Constitutional rights of all who call the United States home. The House of Representatives has drawn up Articles of Impeachment against the man who occupies our nation’s highest political office for inciting violence against the government of the United States. I hope you have contacted your legislators to express your outrage at this attempted insurrection and the preferential treatment of the white perpetrators.

    I stand with those who believe statements without action are an insufficient response to tyranny. In 2019, we secured a twelve-venue tour of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America to help New York museums address the ways in which our nation has been wrenched through years of ineffective and racist leadership.


    The exhibition will begin its New York tour in March of 2024 and conclude in January of 2026. MANY will help museums prepare companion exhibitions and programs to tell their community’s story and engage audiences in the democratic process. The project will culminate with a single exhibition distilled from the twelve companion exhibitions. It will open in time to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and help museums promote the role of New Yorkers in the growth of our republic.

    History teaches us that this is not the first time our democratic republic has been under siege from within. Museums must use their resources to engage our communities in the process of democracy. You can read more about the exhibition here and look for information soon about how to participate in the New York tour of Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.

    Join us for AAM’s virtual Museums Advocacy Day on February 22 and 23 to call attention to the essential role of museums in our democracy and the critical need for federal support. In the past, the cost of travel and registration has been a barrier to participation for many museum professionals. This year, MANY members are eligible for the $25 discounted registration for the virtual program.

    Call the MANY office or send an email to info@nysmuseums.org and we will send you the registration discount code. AAM arranges the meetings so you can speak to your Legislators and make your case virtually. In advance of the legislative meetings, AAM provides a day of advocacy training. I will be on a panel about advocacy at the state level and hope that you will join us to show that New Yorkers can speak out in the face of the most adverse of circumstances.

    On Friday, January 22 at noon, we will host a Virtual Meet-Up to reflect together on “Where We Are Now.” Marisa Wigglesworth, President and CEO, Buffalo Museum of Science and Tifft Nature Preserve; Billye Chabot, Executive Director, Seward House Museum; and Michael Galban, Curator, Seneca Art & Cultural Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site will lead the conversation.

    Submit your questions for discussion when you register. I am really looking forward to when we can gather safely in person, but until then, see you January 22 on Zoom.

    With thanks,

    Erika Sanger

    Executive Director

  • December 22, 2020 8:45 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    MANY Profile

    Klaudio Rodriguez, The Bronx Museum of the Arts Executive Director

    Klaudio Rodriguez (left, photo by Brendon Cook, BFA) was named Executive Director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in November after being its interim director since January. We spoke with Mr. Rodriguez to learn more about his role and how he entered the museum field.

    MANY: The first thing we want to do is congratulate you on being named Executive Director at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Can you tell us a little bit more about the museum?

    Klaudio Rodriguez: The Bronx Museum of the Arts is the contemporary art museum in the borough of the Bronx. We’re about to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2021. It started in 1971 in the Bronx county courthouse down the street from us and then moved to its current location in 1982. There was an expansion in 2006 with the addition of the Architectonica designed North Building. We’re actually in the middle of a capital campaign project to do a remodel of the south building. We are one of the only free art museums in the city. We’re the only contemporary art museum in the whole borough of the Bronx. I see the museum as a local, national, and international museum. We expand our reach everywhere, but I think one of the things that makes the Bronx Museum the Bronx Museum is that we are firmly planted in the community. We strive to serve all of our diverse communities. The Bronx is one of the most ethnically, economically, and socially diverse of the boroughs here in New York and in the United States with large Latino, African American, and Caribbean communities. We want to reach those audiences while looking at the broader, international art dialogue. 

    When did you officially take on the role of Executive Director?

    I was officially named on November 13. I had been working in an interim capacity since January. 

    What were you doing before you joined the staff at the Bronx Museum?

    I was a Curator at the Frost Art Museum in Miami Florida for ten years.

    From your time as a curator, what experiences have you found most helpful for your role now?

    In my role as a curator, I learned about managing multiple people. As a curator you're working with a variety of artists, you’re orchestrating a whole exhibition, you’re working with your whole staff...registrars, marketing and PR, fundraising...so a lot of that is very transferable into the work that I do every day here. As a curator in a university museum, I also mentored a lot of students. The ability to work with young people, to empower them, and to inspire them translated well into the work I do here, especially with the education department. FIU [Florida International University] is a majority minority community and a lot of the student body had never walked into the museum or had familiarity with the museum. My task was to make it [the museum] accessible to them and understand how it relates to their daily lives. I feel like there are similar challenges here [at the Bronx Museum of the Arts] as well. A lot of the community surrounding the museum doesn’t believe that the museum is for them. So how do we open it and make it accessible for them and make it of value to them? These parallels are very important and helped me as I was thinking about how to engage with our community and how to open doors for them, breaking down perceived and actual physical barriers. 

    Were those some of the reasons that attracted you to leave your position as Curator at FIU to the Bronx Museum of the Arts?

    Absolutely. One of the only reasons I considered leaving Miami for New York was the type of work this institution was doing, how it's firmly rooted in the community and how it’s really engaged in outreach. That was probably the biggest driver for me to come up to New York.

    Can you describe a favorite day on the job?

    The one that stands out is a few weeks ago when the New York Times article came out on November 13. I was overwhelmed by the support and well-wishers from everywhere. I’m still trying to catch up on my emails, texts, and social media because it’s been such an avalanche. It was a pretty spectacular day. As far as day to day, I mean pre-pandemic, my favorite day on the job here is every day that we are open. Every single day that we are open is a good day. I like to walk the galleries. I like to see and engage with people in the galleries. I can’t do this as much now because of social distancing, but seeing people inside the galleries is always a favorite. Pre-pandemic, I loved exhibitions openings too because besides being a big celebration, it validates all the work my staff was doing. So we celebrate the staff, we celebrate the artists, the exhibition. Those days are very fulfilling and I miss those days and having people together. 

    What are some of your initial and long-term goals for the museum?

    One of the initial goals that I wanted to do was mix things up and find better ways to engage the staff across the museum’s departments. I also want to look at the type of work that we’re doing and how it benefits the community. One of the things that this pandemic taught me was that we do have a very nimble staff. The staff were able to shift very quickly and adapt the things that we were doing before the pandemic. I want to continue that momentum. 

    Then there are the basic goals of stabilizing the museum financially because, like all cultural institutions, it has been a challenging year. We’re a small museum and financial stability is a short-term and long-term goal. 

    As far as other long-term goals, we want to continue to put together a dynamic series of exhibitions, filling the calendar for the coming years with dynamic programming. I’ve been working with our curator on strategizing and planning what that vision is going to look like. We have our 50th anniversary coming up, which of course now it is a little upended with the pandemic so we’re thinking about starting the celebration in the summer and going into the following year. Another thing that excites me is the capital project. It’s a $20 million capital campaign to redo the south side of the museum. It will really remake the museum. We’re hoping to create a new entrance to the museum, a more interactive, outward facing engagement with our audience. 

    What most excites you in this opportunity to lead the museum? 

    I’m a curator at heart. The exhibitions excite me. Sitting with our curator [Holly Block Social Justice Curator Jasmine Wahi] to talk and planning out the next three years of exhibitions is exciting. Thinking about where we will be in two or three years and thinking about what’s important and what kind of dialogues and conversations we want to have around the art. 

    So I think I have a tough question for you. Is there any item in the collection that stands out as a personal favorite?

    That’s a tough one and I don’t think I’m going to answer in the way you want me to answer.

    That is okay! It’s a difficult question for a former curator.

    You know in some ways what I like the most is that I am still discovering the collection. I relish learning about new artists, works, styles and regions. When I was a curator at the Frost [Art Museum], even though my background is Latin American Art, I worked as a generalist. I would do exhibitions on second century Roman Art, contemporary art, video art, fashion, and everything in between. I was always re-educating myself by trying to learn something new. Therefore, of the many reasons that I love the collection [at the Bronx Museum of the Arts] is that I am regularly discovering artists and works that I was not familiar with. Mainly because being from Miami I had less exposure to Bronx-based artists. The depth of the collection here is amazing and I am always discovering something new, I find something and I want to learn more about it. 

    Let’s go back a bit further. Where did you grow up and what was it like to grow up there? 

    I grew up in Miami but that doesn’t tell a whole story. My dad is Nicaraguan and my mom is Croatian. They met in Rome and moved to Nicaragua. They lived there for a few years before moving to Miami. I was in Nicaragua for 5 or 6 years. My parents are immigrants, twice over I guess, but I didn’t have the traditional immigrant experience that a lot of my friends had because I sort of had this different background. My dad studied architecture and had a love for the arts and my mom did too. While we didn’t have a lot of money, it was important for my mother to travel to Europe constantly to see family and that meant I went too. She took me to all the best museums in the world growing up. It was important for her to take me to see all these things and it had a huge impact on my life.

    Did any of those experiences influence your decision to enter the museum field?

    I didn’t know that I wanted to go into the museum field, but I knew that I had to be involved with the arts in some capacity. 

    Looking back, would your 18-year-old self imagine that you would be where you are today? 

    My 18-year-old-self wanted to be an architect because my dad wanted to be an architect. He never completed it, so I told myself that I was going to finish what he started. But I also loved art and went to art school and studied painting. 

    What advice would you give yourself?

    I would tell my 18-year-old-self to stay the course. I think that things happen organically in some ways and I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I don’t know that I could have articulated that when I was 18 necessarily. 

    I studied painting, I studied art history, I studied sociology, I studied architecture, I studied all these different things and I was always learning something more about where my interests lie. I went to art school first because I could draw and that was my first experience learning that just because I could produce something didn’t mean that I was an artist. It takes so much more to be an artist to have this sort of passion for what you do and the commitment to your vision. I learned very quickly that I was more interested in studying it and stepping back away from it and having that dialogue with artists. All those steps were important because it was a period of discovery. It informed me about what I wanted to do and I ended up where I wanted to be. My advice would be to stay the course but explore and experiment and see where it takes you. If I had been too narrowly focused, I don’t think that I would have ended up here.

    Do you have any key mentors or someone who has deeply influenced you? Can you tell us about them? 

    One was a professor at FIU of mine, Juan Martínez [Professor Emeritus of Art History], who passed away recently. He was a mentor that really pushed me into this field. He told me that I could make a living and that I could really do something with this during a time when I was sort of questioning what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I took many classes with him and he just created this love of art and dialogue. 

    The other person who influenced my life was actually someone I never worked with and only had a handful of conversations with and that was Holly Block. She worked with a lot of Cuban artists in the Bronx and she was an expert in the Cuban art field and community. I had been doing a lot of exhibition work with Cuban artists in Miami and she sort of followed what I was doing and she would send me these nice little notes like “Congratulations on this opening,” and I really didn’t know her other than in passing. I came to New York several years ago for a curatorial conference and one of those sessions was held in the Bronx Museum of the Arts and I ran into Holly. We got into a conversation and she was asking me a lot of questions. I didn’t know what she was up to at that point. After I returned to Miami, she called and invited me to come back for a consultation for a Cuban art exhibition at the museum. I flew back up and she asked for my opinion on a lot of things. That’s the best way to get interviewed for a job, when you don’t know that you’re being considered. I was being very critical about a number of things. I think she actually liked that and a few weeks later she asked me to apply for the job. At that point I had no interest in leaving Miami nor my job. I was fairly happy with what I was doing but I applied and flew up for an interview. At the end I hesitated about making the move, but Holly would not take no for an answer. She sold me on the possibilities and here I am. She was the one who told me that I needed to be here. Sadly, I never worked with her. My first day on the job I was told that she was stepping down because she was sick and two weeks later she passed away. But the sole reason I’m here today is because of Holly and you can’t have more of an influence than that.

    Are there any insights you have gained in the past six months about working in a museum that you’d like to share with our museum community? Besides working from home, what has been the biggest change for you? 

    I saw a staff that was creative, innovative, and worked as hard during this period than before. We learned a lot about how we can engage our community without physically being able to do so. My education team stepped up incredibly. Almost overnight our educators produced a full slate of online content. We are very nimble and small enough to move quickly and creatively. For me, I learned a lot and there’s a lot that I will take away from this experience about how to manage, how to keep people motivated, and how to continue the work that we’re doing. If we’re able to do all of this with these obstacles, just think of what we can do without these obstacles. 

    Also, the museum field got together and started working collaboratively on plans to reopen. We [NYC museums] met every Wednesday to create our policies and procedures for reopening. It was nice to see the collaborative, city-wide way of operating that created a bond within the field. But the pandemic has also challenged us to think differently. It’s been an interesting exercise when thinking about the traditional models and how we can adjust and reimagine this model. Hopefully when we come out of this, we take these lessons and implement them in our day to day to continue on. 

    Learn more about the Bronx Museum of the Arts: http://www.bronxmuseum.org/

  • December 21, 2020 1:49 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    In a year that has pushed so much of our work and communication into virtual spaces, MANY has added new programs and resources for members on our website and now we are expanding your access to these resources. Beginning in 2021 all Organizational members will have the opportunity to add up to 9 additional contacts in their membership “bundle.” This means more of your staff, volunteers, and board members can benefit from your Organizational Membership with secure, personal access to MANY’s growing number of members-only resources. 

    What does this mean? Instead of having just one email that can login to your membership, and a second email that receives members-only communications, you can have a total of 10 users–each with their own email and password–who can view program recordings, register for events, and post opportunities to the MANY job board. 

    How does it work? Your current account holder will become the “bundle administrator” who can add members to your “bundle” and will have sole access to the account’s billing and renewal information. Once more individuals are added to your membership bundle, they’ll be able to set a password and will have full access to all the benefits of your Organizational Membership. We will share out more information on adding individuals to your membership in January.

    What are some of the resources our staff will have access to? Our Program Recording page includes the spring and summer Virtual Meet-Up sessions when we gathered together as a community on Fridays to connect, learn, and share ways to support one another in the first six months of the pandemic. Our Fall Programs, which include Humanities NY workshops, a series of discussions co-curated by Museum Hue on museums engaging in essential community work, as well as virtual tours and discussions with organizations in the Capital Region are also available at any time. Your bundle members will be able to register for events and automatically receive any MANY Member discounts for paid programs. Your bundle members will also receive all our MANY communications, including our monthly newsletter, Letter from Erika, and other notices about upcoming programs. 

    What else is coming up in 2021? We are excited that we’ll be extending our partnership with NYCON into the next year so active Organizational Members can purchase NYCON Affiliate Memberships at discounted rates. NYCON Memberships are valid from January 1 until December 31, 2021 so they may not be on the same calendar cycle as your MANY renewals. 

    If you have any questions about your membership, member resources, NYCON or getting your colleagues included in your membership bundle, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the MANY Administrator, Hadley DesMeules, hdesmeules@nysmuseums.org

  • December 21, 2020 1:44 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear MANY members, friends, and colleagues,

    As we prepare to put behind us a year that changed our lives, I am filled with gratitude for our museum community. Your calls, emails, notes in chat boxes, and social media comments gave us the hope and energy to face an unknowable future together with resolve and resilience. 

    We will need to find ways to sustain ourselves in the face of insufficient federal aid. I believe our strength as a field lies in our ability to remain creative, flexible, and adaptive. When we finally reach the other side of the pandemic, the need to advance equitable staffing practices, generate sufficient funding, and improve digital communications will still exist. In the face of so much loss, it may be hard to reflect upon and change the ways we add to our collections, develop our programs, and serve our communities, but success will come through rebuilding to fit new circumstances. 

    An article by James West Davidson in the July 9 Atlantic Monthly imagined the chapter in a future history textbook about the year 2020. A single chapter will never hold all this year has brought. Future authors and curators will dedicate entire books and exhibitions to this year. 2020 will become a signifier in the same way we understand 1492,1609,1776, and 1861. 2020 will be a symbol, a sound, and an image. It will take the distance of time to distill all of its meanings and learnings. 

    It falls to us to do the work to help future generations hear us loud and clear. Those of us who have lived through this year won’t be able to step back far enough to see the long term effects of 2020. But we can gather the evidence, collect the data, and share the incalculable loss to help future museum colleagues make sense of this year and ensure our museums continue to be integral and essential community partners.

    Look for a survey of NY Museums in the first quarter of 2021 so we can continue to hear you loud and clear. We need your support now so that MANY can be there to serve you as a vital resource, an ally, and an advocate. Every dollar helps. Click here to donate today and let us know how MANY can help you.  


    With gratitude and best wishes for the new year,

    Erika Sanger

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

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

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

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

    Total Amount of Funds Dispersed by Grant Round

    Total Number of Grants by REDC 

    Total Amount of Funds by REDC

    Round 1

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

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

    Round 1 Grantees

    Anderson Falls Heritage Society

    Black Rock Historical Society

    Brentwood Historical Society

    Broome County Historical Society

    Clinton County Historical Association

    Darwin R. Barker Library and Museum Association

    Fulton County Historical Society

    Gates Historical Society

    Hastings Historical Society

    Historic Red Hook

    Historical Society of the Tonawandas, Inc.

    Historical Society of Woodstock

    Howland Stone Store Museum

    Interlaken Historical Society

    Java Historical Society

    Lodi Historical Society

    Macedon Historical Society

    Mastic Peninsula Historical Society

    Montgomery County Historical Society

    National Bottle Museum

    Nunda Historical Society

    Oswego County Historical Society

    Peekskill Museum, Inc.

    Preservation Association of the Southern Tier

    Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association

    The Warsaw Historical Society and Gates House Museum

    Town of Madison Historical Society

    Town of New Scotland Historical Association

    West Bloomfield Historical Society

    Wappingers Historical Society Inc.

    Yaphank Historical Society

    Round One of Grants by REDC

    Round One Grant Amount by REDC

    Round Two

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

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

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

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

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

    Round Two Grantees

    Beacon Historical Society

    City Island Historical Society

    Constable Hall Association, Inc.

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance

    Friends of City Reliquary, Inc.

    Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh

    Greece Historical Society

    Livingston County Historical Society

    National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum

    North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association

    Phelps Mansion Museum

    Sodus Bay Historical Society

    The Coney Island History Project Inc.

    The Historical Society of the Town of Chester

    The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society

    Waterville Historical Society

    Webster Museum and Historical Society

    West Seneca Historical Society and Museum

    Round Two Number of Grants by REDC

    Round Two Grant Amounts by REDC

    Round Three

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

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

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

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

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

    Round Three Grantees

    Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station Society

    Bundy Museum of History and Art

    Canal Society of New York State, Inc.

    Chenango County Historical Society & Museum

    Cincinnatus Area Heritage Society

    Cobblestone Society

    Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society

    East Bloomfield Historical Society

    Freeport Historical Society

    Gates Historical Society

    Half-Shire Historical Society

    Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands

    Irish American Heritage Museum

    John Brown Lives

    Robert Jenkins House and Museum

    Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry

    Slate Valley Museum Foundation

    Sodus Bay Historical Society

    The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation

    The Steel Plant Museum of Western New York

    Round Three Number of Grants by REDC

    Round Three Grant Amount by REDC

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

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

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

    Greener Museums in 2021?

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

    Logo, company name Description automatically generatedIndigoJLD Green + Health; info@indigoJLD.com

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

    MANY: What is your favorite NY museum and why? 

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

    George Eastman Museum

    Corning Museum of Glass

    What NY museum building projects have most interested you? 

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

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

    Queens Botanical Gardens

    Has environmental impact always been a concern in your work? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Project Participants by NYS Regional Economic Development Region

    Capital Region

    Albany Firefighters Museum

    Crailo State Historic Site

    FASNY Museum of Firefighting

    Hart Cluett Museum

    Historic Cherry Hill

    Irish American Heritage Museum

    Schenectady County Historical Society

    Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site

    Slate Valley Museum

    The Children's Museum of Saratoga

    The Hyde Collection

    The Olana Partnership

    The Sembrich

    Thomas Cole National Historic Site

    Underground Railroad Education Center

    Central NY

    Canal Society of NYS

    Children's Museum of Oswego

    Colgate University Museums

    Erie Canal Museum

    National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum

    Oneida Community Mansion House

    Onondaga Historical Association

    Seward House Museum


    Finger Lakes

    Finger Lakes Museum

    Gates Historical Society

    Genesee Country Village & Museum

    George Eastman Museum

    Holland Purchase Historical Society

    National Women's Hall of Fame

    Rochester Museum & Science Center

    Seneca Falls Historical Society

    Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

    Waterloo Library and Historical Society

    Long Island

    Eastville Community Historical Society

    Hofstra University Museum of Art

    Long Island Explorium

    Nassau County Museum of Art

    Planting Fields Foundation

    Southampton African American Museum

    Southampton History Museum

    The Cradle of Aviation

    The Whaling Museum & Education Center


    Boscobel House and Gardens

    D & H Canal Historical Society

    Ellenville Public Library & Museum

    Gomez Mill House

    Historical Society of Newburgh Bay

    Hudson River Maritime Museum

    Mid-Hudson Children's Museum

    Mount Gulian Historic Site

    Museum at Bethel Woods

    Percy Grainger House

    Putnam Art Council

    Westchester Children's Museum

    Mohawk Valley

    Arkell Museum & Canajoharie Library

    Fulton County Historical Society

    Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute

    Old Fort Johnson

    Rome Historical Society

    Schoharie County Historical Society



    Children’s Museum of the Arts

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

    El Museo del Barrio

    Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College

    Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

    King Manor Museum

    Lower East Side Tenement Museum

    Museum at Eldridge Street

    Museum of the City of NY

    New York City Fire Museum

    New York Transit Museum

    Historic Richmond Town

    Staten Island Museum

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Voelker Orth Museum

    Wave Hill

    North Country

    Akwasasne Cultural Center and Museum

    Fort Ticonderoga

    John Brown Lives!

    North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association

    Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site


    Southern Tier

    Arnot Art Museum

    Art Center of the Southern Finger Lakes

    Hanford Mills Museum

    Roberson Museum and Science Center

    Schuyler County Historical Society

    The Bundy Museum of History and Art

    The History Center in Tompkins County

    The Rockwell Museum

    Western NY

    Buffalo History Museum

    Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve

    Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

    Chautauqua County Historical Society

    Fenton History Center

    Robert H. Jackson Center

    Salamanca Rail Museum

    The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

    Western New York Railway Historical Society

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

    Project Participant Map

    # # #

    About IMLS

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

    About MANY

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

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

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

    Why Virtual Reality?

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

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

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

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

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

    The VR Experience

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

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

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

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

    Is this the future?

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

    Learn more and experience Full Capacity: https://ceramicsmuseum.alfred.edu/

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

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

    What is TikTok?

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

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

    Who’s on TikTok?

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


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

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

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

    Finding an Authentic Voice

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

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

    What’s Next?

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

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

    Learn more and explore the Cradle of Aviation on TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@cradleofaviation 

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

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

    National Endowment for the Humanities

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

    NEH Funding to NYS Museums

    Capital Region

    Historic Cherry Hill


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

    Central NY

    Seward House Museum


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

    Finger Lakes

    George Eastman Museum


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

    Long Island

    Putnam History Museum


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

    Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages


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


    Katonah Museum of Art


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

    Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center


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

    Mohawk Valley

    National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.


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

    Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute


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

    New York City

    American Museum of the Moving Image


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

    Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum


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

    American Folk Art Museum


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

    American Jewish Historical Society


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

    Center for Jewish History


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

    Frick Collection


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

    Jazz Museum in Harlem


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

    Lower East Side Tenement Museum


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

    Museum of the City of New York


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

    Friends of Alice Austen House, Inc.


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

    North Country

    North Country Children’s Museum


    Six months of salary for the executive director.

    Fort Ticonderoga Association


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

    Southern Tier

    History Center in Tompkins County


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

    Western NY

    Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society


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


    National Endowment for the Arts

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

    NEA Funding to NYS Museums

    Capital Region

    Albany Institute of History & Art

    Long Island

    Long Island Children’s Museum

    New York City

    Queens Museum of Art

    Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

    Studio Museum in Harlem

    Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling

    Friends of Alice Austen House


    nstitute of Museum and Library Services

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

    IMLS Funding to NYS Museums

    Iroquois Indian Museum


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

    Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum


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

    International Coalition of Sites of Conscience


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

    Everson Museum of Art


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

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

    Federal Funding to Humanities NY and NYSCA

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

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

    Read more about the CARES Act funding here.

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The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. We provide advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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