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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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  • July 29, 2020 2:20 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Dear Members of the MANY Museum Community,

    We are fortunate that New York State is represented in the US Congress by members of the House of Representatives and Senate whose steadfast support of our museum sector has historically helped sustain our federal funding agencies. New York Congressional Representatives were also instrumental in passing the CARES Act, which included provisions that helped many of us through this worldwide health crisis caused by COVID-19.

    The charts below detail how federal funds included in the CARES Act have been distributed in New York.

    Those funds include distributions to Humanities NY and NYSCA.

    However, as the charts illustrate, the funding was inadequate. If you look at funding that was allocated from the CARES Act to corporations, such as the airline industry, which employs the same number of people as our museums, the response was also disproportionate. New York's museums have an economic impact of $5.4 billion a year; nationally museums contribute $50 billion to our economy.

    Now the federal government has another shot at helping our nation through this crisis. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15th. The Senate’s counter proposals have yet to take shape and come to a vote. We know the bill has the support of our New York delegation. Please take a moment today to reach out to friends and family in other states and ask them to contact their Senators to express their support for the Heroes Act.

    Americans for the Arts has created an easy way to reach out to US Senators to support the arts in the next COVID-19 relief bill. You can use their resources to contact your Senators today.

    July 20th report from the office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand estimates that nearly 850,000 New Yorkers are out of work as our nation approaches the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Although museum professionals are a small percentage of those unemployed, we are essential partners whose work is woven into the social, educational, spiritual, and economic fabric of our communities.

    In aJune survey conducted by the AAM, 16% of museum directors responded that there is a high risk their museums could close within 16 months without additional funding. We have heard from museums who have laid off staff, cut back hours, won’t be opening in 2020, and might not be able to reopen again. We need your help to determine how New York’s numbers compare. Please take two minutes to answer ten questions in this New York-specific survey. We will keep the survey open for the next ten days; please share it widely among colleagues. The report will help make our critical needs clearer to our state and federal representatives.

    We will share the data gathered, the final distribution of funding to Museums from the IMLS, and other insights on Friday, August 21 at noon during our next Virtual Meet Up. Please register here, include any questions that you have relevant to the state of our field now, and join us on August 21.

    One last but important request, tomorrow, Thursday July 20, the New York Council of Nonprofits is leading a Day of Action to reach out to State Legislators and Governor Cuomo to make nonprofit voices heard to make sure that State agencies pay nonprofit contracts fully and on time. Learn how to participate by clicking here.

    Thank you for speaking out for all of our museums.



    Erika Sanger, Executive Director

  • July 29, 2020 2:17 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Under a new strategic plan implemented in 2019, Fort Ticonderoga began to increase access to its collections by expanding its digital impact. The goal was to grow their digital footprint to reach a broader audience across New York State as well as on a national and international level. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Fort Ticonderoga to postpone its opening for the 2020 season, staff took the opportunity to shift time and resources from its front-line on-site experiences and invest heavily in developing online program content. Fort Ticonderoga was awarded $285,358 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) CARES Act to expand its virtual public programming to engage a broad, multi-generational audience. The grant also supported staff positions and allowed the museum to sustain and develop educational programs to serve their audiences as well as reach new audiences.

    Promotional image for Fort Ticonderoga’s Center for Digital History, photo courtesy Fort Ticonderoga

    Increasing Digital Capacity

    “Fort Ticonderoga’s approach isn’t simply digital or on-site,” said Stuart Lillie, Fort Ticonderoga’s Vice President of Public History. “It’s an integration of all we have to offer which will continue far into the future beyond the current constraints. In fact, a site visit is an extension of our digital engagement which has tremendously expanded this year.” Before the pandemic, Fort Ticonderoga invested in creating a new website and made its collections accessible online for the first time, the Center for Digital History, brought the museum’s educational programs into homes and classrooms through live programming and through thousands of museum artifacts. “Due to our rural location in the Adirondacks, providing remote access to our national and internationally significant resources is vital to leveraging the power of our collection and our potential to serve as an educational resource.”

    Fort Ticonderoga’s Center for Digital History 

    With this increase in its digital capacity, Fort Ticonderoga staff responsibilities shifted to contribute their time and resources to help build the Center for Digital History. “Our work as a staff is integrated and multi-departmental,” said Lillie. “They [the staff] have incredible capacity to embrace new opportunities, learn new ways and methods to engage, and do it fearlessly to test concepts to better serve our audiences.” Staff’s work plans were adjusted due to COVID-19 but the work remained consistent with the museum’s strategic plan goals and framework of their institutional long-term plans. “When we began working from home back in March, we looked at our strategic plan and decided how we could best meet these goals in a virtual environment,” said Lillie.

    As the open date for the 2020 season approached, Fort Ticonderoga announced its “Digital Campaign” Virtual Opening” in April when staff knew that the physical reopening of the site would be postponed. The digital campaign played on the 18th century military campaign concept. “Like armies of the 18th century, reality on the ground forced our team to be nimble and adjust our programming based on the limitation of in-person engagement due to COVID-19,” said Lillie. “The increased digital capacity helped us continue to engage our audience and, in fact, increased engagement, while building excitement for when we were able to open the gates once again to visitors.” 

    New Virtual Opportunities

    Investing more into its digital programs and experiences allowed staff to rethink how Fort Ticonderoga used their resources in new ways. The museum’s collection storage space is small and can only accommodate a limited number of people at one time. New reopening guidelines from the state further limits access to this space. Staff set digital programming experiences like “Ticonderoga’s Treasurers” and “Collections Speed Dating” in the museum storage space which enabled broader accessibility to these normally restricted and limited spaces. “Digital program attendees for programs like A Soldier’s Life get to see museum staff and reproductions up-close in a way that would be challenging in a large classroom in-person lecture,” said Lillie. “With online programming, viewers get a front row seat every time.” Fort Ticonderoga saves and records this virtual programming to allow for even more people to share the experience from the comfort and safety of their homes. 

    Image from Fort Ticonderoga’s Facebook Live with Assistant Registrar Tabitha Hubbard who highlighted the museum storage transformation of Fort Ticonderoga’s 17th - 19th century headgear collection. 

    Social Media

    Fort Ticonderoga uses both Facebook Live and pre-recorded videos that are shared on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Staff created a private Facebook page to practice live streams in advance and solve any technical issues. “This was especially vital as we practiced going live while sharing PowerPoint presentations or when testing out new locations where we weren’t sure of the internet quality,” said Lillie. Staff created a schedule for digital programming to be shared on the website and on Facebook. Scheduling content on a consistent basis helped increase engagement and developed an online following for these programs. “Testing out new concepts is what is so exciting about this moment in time,” said Lillie on creating digital content. “We have a talented team and supportive administration that encourages trying out new ideas and constantly pushing the envelope.” Fort Ticonderoga tested out numerous digital programs over the course of four months. The ones that are successful are refined and continue to develop.

    Hands-on Engagement to Digital Engagement

    “Ticonderoga Tuesdays” is a series of free webinars for educators beginning this October. Each webinar will include a presentation by a visiting scholar on a topic related to the French & Indian War or the American Revolution followed by time with Fort Ticonderoga’s Curatorial and Education staff using objects and documents from their collection.

    Fort Ticonderoga launched the Center for Digital History with fewer resources than planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact on their budget.  The NEH CARES Act grant allowed this project to continue into 2020 and provided a strong foundation for the Center to bring Fort Ticonderoga’s digital programming and educational resources into homes and classrooms on a global scale. It also provided resources to develop new digital outreach classroom programs, publish free k-12 lesson plans, work directly with educators through a series of professional development workshops, expand Ticonderoga Collections Online, update computer equipment, develop a studio for creating an editing digital programming, support museum staff salaries, and share lessons learned about the whole process with museum colleagues and community in a webinar that will be conducted later this year. “The keystone of this project is digital programming,” said Lillie. “Our museum staff will not only expand our virtual public programming, but also take this opportunity to make sure that our staff are trained and supported as we transition from a very hands-on model of engagement to a digital one.”

    Reaching New Audiences

    One of the primary goals of Fort Ticonderoga’s NEH grant to support this digital transformation was to engage a broad, multi-generational audience and according to Lillie, the reach of these digital programs has been the biggest positive takeaway. “Among our first virtual classroom programs was a series of A Soldier’s Life programs for a school in Wisconsin,” said Lillie. “Through this new digital medium, it felt as if we were present with these students in the same room. After a moment of reflection, we realized we were actually live, engaging students in many states, and a full time-zone away. It’s one thing to imagine national reach, it’s another to experience that in real-time.”

    Through the Center for Digital History and the latest NEH funding support for From Fort to Screen: Ticonderoga’s Virtual Public Programming, the museum will support twelve lessons that target multiple grades and topics. Fort Ticonderoga will offer a series of webinars for teachers nationwide that will be led by scholars and a teacher moderator and will include primary source documents and objects from the museum collection and connect teachers to the historic landscape and to history experts from across the country. 

    Fort Ticonderoga reopened to the public on June 30th,but will continue it’s online programming. “Our virtual programming will extend far beyond 2020 and we are excited to find ways to continue to blend digital and in-person experiences in the future.”

    Learn more about Fort Ticonderoga’s digital initiative’s here.

  • July 29, 2020 2:14 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Museums have changed their visitor expectations to reopen safely under NYS guidelines. Under these new guidelines, it is even more important to include access and resources for people with disabilities to reopen as inclusive as possible. July marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In commemoration of this important anniversary we are grateful to Tabitha Jacques, Director for the Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf who shared important insight on how museums can accommodate people with disabilities as part of their reopening strategies. 

    Tabitha Jacques, Director for the Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf



    Remain Creative 

    “I think it’s important during these times to be very creative and somewhat flexible,” said Jacques. “COVID-19 precautions are so important, but it also takes away many things such as emotional connection (like a smile) or being able to touch or feel things.” While “Reopen New York” guidelines are critical for museums to follow as they reopen safely for staff and visitors, these same precautions can be harder for people with disabilities. “This is especially harder because on top of a world that is not universally designed, they [people with disabilities] have to deal with even more barriers due to safety protocols,” said Jacques. However, with the challenges that this pandemic creates for museums, it also presents an opportunity for museums to be creative while accommodating people with disabilities. 

    “There’s a good opportunity right now to be creative in opening doors to specific groups at specific times (such as Deaf/Blind visitors), providing the option to pay for their tickets online, and to make sure as much information is available online.”


    Tabitha Jacques leads a tour in the Dyer Arts Center


    Eliminating Barriers

    Whether in person or virtual programming, there are certain barriers for people with disabilities that can deter their visit or from engaging with that museum at all. Videos that are not captioned are immediately inaccessible for deaf or hard of hearing people. “Or if there’s audio tours everywhere, but no printed labels,” said Jacques. “I enjoy learning, and I want to feel welcomed and encouraged to learn. If an environment doesn’t support that, then it’s highly likely that I won’t return, and I will share my experience with my friends who are also deaf, and they probably will not visit.”

    Providing captions is a great way to make your content more inclusive. While some social media platforms need to improve how they offer closed captioning on live videos (such as Facebook Live), there are live captioning apps that will caption speech in real time that can be recorded and shared later. For iOS and Android users, “Clipomatic” is a free app with customizable caption features. 

    For physical spaces, there are ways to keep accessibility costs affordable. “Low cost happens when first designing an exhibition or a visitor experience,” said Jacques. “The cost increases the more the accommodations become an afterthought.”

    To keep accessibility in the forefront when planning an exhibition and to eliminate barriers, Jacques recommends to identify what their needs are in advance. “Set up a committee with people who have various types of disabilities and learn what they need and what they recommend.”

    By planning and designing exhibitions in advance with input from these communities, not only will it help keep costs low but will create a positive visitor experience for people with disabilities. “If you plan or design an exhibition or an event, make sure everything is thought out in the very beginning, and it’s embedded in the whole experience without any add-ons.”


    Tactile Barriers 

    Reopening NY discourages touching objects in order to decrease the spread of the virus, but it creates an access barrier for people who are blind. In a recent article for the American Alliance of Museums, museums are turning to tactile handouts to use as reference as they tour an exhibition or the use of 3-D printed replicas of objects. Others are using disposable gloves for blind visitors to touch things and then easily discarded. For more information we recommend reading AAM’s article here.


    Face Coverings and Accessibility

    Museum staff and visitors are now required to wear face coverings, but when traditional face masks are worn, miscommunication may increase with people who rely on visual communications such as deaf and hard of hearing individuals. To help with this communication obstacle, clear facemasks can allow people to see people’s faces and facial expressions that allow for lip reading. “Basically don’t be afraid to try new things with communicating,” said Jacques. Museums can use pen and paper, or use text on their phones to help with communication. Museums should also use printed signage that answers basic questions such as where the restrooms are located or other visitor expectations. “An added bonus is to have a volunteer who knows ASL [American Sign Language] or who knows how to communicate with the deaf or hard of hearing visitors and have them wear a badge so that visitors can feel comfortable asking for help,” said Jacques.


    Accessibility Online

     MANY’s COVID-19 Impact Report revealed that 81% of museums increased their online presence since closing their doors to the public. More museums are engaging with their followers on social media, and are increasing their museum content by using live tours and online exhibitions. This trend is expected to continue after museums reopen. But not all websites or even social media are friendly nor accommodating for those who are blind or low-vision. “When working on websites or digital offerings we need to make sure that they are accessible for blind or low-vision [users],” said Jacques. “We also want to be sure that webinars and live tours are captioned and if possible, offer ASL interpretation upon request.” Zoom has an option to assign someone as the captionist for a live zoom meeting, if you have an upgraded membership. Providing ASL interpretation for virtual meetings upon request is another way to ensure that these programs remain accessible. Zoom users can pin the interpreter under “Speaker View” so that the interpreter is always visible on their screen. 

    “For social media content, I’ve had our followers request that we provide image and video descriptions so that blind and low vision visitors can access information on graphics that are not accessible through screen readers,” said Jacques. Providing image and video descriptions (also known as “alt text”) is a simple and easy way to do this. “The more museums that do this, the more it becomes a part of our practice when it comes to posting on social media.”


    Final Thoughts 

    “For the deaf community, the basic rule of thumb is: Don’t make the deaf visitor try to communicate through speaking and/or listening. Don’t make assumptions that they can lip-read. Don’t deny the deaf person communication access,” said Jacques. 


    Further Reading/Resources

    Staying in Touch: Addressing Concerns to Allow Tactile Exploration at Museums

    4 Tips for Effectively Reaching Visitors with Disabilities 

    Social Media Accessibility Toolkit

    Enabling for ASL Interpreters on Zoom

    Four Things I Learned When I Started Thinking about Museum Accessibility

    Making Museum Accessible to Those With Disabilities

    Tabitha Jacques is the Director of the Dyer Arts Center and Meeting Planning Services in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Jacques previously worked as an assistive communication technology program manager at the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington State and as an admissions counselor at Gallaudet University. Prior to that, she worked as an exhibit curator, director and producer for the Gallaudet University Museum Project and as an adjunct professor. She was also the special projects coordinator for the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. 

    The Dyer Arts Center at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf provides a better understanding and appreciation of those who identify as, and are allied with, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities by preserving and sharing its world-renowned collection of art. The Center showcases artworks by current students, alumni, and artists who are nationally and internationally renowned. All of these artists are deaf, hard of hearing, and/or allies of the Deaf community.

    The Dyer Arts Center remains closed but is open virtually with webinar presentations and discussions, interesting online art exhibitions about the various aspects of the Deaf community, and engaging social media posts.

  • July 29, 2020 2:12 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    A picture containing drawing Description automatically generated

    The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

    It’s a historic year, and a good time for museums and other cultural venues to refocus efforts on meeting the legal, moral, and curatorial challenges of providing access and inclusion for all people, especially people with vision loss. One important tool is the accessible audio tour – to use in your museum or on your website. We’re going to explore that in a little depth here and review the accessible tour vs. the inclusive accessible tour.

    A picture containing drawing, clock, plate Description automatically generated

    An accessible audio tour weaves together language for the ear, the emotional power of sound, friendly narration, and audio description (AD)Audio description uses words to represent the visual world and helps people who are blind or have low vision participate in visual culture.  Venues have discovered that audio tours written with AD can make exhibitions accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

    Having written and produced accessible tours with AD for more than 10 years, during that time I have seen changes in their design and use. Traditionally, museums created separate AD tours for visitors with sight loss. Museums still successfully use these AD tours. For instance, I have written such tours for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Grand Central Terminal, and the World Trade Center’s One World Observatory. 

    But in the past few years, some venues have explored creating Inclusive accessible tours that serve both visitors with sight and visitors with vision loss. It’s a design that integrates audio description with curatorial or historical information -- an approach that supports inclusiveness, not just accessibility. All visitors share common experiences and are not separated by ability. And producing one tour instead of two is cost effective for a museum.  

    The New-York Historical Society has both types of tours. In the past, the Inclusive tours I wrote were accessible to all visitors whether sighted or blind. The key to a successful Inclusive tour is finding the correct balance of artistic or historical context and audio description, in a length that won’t bore the visitor. A skilled writer, working with the client, needs to determine how much audio description is adequate for a person who can’t see the artwork or artifact and how to integrate it with the other information. Sighted visitors usually appreciate the added level of description because it sharpens their viewing experience (“Oh, I didn’t see that.”) and affirms their perceptions (“Ah yes, I knew that was blue.”) 

    The best thing any audio tour can do, for sighted or blind visitors, is to help them look more closely and carefully. An Inclusive accessible audio tour can focus attention, making for a richer experience, especially for sighted visitors who choose not to read wall labels. 

    That was the result of working with Orpheo recently on audio tours for the new National Museum of the US Army opening later this year in Virginia. We created three Inclusive tours for the museum that integrate historical facts, music, sound effects, narration, and audio description. Both sighted and blind visitors to the museum will be able to enjoy the tours. 

    If there is a downside to an integrated approach, it is that some people with vision loss may want more detailed audio description, and that is a valid criticism. In that case, a museum might add an optional "layer" of AD to a tour. For example, the narrator could prompt a visitor to "press 5 for a detailed audio description of this work." But I have found that in most cases, Inclusive audio tours provide experiences that can be shared by both audiences, whether in a museum or on a website.

    And speaking of websites, a museum can also add recorded audio description to virtual exhibits on its website, for existing exhibits or for new exhibits specifically targeted to visitors who cannot physically visit the museum. Using smartphones, tablets, or computers website visitors can listen to audio description of artworks or objects along with curatorial information. An example is the website American Art, which I wrote for the national advocacy organization Art Beyond Sight. Visitors can hear recordings that combine creative use of sound with audio description to describe works from the Brooklyn Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

    Your museum probably long ago followed ADA guidelines and widened the entrance or installed a wheelchair ramp. Now, make sure visitors with sight loss can not only enter your venue but can have programmatic access to your museum with an accessible audio tour.

    For more on the design of accessible tours and how museum educators or curators can learn the art and craft of audio description writing, visit the website -- www.writingad.org

    A person smiling for the camera Description automatically generated

    Lou Giansante is award-winning writer, producer, and narrator of audio tours for all audiences, with special expertise in writing for children and for people with vision loss. Lou partners with Orpheo creating PWA apps, standard apps and audio guide tours.

    www.lougiansante.org     www.orpheogroup.com/us

  • June 25, 2020 2:15 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce the election  of four new members to its Board of Directors and the election of two members to their second terms.

    Newly elected board members are Mariano Desmarás, Michael Galban, Lara Litchfield-Kimber, and Emily Martz. Peter Hyde and Georgette Grier-Key have been re-elected to their second terms, bringing the total board size to 23. Members of MANY’s Board of Directors serve three years terms and represent museums of all disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic locations as well as partner industries in New York State. 

    “These new and renewing board members bring significant expertise, passion and energy to the work of MANY as it continues to provide resources for, and advocacy on behalf of, all the varied museums in New York State,” said Suzanne LeBlanc, MANY Board President and President of the Long Island Children’s Museum. “They are leaders in the museum field and committed to bringing diverse perspectives to the critical work of our organization as MANY responds to the challenges facing our organization and all museums. I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue to work with Peter and Georgette, and to welcome Mariano, Michael, Lara and Emily to the MANY Board of Directors.”

    “Museum professionals make a significant commitment to support MANY and New York’s museum community when they join the Board of Directors,” said Erika Sanger, MANY Executive Director. “The incredible expertise represented on MANY’s board helps us leverage resources and support our members in ways that would not be possible without their extensive range of skills, knowledge, and talent. Our board is helping MANY through this challenging time and I look forward to our work together envisioning ways to grow and respond to changes in the museum field and our society.”


    Mariano Desmarás is an exhibit designer who has worked with museums for two decades. The owner of Museum Environments, Desmarás has trained and worked in a variety of cultural and linguistic environments. He has designed numerous bilingual exhibits for institutions such as the Museum of Chinese in America, El Museo del Barrio, and the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian. Desmarás is the former Chair of The Latino Network of AAM.

    Michael Galban is the Curator at Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site. He has expert knowledge of Native American material culture and art specializing in eastern woodland culture and has been actively working with the many Haudenosaunee communities to preserve ancient arts for over twenty years. Galban also works as a costume and historical consultant in film and television and on historic site development, most recently with the Museum of the American Revolution on their Oneida Patriots exhibition.

    Lara Litchfield-Kimber has been the Executive Director of the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum since 2012. In 2019 she was named a Noyce Leadership fellow at the recommendation of the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC), and in 2015 was the Athena Leadership Award Recipient for the Hudson Valley. Litchfield-Kimber is currently serving as a member of the board of the Association of Children’s Museums. 

    Emily Martz, PhD is the Executive Director of Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks, which is the steward of Great Camp Sagamore, a National Historic Landmark. Martz’s work in museums combines her past careers in higher education, nonprofits, and business. Martz spent a decade directing the sales and marketing for major fund companies in the Pacific Northwest and in Boston before earning her doctorate in History at the University of Delaware. After teaching she moved into the nonprofit sphere directing the operations and finances for a regional economic development organization.

    Peter Hyde is a highly accomplished designer with over twenty years of experience in the professional design field. Hyde has worked independently and for internationally recognized design firms before founding Peter Hyde Design in 2012. Hyde’s work focuses on providing dynamic and innovative exhibit and experience design solutions. His clients include museums, historical societies, learning centers, science centers, sport facilities, and Fortune 500 companies. 

    Dr. Georgette Grier-Key is the first Executive Director and Chief Curator of Eastville Community Historical Society. Grier-Key is also the President of the Association of Suffolk County Historical Societies and Cultural Partner for Sylvester Manor of Shelter Island. She is an outspoken advocate for the preservation and celebration of Long Island history with an emphasis on African American, Native American, and mixed-heritage historical reconstruction. Grier-Key has been awarded the Legacy Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Central Islip Branch. Grier-Key is the Chair of the Governance Committee

    The full list of board members for MANY is listed below.

    Suzanne LeBlanc, President, Long Island Children’s Museum, Board President

    Brian Lee Whisenhunt, Executive Director, The Rockwell Museum, Vice-President

    Bruce Whitmarsh, Executive Director, Chemung County Historical Society, Treasurer

    Becky Wehle, President & CEO, Genesee Country Village & Museum, Secretary

    Ian Berry, Dayton Director, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Skidmore College

    Billye Chabot, Executive Director, Seward House Museum

    Mariano Desmarás, Creative Director, Museum Environments

    Alexandra Drakakis, Director of Collections Strategy & Archives, The Madison Square Garden Company

    Starlyn D’Angelo, Director of Philanthropic and Strategic Initiatives, Palace Performing Arts Center

    Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Eastville Community Historical Society

    Michael Galban, Curator, Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site

    Peter Hyde, Owner, Peter Hyde Design

    Theodore K. Johnson, President & CEO, Hadley Exhibits, Inc.

    Eliza Kozlowski, Director of Marketing and Engagement, George Eastman Museum

    Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Executive Director, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum

    Emily Martz, Executive Director, Sagamore Institute of the Adirondacks

    Shelia McDaniel, Deputy Director, Finance & Operations, The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Ken Meifert, Vice-President for Sponsorship and Development, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

    Thomas Schuler, Chief Government Affairs Officer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Tom Shannon, Director of Building and Security Services, Asia Society

    Diane Shewchuk, Curator, Albany Institute of History & Art

    Natalie Stetson, Executive Director, Erie Canal Museum

    Marisa Wigglesworth, President and CEO, Buffalo Museum of Science, Tifft Nature Preserve

    The MANY office is located at 265 River Street, Troy, NY. For more information on the Museum Association of New York, please call (518) 273-3400, visit us on the web at www.nysmuseums.org, or follow us on our social media channels.

  • June 23, 2020 3:35 PM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Lionni, Leo. Little Blue and Little Yellow 1959. NY Ivan Obolensky Inc.*

    Dear Members of MANY’s Museum Community,

    Perhaps after 100 days in quarantine topped by protests against police violence in support of Black Lives Matter, some of us would like to put away our moral compasses, open our museum doors, and return to business as usual. But if we are to successfully navigate our futures and thrive as a field, it is necessary to change our physical spaces in response to the COVID-19 health crisis and revise our policies and practices to ensure a culture of inclusion and racial equality. Museums need to chart a course beyond statements, to address long-standing disparities of power in our museum field, and to fight racism as we find it within our walls and in our programs. 

    In song lyrics that hold hope for the political experiment we call democracy, Leonard Cohen wrote “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  We are living in a time where light is flowing freely through the cracks revealed by COVID-19. Museums are in economic crisis without two thirds of our earned income. Our staffing crisis is a tragic result, as thousands of our museum colleagues are laid off in the wake of the inadequate and disproportionate federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Museums need to take advantage of this distinctively disruptive time and turn it into an opportunity for emergent solutions for our spaces, for our programs, and for our workforce. 

    MANY is committed to the work being done to address racism in our museums and pledges to support our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) museum colleagues and their communities who support museums. At this time of year, we would usually be busy planning a fall travel schedule of Meet Ups and Workshops. Our fingers are crossed that fall travel might still be possible.  To accompany potential in person programs, MANY is planning a series of virtual discussions to amplify anti-racist actions and shine a light on best practices in Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion. We will provide a platform for conversation and reflection and invite staff from museums who are taking positive actions to share their ideas about how we change our future by changing how our museums operate today. If you know of someone we should include, please send me an email and share their contact information. 

    I hope our museums will act quickly and proactively with deliberate and collaborative approaches that revise policies and practices to ensure a culture of inclusion and racial equality. I have been told that the answer to our nation’s structural racism lies at the end of a long road if we hold ourselves and those around us accountable. But for me, that road has no end. It is a path we travel our whole lives  with a moral compass in hand, with respect and integrity, acknowledging and celebrating differences, welcoming New Americans and celebrating the contributions of everyone who calls America home.

    With thanks for your support,

    Erika Sanger

    *After retiring from a career as a renowned art director and graphic designer, Leo Lionni wrote and illustrated more than 40 highly acclaimed children’s books winning the Caldecott Medal four times and the 1984 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal. Lionni’s first children’s book Little Blue and Little Yellow raises philosophical questions about friendship, knowledge, and personal identity. More than 60 years after publication, it still appears at the top of banned book lists. Although the copy she had as a child is long gone, Erika recently purchased a first edition which she keeps on her bookshelf in the MANY office.

  • June 23, 2020 11:39 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Joseph Lloyd Manor is an 18th-century house that overlooks Lloyd Harbor in Huntington, Long Island and was once the seat of an estate belonging to one of the region’s wealthiest families. Today it is more well known as the former home of the first published African American author Jupiter Hammon who lived, wrote, and was enslaved there. The site is owned and maintained by Preservation Long Island. Over the last year, Preservation Long Island staff evaluated the sites’ interpretation, something that had not been done since the 1990s. Staff focused on community involvement to help them determine important narratives. Jupiter Hammon’s story became the focus of a new interpretative plan for the Joseph Lloyd Manor, the Jupiter Hammon Project.

    Completed in 1767 for Joseph Lloyd (1716-1780),  the third lord of the Manor of Queens Village, the Joseph Lloyd Manor House once served as the seat of a 3,000acre provisioning plantation and agricultural estate. The Joseph Lloyd Manor overlooks Lloyd Harbor in Huntington on Long Island.

    Jupiter Hammon’s life and writings offer an exceptionally nuanced view of slavery and freedom on Long Island before and after the American Revolution. The vast majority of literature and historical documents from the 18th century that we find in museums, libraries, and archives are not written by people who were enslaved. “This is what makes Hammon’s writings so significant. It is a voice to the social and moral conflicts that slavery raised in the newly formed United States,” Lauren Brincat, Curator at Preservation Long Island. 

    Identifying the Need for Change

    “We came to the conclusion that it was time to rethink the refurbishing of the house, the stories we told, and how we were engaging visitors. From the beginning, we recognized that Jupiter Hammon is a nationally significant individual in history and not many people know about him. (Hammon is often referred to as the founder of African American literature.) I think that in recognizing that is due in part to us not doing enough as an organization to elevate his history and voice,” said Brincat. 

    Sarah Pharaon of the International Coalition for Sites of Conscience leading the Arc of Dialogue training at Preservation Long Island’s headquarters in Cold Spring Harbor, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Preservation Long Island

    After conducting an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that the  Joseph Lloyd Manor was facing, Preservation Long Island staff determined that the new interpretation must be equitable and that they had to look beyond the organization to determine  how to tell Hammon’s story and  engage visitors with his history. Staff sought community involvement from the start. “Working with our community was important and it is a large part of this initiative,” said Brincat. Preservation Long Island began working with local community stakeholders, Hammon’s descendents, and Long Island communities of color. Partners also included a Jupiter Hammon Project Advisory Council, Huntington Historical Society board members, and members of the local NAACP in Huntington.

    The Preservation Long Island team meeting with members of the Jupiter Hammon Advisory Council at Joseph Lloyd Manor, march 2019. Left to right: Melisa Rousseau, Irene Moore, Lauren Brincat, Denice Evans-Sheppard, Zenzelé Cooper, Julia Keiser, and Darren St. George. Photo courtesy of Preservation Long Island.

    The Jupiter Hammon Project’s goal is to expand the interpretive programming at Joseph Lloyd Manor to reflect the multiple perspectives that shaped the house’s history. The project also includes online resources, articles about Hammon, and a collection of digitized primary, secondary, and interactive sources to illuminate more about Hammon’s life and the history of enslavement on Long Island. 

    “As one of the significant early examples of African American literature before the republic, Jupiter Hammon’s work is a masterful ethical critique on slavery, religion, and humane relationship,” said Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Eastville Community Historical Society and a member of the Jupiter Hammon Project Advisory Council. Grier-Key became involved with the project because of Preservation Long Island’s approach to the subject matter. “Preservation Long Island embraced inclusion and utilized experienced facilitators and experts which set the tone to sustained attempts to tell the story of all Americans,” said Grier-Key. 

    Cordell Reaves, Historic Preservation and Interpretation Analyst for the NY State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will serve as moderator for the project’s three roundtable discussions. “I think that the level of dialogue with this project is definitely something that can and should be replicated at other projects, regardless of the subject matter,” said Reaves. “Curatorial or education departments cannot develop a project like this in their  own silos and expect the public to show up at the end and totally support it. I think that the staff of Preservation Long Island have been very mindful of involving the public and giving the public the chance to give immediate feedback throughout the project.”

    Collaborative Roundtables

    The Jupiter Hammon Project will include three public roundtable discussions that will address the legacy of slavery on Long Island and the life of Jupiter Hammon. Discussions will connect renowned scholars and professionals with local residents, descendent communities, and other stakeholders. 

    Originally roundtable discussions were to be held at different historic sites on Long Island but now will be presented in a digital format. These roundtable events are free and open to thepublic. To learn more and to register please visit: https://preservationlongisland.org/jupiter-hammon-project/

    The first roundtable, “Long Island in the Black Atlantic World” will explore a global perspective on enslaved Africans on Long Island asking “why did Long Island have one of the largest enslaved populations in the North during the 17th and 18th centuries?” This roundtable will address Jupiter Hammon’s Long Island as a hub of the Atlantic slave trade and a key player in a global economy dependent on black enslavement. 

    The second roundtable, “The Voice of Jupiter Hammon” will examine his poetry and how his religious beliefs influenced his thoughts about freedom and equality. The third and last roundtable discussion “Confronting Slavery at Joseph Lloyd Manor” will use conversations from the previous roundtables to explore how Preservation Long Island can effectively engage audiences with difficult history narratives, and encourage responsible, rigorous, and relevant dialogues about the region’s history of enslavement and its lasting effects on our society today. 

    “Originally the structure for these roundtable discussions was to bring in the community to have discussions with scholars and engage each other in dialogue and also to learn some of the histories at historic sites throughout the region, not just at the Lloyd Manor,” said Brincat. Those sites included Weeksville Heritage Center, Suffolk County Historical Society, and Preservation Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor. Roundtables were scheduled to start this August, but the COVID-19 pandemic has moved these roundtables online.

    This online approach increases access to these conversations to the public, however, it will condense roundtable discussions from an all-day forum to a shorter presentation. There will still be formal discussions led by scholars and Preservation Long Island hopes to increase access to these scholars by offering scheduled virtual office hours. 

    “I hope that people will see Jupiter Hammon as the complex person that he was,” said Reaves when asked about his hopes for these conversations. “I hope people gain a greater appreciation for the world that he lived in.”

    Long Term Goals and Relevance Today

    Preservation Long Island hopes to create a report to share with other institutions. “We’re hoping that this can be a model for other organizations, not just regionally but across the country,” said Brincat. “That’s a big part of what we want to achieve out of this project, to be able to share our experience with others so that they may be able to learn from this and adapt it for their own uses.” 

    “I want people to get a better understanding of what life was like on Long Island for someone of African descent during that period,” said Reaves. “What were the relationships between the free and enslaved community and what was [Hammon’s] place in that community, not just understanding his relationship with the Lloyd family or his writing but a better understanding of the world he lived in.” These discussions will ultimately help develop a new interpretive direction for the Joseph Lloyd Manor that encourages responsible, rigorous, and relevant encounters with Long Island’s history of enslavement and its impact on society today.

    “There are many connections here to the ongoing legacy of slavery in America,” said Reaves. “It’s one of the reasons why people say ‘why can’t we talk about something else?’ and ‘why do we have to keep talking about the subject?’ It’s because we don’t have a good understanding of this subject, especially in the North.” The Jupiter Hammon Project hopes to provide educational content for the development of revised school curricula and serve as a model approach to program development for other sites of enslavement in the region.

    For Brincat and Preservation Long Island this project is about reinterpreting the house and using the story of Jupiter Hammon to help tell the long history of enslavement on Long Island. “These stories are particularly relevant to Long Island today as one of the most segregated areas in the entire country,” said Brincat. “It’s important to make these connections to the present day and we want this story to be relevant and historically rigorous but responsible too.”

    “I think as these things come up that involve discrimination, prejudice, and racial violence, all of these things harken back to understanding the full chain of events that got us to this present point,” said Reaves. “and that chain starts in early slavery in the colonial period.”

    For more information about the Jupiter Hammon Project: https://preservationlongisland.org/jupiter-hammon-project/

  • June 23, 2020 11:32 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Like many museums across New York State, Seneca Art & Culture Center closed to the public on March 16 to protect staff and visitors from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center is a 17,300 square foot building built in 2015 at Ganondagan State Historic Site to tell the story of Haudenosaunee contributions to art, culture, and society. The Center features an interactive, multimedia exhibition gallery, a changing exhibition space, orientation theatre, auditorium, and gift shop. While the hiking trails at Ganondagan State Historic Site remain open to the public, spring and summer programming have been either cancelled or rescheduled. The Seneca Bark Longhouse (a fully furnished longhouse designed to reflect a typical Seneca family from the 17th century) was scheduled to open on May 1, but for now, remains closed to the public. Since closing in mid-March, staff tasks and responsibilities shifted towards maintaining and increasing their social media presence while continuing to look ahead at reopening the Seneca Art & Culture Center post-COVID.

    Virtual Programming

    “We have always maintained our brand as an authentic voice that focused on history, culture and art,” said Michael Galban, Curator at the Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, NYS museums have increased their social media use by 81% (MANY COVID-19 Impact Report). “Our approach was to get something out there in virtual space that would keep our supporters engaged and also provide authentic content. We can accomplish our mission through social media and continue to have open engagement with our supporters through our online presence,” said Galban. Across the museum sector in NYS, social media is the top engagement platform for museum audiences during the pandemic, almost 20% higher than online education materials. 

    As social media use increased, staff tasks and responsibilities were adjusted to help meet the digital demand. “We had focused quite a lot on social media prior to COVID-19 and fortunately we were already set up with a strategy to provide content and engage with visitation remotely,” said Galban. “This now became our top priority and the staff shifted all efforts online.”

    Ganondagan utilized their strong Facebook platform to host daily live storytelling and “Ten Minute Teachings” with Peter Jeminson, Site Manager for Ganondagan State Historic Site. The storytelling sessions were hosted by Michael and Tonia Galban who for thirty days shared Seneca stories. “The storytelling sessions were my attempt at shifting focus for our public from a state of fear and panic to a consistent messaging from our ancestors,” said Galban. “I saw the quarantine period as an extended “wintertime” where historically people stayed indoors and was also the time when stories were shared and enjoyed.”

    Ten-Minute Teachings, hosted twice a week on Wednesday and Fridays on Ganondagan’s Facebook page, about Seneca history, art, culture, and artifacts. These sessions are hosted by staff throughout the Seneca Art & Culture Building and have included topics on “The Three Sisters Garden,” “The Beaver Wars,” “Repatriation,” “The Creator’s Garden,” “Cradle Boards,” and more. These ten minute videos are easily digestible content and are a perfect example of adjusting to the new reality brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to share stories and spaces virtually. “The response was tremendous initially,” commented Galban on the live storytelling and Ten-Minute Teachings. “We engaged with thousands of viewers but as the weeks wore on the engagement lost momentum. Modern internet culture focuses on novelty and what the next new thing is—so we have to reinvent our online presence accordingly.” Ganondagan has continued to produce Ten-Minute teaching videos on its Facebook page as well recently producing longer videos on different aspects of Seneca culture on YouTube. 

    Socially Distanced Outdoors

    The Bark Longhouse originally scheduled to open for the season on May 1 has remained closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from MANY Fall Meet-Up, September 4, 2019

    Although the Seneca Art & Culture Center has been closed to the public since mid-March, Ganondagan’s three marked hiking trails have remained open: the “Trail of Peace” with signage that details Seneca history and oral traditions, the “Earth is Our Mother Trail” which identifies plants and explains how they are used by the Seneca, and the “Granary Trail” where visitors can experience a day in July though journal entries from the Denonville campaign (when a large French army led by the Governor of Canada attacked and destroyed the Seneca Village at Ganondagan). The public has increased their use of these outdoor spaces since the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is still a priority. “We have implemented reduced parking strategies and limited picnic tables to help sponsor a spirit of social distancing,” said Galban. The site also uses prominent signage at trailheads and in the parking lots that help remind the public. “We don’t engage the public directly for infractions but can ask for help from the NYS Law Enforcement if the situation merits.” 

    Ganondagan State Historic Site is receiving updates from The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on safety protocols and procedures. Historic Sites are open across New York State but visitors are required to wear face coverings and maintain a safe social distance. 


    Inside the main exhibition gallery

    Museums have been categorized in Phase 4 in Governor Cuomo’s “Reopen New York” and many have been researching and reorganizing interpretation strategies for reopening their doors. “Our preparations are focused on fulfilling our mission of education without sacrificing the safety of our staff and patrons including plans to alter the visitor experience to provide that safety are being explored,” said Galban. Those plans to alter the visitor experience include plexiglass at the front desk, a guided one-way flow through the gallery, special floor signage to help enforce and maintain social distancing, additional hand sanitizing stations, personal social distancing monitors, body temperature checks, and exploring no-cash entry fees are all being considered. 

    As of mid-June, seven of New York’s REDC regions have entered into Phase three of a four-phase reopening process. Phase 4 is the final phase and will allow schools, arts, entertainment and recreational businesses to reopen which includes museums. The Finger Lakes (where the Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site’s region) will soon reach Phase 4—the final reopening phase which includes museums. 

    “At Ganondagan the initial worry was that we wouldn’t close to the public officially to protect the staff and not contribute to the spread of the virus,” said Michael Galban reflecting back on the immediate response that he and the staff had in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We knew something would happen in terms of policy but what would that be and how it would impact us was uncertain.” 

    The Seneca Art & Culture Center and Ganondagan State Historic Site typically sees 50,000 visitors a year divided between people who come to see the exhibits, participate in events, see the Bark Longhouse, and school groups. This number also includes visitors who explore the trails at Ganondagan. Since the Center has been closed, their online audience has reached thousands. Live Storytelling received 10,000 views total and Ten-Minute Teachings averages between 1,000 and 2,000 views per video. Staff plans to continue the Ten-Minute Teaching videos on their YouTube page after the reopening. “We want to continue with this series on our YouTube page and strengthen their quality,” said Galban. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the Center to close its doors, it found a way to engage with existing and new audiences online. 

    Learn more about Ganondagan State Historic Sites virtual programming by visiting their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/Ganondagan/

    Explore more on Ganondagan’s YouTube page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoLxS8-0iiqe6yhmcyrGzQg

    For more resources on reopening museums, visit: https://nysmuseums.org/COVID19resources#reopening
  • June 23, 2020 11:30 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    The Pomeroy Fund for NYS History has awarded an additional $50,000 in grants to provide general operating assistance to 18 history-related organizations in New York State.

    This is the second round of funding disbursed through the Pomeroy Fund since it was established in April through a partnership between the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the Museum Association of New York. During the first round, a total of $50,808 was awarded to 31 organizations forced to close due to COVID-19.

    Funding in the second round was designated for 501(c)(3) history-related organizations with operating budgets of $150,000 or less. Grants were awarded on a sliding scale between $1,000 and $5,000 based on budget size. Applicants shared details regarding their public programming (onsite and virtual), identified a wide range of audiences served, and ways in which they engage their communities through unique and distinct partnerships. In the second round, the Pomeroy Fund received 112 applications requesting $367,000 for the $50,000 allocated by the Pomeroy Foundation.

    “We are proud to support our state’s history organizations and the important work they do,” said Bill Pomeroy, Founder and Trustee of the Pomeroy Foundation. “These institutions enrich our communities in numerous ways, from bringing us educational programs to preserving priceless materials. It’s imperative to step up and support their good work. We hope that the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History helps to make that happen.”

    “I was especially impressed by how these small history related museums put their communities at the center of their programs and services, leveraging their limited resources with deliberate and collaborative approaches,” said Erika Sanger, Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York.

    Pomeroy Fund second round grantees are as follows (listed alphabetically):

    Beacon Historical Society

    City Island Historical Society

    Constable Hall Association, Inc.

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance

    Friends of City Reliquary, Inc.

    Friends of Mills Mansion

    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

    The Museum Association of New York and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation are proud to partner in creating the Pomeroy Fund for NYS History, which has rapidly distributed funds to New York State’s smallest history organizations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pomeroy Foundation and MANY look forward to future partnerships.

    # # #

    About the Pomeroy Foundation

    The William G. Pomeroy Foundation is a private, grant-making foundation established in 2005. The Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. To date, the Foundation has awarded over 1,075 roadside markers and plaques nationwide. Visit: https://www.wgpfoundation.org/

    Twitter: @wgpfoundation

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WGPFoundation

    YouTube: William G. Pomeroy Foundation

    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.


  • June 23, 2020 11:24 AM | Megan Eves (Administrator)

    Museums face the monumental task to collect, preserve, and document history as it happens. Today, many are focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter protests. According to the Association of Public Historians of NYS (APHNYS) “it is our duty to document not just the past but the present.” 

    This June, the New York State Archives, Library and Museum launched the COVID-19 Documentation Task Force. This initiative focuses on three areas: documenting the COVID-19 pandemic, providing support for cultural organizations, and a COVID-19 pandemic information clearing house. The clearing house is a database of historical societies/groups throughout NYS organized by their Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC). Visitors looking to donate can find their regional organization and get more information.

    APHNYS, Documentary Heritage & Preservation Services (DHPSNY) and the NYS State Archives have published guidelines for state agencies and local governments on documenting the pandemic. The New York State Archives specifically providing guidance on records management, retention, and remote work. New York State Archives presents the New York government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a unique opportunity to “ensure the essential evidence of government activity and its impact on communities across the state is preserved and accessible for future generations.”

    Rapid Response Collecting

    Rapid response collecting is a strategy that allows museums to collect in response to major moments in history.This is not a new collection method but has increased in recent years as museums work to capture history as it occurs in real time. Objects, some obtained on the spot, others in the days that follow identified by curators scanning social media, television or newspapers, and putting a call out for people to share their experiences and donate objects. 

    Collecting Around the State

    The New-York Historical Society launched their History Responds initiative to collect history as it unfolded following the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The N-Y Historical Society uses History Responds to collect relevant materials during or immediately after major events like celebrations, natural disasters, and protests. The N-Y Historical Society seeks relevant materials during or immediately after major events like celebrations, natural disasters, and protests. Current collecting projects include the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Protests that will help tell the story of how New Yorkers are living through these new circumstances.

    Buffalo History Museum features “Experience History With You” initiative on their homepage, buffalohistory.org 

    The Buffalo History Museum launched their “Experience History With You” initiative that asks the public to help chronicle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Museum’s public call out invites the community to contribute evidence of this time for future research, reference, projects, exhibits, and programs. The public can submit insights, feelings, and thoughts during the pandemic by sending a postcard to the museum, taking a digital survey, submitting photos, and sharing journal entries that document daily life during the pandemic. 

    Rachel Dworkin, Archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society wrote in a recent blog post “the mission of the Chemung County Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and share the history of our county, but history isn’t just the stuff in grandma’s attic. History is happening right now. In order to capture history in the making, we have launched the COVID Memory Project. We’re collecting oral histories, photographs, videos, diaries, and objects associated with the pandemic and protests.”

    Dworkin is working to capture oral histories from health care workers, teachers, school administrators, grocery store and other essential retail workers, restaurant owners, someone working from home, someone laid off, someone who was sick, someone who lost someone, someone with small children, someone elderly, and anyone with a story to tell. Dworkin also calls for community members to become oral historians themselves by interviewing friends, neighbors, and relatives either by using a cell phone to record the video or audio or utilizing StoryCorps.

    Museum of the City of New York’s new series “Curators from the Couch” connects MCNY curators with artists, influencers, and more.

    The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) launched “Curators from the Couch: #CovidStoriesNYC.” This live from home series brings MCNY curators together to speak with artists, influencers, and more from the comfort of their couches. MCNY’s initiative documents the perspectives and stories happening around New York during the COVID-19 pandemic. MCNY also invites the public to share their #CovidstoriesNY. As of June 8, more than 4,000 #CovidStoriesNYC images have been shared. 

    MCNY is also documenting current activism and Black Lives Matter protests. Utilizing their Instagram (@museumofcityny), MCNY is calling for New Yorkers to shares images for documentation using the hashtag #ActivistNY. The Museum’s curatorial team will review the images on a rolling basis and select images that will be reposted on the Museum’s social media feed and other digital channels. While the Museum is currently not accepting physical objects, people can take photos of an object (like a protest sign) that would help the Museum’s collection to tell the story of current activism or COVID-19 in New York to future generations, and email it to the collections team. This social media campaign coincides with MCNY’s ongoing exhibition “Activist New York” that explores histories of activism in New York City from the 1600s through today. 

    The Hart-Cluett Museum and the Arts Center in Troy, NY partnered to preserve and document the local response to the Troy Rally for Black Lives that transformed Troy’s downtown into a “plywood canvas of art and living history.” In the days following the rally, curators from the Hart-Cluett Museum and the Arts Center worked together to reach out to businesses who had plywood art in order to document and save them as artifacts. Business and building owners were contacted through letters and word of mouth to collect the large plywood panels, in addition to working to identify the artists and asking what they want done with their work. 

    The Queens Memory Project learned in late March that there was a growing community interest to collect and archive stories of life in the epicenter of the pandemic. By April 9, the Queens Memory Project had set up a public project page to gather submissions. 

    The Queens Memory COVID-19 Project is collecting first person stories of life in the epicenter of the pandemic. Each submission becomes part of the archives at Queens College and Queens Public Library and shared by their tech partner Urban Archive (who created a user generated submission portal for the project).

    “Going forward we are going to have this activated and new energized group of volunteers who are out in the community, who know about us, and know that we will preserve the materials that they create if they create them,” said Natalie Milbrodt, Coordinator and Metadata Services director for Queens Memory. Since the start of this project, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of volunteers. People who want to share the stories behind the statistics and help amplify underrepresented communities in this pandemic. 

    “It’s been really moving to see how vulnerable people are being in this space and how honest they’re being about their experiences,” said Milbrodt. “People have been pretty raw about the challenges they’ve been facing. It’s impressive and I’ve really appreciated that.”

    Further Reading / Resources

    Association of Public Historians of NYS—Historians: Start Documenting COVID-19

    Guidelines for Managing Records During the Covid-19 Pandemic

    NYS COVID-19 Documentation Initiative

    DHPSNY COVID-19 Information Aggregate

    Anacostia Community Museum Launches Moments of Resilience Pages

    How Museums Will Eventually Tell the Story of COVID-19

    The Dolenjska Museum aims to preserve the memory of the quarantine

    The University of Hamburg launches corona archive

    Share your images documenting NYC’s current activism and protests for Black lives

    Troy curators chase down protest art before it vanishes

    ‘People Are unaware of Their History’: Why Museums Are Collecting Artifacts From the Black Lives Matter Protests as They’re Happening

    History Responds: Collecting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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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