In recent posts, I have reported on the absence of any private state-wide organization advocating on behalf of the history community.
The former New York State History Association (NYSHA) located in Cooperstown has not fulfilled that role. Effectively it is a local farmers’ museum and national art museum. While these two functions are perfectly legitimate ones that focus raises significant critical issues regarding the leadership within the history community in this state…or, more accurately, the absence of any leadership.
Simultaneously with the NYSHA posts, I also introduced the actions of another private state-wide, organization, the Museum Association of New York (MANY) with its executive director Erika Sanger. What follows then is a report of events in the last two weeks contrasting the actions of NYSHA and MANY. The contrast provides insight into what a proposed New York State History Society (NYSHS) should do.
THE MANY WAY
To begin with, MANY sent a query to its members for information about the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) funding process as it relates to the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA). The request was in preparation for testimony Erika was to give before the Committee on Tourism at its budget hearing on December 5. That request led to a response by Rosa Fox, the municipal historian for the Town of Huron who also is responsible for three buildings. That response generated a new post, not directly about NYSHA but related.
Before turning to the results of the query, let’s examine the difference between NYSHA and MANY.
1. MANY is a membership organization with museums from around the state (including zoos, aquariums, art museums, and science museums, as well as history organizations; NYSHA is not.
2. MANY has a full-time person dedicated to state-wide issues; NYSHA does not.
3. MANY testifies to the legislature and Regents on statewide issues; NYSHA does not.
4. MANY solicits the opinion of the state-wide community; NYSHA does not.
So regardless of the particular details of the December 5 testimony, one can immediately differentiate the two organizations and decide what one would like the NYSHS to do if it existed.
The results of Erika’s survey have been circulated through the MANY distribution network so it is not necessary for me to repeat them here. I will just note a response of 89 organizations of various sizes, budgets and regions in the state. Many organizations were not familiar with the REDC process in general or found it daunting to apply. That process itself was the subject of a recent post about “Hunger Games” the apparently routine nick name in Albany for REDC funding.
HUNGER GAMES AWARDS
The awards for 2017 were just announced last week. As has become my custom, the grants will be analyzed in a series of posts as they relate to the history community. As also expected the phrase “Path through History” does not appear anywhere in the report. In the responses to MANY, the 35% of the organizations that did seek REDC funding reported on all the categories they used and not just NYSCA. These funding sources included:
Art and Culture Initiative
Arts and Culture Facilities Capital Grant program
Historic Preservation and Recreational Trails.
Market New York (I LoveNY)
One should note that NYSOPRHP is a well-established source of funding for the history community and that the NYS Museum has zero funding in the current arrangement. I will be reporting on these grants in the new year with one exception.
MANY was the recipient of an award. It issued the following notice:
MANY is thrilled to announce that we received our first Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grant for Administrative Workforce Expansion! We would like to thank Governor Cuomo and the members of the Capital Region Economic Development Council for their support of the Museum Association of New York and the New York State museum field.
The grant will allow MANY to hire a Marketing and Social Media Coordinator to manage digital marketing and communications, enrich our service to the field, promote professional development programs, share funding opportunities, and improve economic stability in New York’s cultural sector.
Thanks to everyone who signed our letter of support and congratulations to all the organizations who received support. You can find the full list of grant awards here.
In this notice, one observes pluses and minuses of the program. First, MANY is to be congratulated. Second, one notices that even though it is a state-wide organization, it was obligated to apply through the Capital Region since it is located in Troy. The current setup means that even if NYSHA had sought any funding it would have had to have done so through the Mohawk Valley region. Remember there is a Mohawk Valley region in REDC funding but not in I LoveNY or the Path through History. This application process highlights the hunger games competition among the regions with no provision for state-wide organizations.
MUSEUM EDUCATION ACT
Wait, there’s more from MANY. The organization has been active with the Museum Education Act. During this busy past week, it sent out the following notice:
Dear Friends, Colleagues, and MANY Members,
On Tuesday, the New York State Board of Regents unanimously endorsed the $1.6 billion state aid proposal along with their 2018 budget and legislative priorities. We are thrilled to report that for the first time ever the Regents designated the Museum Education Act as a budget priority and proposed $5 million to fund it.
Under their state budget priorities, the Regents describe this new program as:
Expanding Access to Education Programs through Cultural Institutions – Support the Museum Education Act and establish competitive grants to support cultural institutions that seek to establish or improve museum education programs designed to improve and support student learning opportunities, including supporting the development of local curricular aids.
And if this action was not sufficiently awesome on its own, the State Education Department released a video on today of Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s statement about how increasing equity has been the driving force behind everything SED does. In talking about equity, the Commissioner specifically mentions passing the Museum Education Act and linking museum education programs with pre k -12 schools to enable students to learn from the museums’ “incredible collections”.
We are grateful to Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Roger Tilles, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Executive Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin and Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education Mark Schaming for their support of museums in New York.
But, we’re not quite home yet. To get these bills passed in the upcoming legislative session will require your help. We will soon be sending out new tools to help you call and meet with your legislators. We will also be selecting dates for you to join us in Albany to advocate for passage of the Museum Education Act.
WHY THE HISTORY COMMUNITY NEEDS TO CLONE ERIKA SANGER
Again let’s look at what Erika has been up to as executive director for MANY.
1. Testifying before both the Regents and the Legislature.
2. Getting $5 million approved as a budget it (that’s real money!)
3. Calling on members to advocate with their own legislators apparently both locally and at the state capital.
It should be noted also that MANY has retained a lobbyist and has re-instituted the practice of conference calls for its members with the lobbyist for updates on the world of politics in Albany.
In short, Erika and MANY are doing on behalf of the museum community what nobody is doing on behalf of the history community. Is there more that needs to be done even within the museum community? Definitely, but at least someone is trying. Should there be a NYSHS based in the capital region acting on behalf of the history community as MANY is for the museum community. Definitely. Will there be? What does it take to make it happen?