Tag: American Alliance of Museums

Museums as Community Assets

Newton

Brandi Newton

So we have gotten to that time of the year where in my museum studies classes I always ask students to respond to the question below.  In this semester’s undergraduate Introduction to Museums course, Brandi Newton, an art history major provided a particularly insightful and compelling response.  The question:

Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently argued that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?

Museums: Important Community Assets

 by Brandi Newton

In recent years The House Budget Committee stated that museums are essentially nothing more than a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. If this wealth transfer were to exist then any professional working in a museum would be a participant in maintaining this transfer. In this paper however, I will argue that this wealth transfer either does not exist or is so small that it should not be counted as a loss. I will do this by illuminating the percentage of tax dollars actually used by museums and highlighting the missions of a handful of museums based on educating the public while supporting these claims through examples of funded programs designed to give back, often at not cost, to the community.

Greater than 93 percent of annual not for profit museum budgets are covered by either revenue or private donations leaving less than seven percent to be covered by a combination of local, state, and federal taxes (National Endowment for the Arts 2012). Based on these numbers one could actually argue the opposite of what The House Budget Committee stated. Since private donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals compose 38.2 percent of annual museum budgets, the wealthy are in fact transferring their wealth to the greater community not the other way around. To put this further in perspective, data from 2013 showed that “the $146 million budget of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) represents just 0.012% (about one one-hundredth of one percent) of federal discretionary spending” (National Endowment for the Arts 2013:1). This amount of money is a drop in the bucket for federal spending, yet despite their lack of financial support from the government, museums still find ways to give back to their communities.

As described in their mission statement, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee seeks to benefit its visitors and community by inspiring “participation in civil and human rights efforts globally, through [their] collections, exhibitions and educational programs” (Stokes-Casey 2014:2). This museum benefits its community by giving back in ways that lead to them exposing more people to what they have to offer; this also works to fulfill their mission statement. One way they accomplish this is by offering free admission days. This of course, allows access for those individuals who could otherwise not afford to attend the museums. Their website states that, “Tennessee residents with state-issued ID may visit the museum for free on Mondays from 3 p.m. until closing” (National Civil Rights Museum 2014).

Additionally, The National Civil Rights Museum’s Education Coordinator, Jody Stokes-Casey has been working with a local charter school to develop a program that teaches the values and history offered in the museum itself. This is a seven-week program that, except for one museum field trip, is actually brought to the school and presented to the students during their homeroom period. The stated goal of one of this program’s resources, which is titled Courage in the Civil Rights Movement is to “enrich their classrooms and to create a resource for teachers to facilitate discussion, encourage student dialogue, increase understanding, and promote courageous action” (Stokes-Casey 2014:4).

There are other ways museums can serve their communities; some do not even require attendance to the museum itself. For instance, The National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. says as a free service “We design and produce a wide variety of teacher professional development workshops and digital learning resources – from short YouTube videos to complex mobile app games, websites, webinars, and electronic field trips” (The National Museum of American History 2015). This type of programming meets one of the goals in their mission statement, which is to “explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history” accomplished through “dynamic public outreach” (The National Museum of American History 2015).

Seeing this museum with its multiple historical exhibits in person is also quite easily accomplished. Barring an individual’s personal transportation and time constraints, this museum in incredibly accessible to the public because, admission is always free. This in itself is quite an awesome service considering the fact that for the majority of museums 40.7 percent of their revenue comes from earned income (National Endowment for the Arts 2012).

Yet another example is the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington whose STEM “Out-of-School-Time…sends teams of high school interns and Science Center educators into underserved communities to inspire students to pursue STEM learning.” This outreach program alone has reached over 150,000 students. After participating in the math portion of this outreach program 70 percent of students saw an increase in their test scores. Their outreach doesn’t begin and end here, in all “The Center’s outreach initiatives serve more than 200,000 individuals spanning over 39 counties and four states, making it one of the top outreach organizations in the Pacific Northwest” (JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2015). It is important to point out that much of the funding for The Pacific Science Center’s STEM Out-of-School-Time program has been provided, not by tax dollars but by a private company. “JPMorgan Chase Foundation has contributed $750,000 [to The Pacific Science Center] over the past 5 years” (JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2015).

I would argue then that public funding be increased because of the measurable and notable benefit that museums are able to provide to their communities. Does a more educated society not benefit us all? In fact, Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice who in 2006 was appointed the Director for the Institute of Museum and Library Services said, “Public funding helps museums deliver quality services that strengthen communities, families, individuals and the nation” (Manjarrez, C., C. Rosenstein, C. Colgan, and E. Pastore 2008:2). This one simple sentence sums up so much of what is important about museums and why they are of such importance in our lives. They provide opportunities for families, friends and colleagues to learn together and create shared memories. However, this benefit can be achieved individually as well. Ultimately, they ensure that our cultural heritage is preserved for posterity so that we may learn from the past. They inspire us as we look toward the future.

 

References Cited

 

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

2015 Pacific Science Center: Inspiring a lifelong interest in science, math and technology. http://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/Corporate-Responsibility/seattle-pacific-science, accessed March 20, 2015.

 

Manjarrez, C., C. Rosenstein, C. Colgan, and E. Pastore

2008 Exhibiting Public Value: Museum Public Finance in the United States (IMLS-2008-RES-02). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, DC.

 

National Civil Rights Museum

2014 Visit. http://civilrightsmuseum.org/visit/, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

National Endowment for the Arts

2012 How the United States Funds the Arts. Washington, DC.

(http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/how-the-us-funds-the-arts.pdf)

 

National Endowment for the Arts

2013 Fact Sheet. http://www.nasaa-arts.org/Research/Grant-Making/NEAFactSheetSpring2013.pdf, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

The National Museum of American History

2015 American History. http://americanhistory.si.edu, accessed March 17, 2015.

 

Stokes-Casey, Jody

2014 Courage in the Civil Rights Movement. NCRM.

Launching Your Cultural Heritage Career in 2015

As we move into the New Year, career planning is often at the forefront of folks thinking.  I have posted before about career opportunities in the cultural heritage sector.  In the guest post below Ariana Carella offers some solid advice on this process.  I first met Ariana as the enthusiastic and very helpful voice at the Information Center of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).  Over our couple years of phone and email contact, I came to know Ariana as an articulate, passionate, and solution-driven individual.  Although a loss to the AAM, I was certainly not surprised that one year ago Ariana was hired as the Membership Manager of the environmental advocacy group Rachel’s Network.

In the past, Ariana shared her resume and application cover letter  with my students as examples for how they might craft their own application package.  Below, Ariana responds to my question of how to make an individual’s application package stand out from the other 100 or more an employer receives for desirable positions.

arianac

Getting Noticed in the Job Seeking Process

by

Ariana Carella

When I was working in the American Alliance of Museums’ Information Center, I read articles about job-seeking for consideration in the online Career Management Resources library. Most of the materials I read were lengthy essays or narratives, which can be hard to synthesize into a resume. The resource library is a great reference tool, but the articles usually didn’t address the heart and soul of applying for a job, that an effective job-seeking process should be a personal one.

Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with people in the museum community who have shared insights about managing their careers. Below are some of the tips I consider important, which can be used alongside other job-seeking resources:

  • Research, research, research. It is essential to research a prospective employer to give you a sense of the organization’s culture, mission, and how you fit might in. Go to the website, read annual reports, and talk to former and current employees. You can also review the organization’s financial viability by looking up their 990 tax form on Guidestar. The more you learn about the organization, the better you can tailor your resume and cover letter to demonstrate your compatibility. If the only tailoring you’re doing to your cover letter is changing the organization’s name, you are not doing enough work. Your resume and cover letter is the beginning of a conversation you will have with a potential employer, and it is fairly evident to those reading a stack of resumes who has or hasn’t done their homework. In some cases, after doing some research, you may decide an organization is not a good fit for you or your career goals.
  • Your resume is not a complete representation of your career. One tip I received early on: you will need two resumes during the job application process. The first one is a comprehensive resume, which includes every aspect of work you’ve ever done, including volunteering, certifications, etc. The second resume is what you actually send. Use your comprehensive resume to curate the story you want to tell your future employer. Does the job you’re applying to require strong research skills? Which experiences demonstrate that? Do you see any trends in your qualifications and experiences? In my case, I wanted to tell a story of a person with a strong customer service ethic, so I pulled out aspects of my work history from a varied career, which included working at a bank, at a student union, and AAM. The key is to make it easy for the people reviewing your resume to do their job. That may mean leaving out projects you cared deeply about, but aren’t relevant or important enough to share with this particular employer. Put on your HR hat and consider your resume from their perspective. Don’t make them struggle to draw connections between your experience and the work required for the job. Do the work for them!
  • Your resume is not your cover letter. The two pieces work in tandem with each other, but they should never be the same. My resume aims to prove why I’m qualified for the job; it’s a catalogue of relevant tasks, responsibilities, achievements. My cover letter is an opportunity to explain why I’d be a good fit for the organization. For instance, in my resume, I may state that I helped launched a new website as part of a Web team, listing a variety of associated tasks (e.g., copyediting content, managing data migration). In my cover letter, I could then build on that story and say that my experience on teams makes me a good fit for the small nonprofit I’m applying to.
  • One-on-one conversations. I cannot stress enough the importance of mentorship and one-on-one guidance. Whenever possible, meeting with someone to discuss your skills is 100 times more helpful than any available online resource. You may have strengths you don’t know are strengths. You may not feel comfortable speaking about those strengths with confidence and conviction. An outside perspective can help illuminate the things you do best and the things you are most passionate about in your work. And these conversations can also help you prepare for the interview, allowing you to practice speaking assuredly and effectively about yourself. Reaching out to my network of former colleagues and Professional Network leaders about my goals helped me structure my thoughts for my resume, cover letter, and interview. Contacts from my network graciously shared their resumes and approaches with me, and their samples helped me finesse a good format and style. Moreover, in opening up a conversation with them, these contacts were then aware of my skills, and when they heard about jobs that may suit me, passed along those opportunities. In some cases, they had the ability and inclination to put in a good word, where they had their own contacts.

The process will take a lot of hard work and time, but simply crossing off items from a resume-writing checklist is not enough. At the end of the day, your job is where you are going to spend most of your waking time. Clarifying what work you like, where you want to work, and what skills you want to develop may seem like a waste of time or too “squishy” and introspective. But doing this hard work will allow your strengths and personality to shine through in every aspect of the job application process. This preparation is the infrastructure of your career pipeline.

I couldn’t be where I am without the help of many people, who contributed different aspects to my job-seeking process. More often than not, people truly want to help you succeed. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, I encourage you to speak up, reach out to your network, and ask for guidance!

You can contact Ariana via her LinkedIn Page.

A Participatory Approach to Museum Advocacy

In my Museum Practices graduate seminar this semester, students were given the following assignment:

“Students in Museum Practices three years ago completed an Advocacy Inventory for twelve museums in the Memphis area. The Advocacy Inventory is found on pp. 16-23 of the article by Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied in Speak Up For Museums: The AAM Guide to Advocacy. For those twelve museums, Museum Practices students in last two years followed up to determine if and how each museum used the completed advocacy inventory or recommendations. Out of the twelve museums originally contacted, only two museums followed through in implementing the recommendations from the advocacy inventory. Last year, for her graduate project in the Masters of Liberal Studies program, Patricia Harris assessed this three-year program. (note: copy of Harris’ paper on file at the University of Memphis McWerter library.)   Respond to both the Silberglied article and Harris’ assessment of the three-year program with Memphis area museums.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the responses of all the student essays.  Amr Shahat’s was particularly insightful on the importance and relevance of advocacy for today’s museums.  Below is an abbreviated version of his essay.

amr2Advocacy for Museums

by Amr Shahat

Advocacy is generic term defined in Webster Dictionary as “The act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal”. The term has been incorporated into the museum field and raises discussions among museum experts as how to become advocates in obtaining elected officials support to museums. The concern began in 2011 when museums among other institutions were announced to be less eligible for federal funding.  As a response, The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) began to support American museums through advocacy effort addressing elected officials, mainly state senators and congressmen to agree not to cut or limit federal funding for museums.

The AAM created guidelines for advocacy, Speak Up for Museums to assist museums establish advocacy practices. In this book, Silberglied discusses the value of developing advocacy inventory and establishing an advocacy effort within the museums, staff, and board members and suggests strategies to reach elected officials. The Silberglied model does not address the need of advocacy inventory beyond getting financial or legislative support.

The evaluation made by Patricia Harris, a graduate student at the University of Memphis, discussed the advocacy effort of local museums in the Memphis area and implies that the AAM advocacy inventory uses broad terms that might not be useful for all institutions.  Silberglied’s chapter “Additional Resources and Burning Questions” might overwhelm the reader with political terms, definitions and approaches to the elected officials.  The approach may not be useful as focusing on building relation with the community, explaining the museum mission to the community to obtain the community support for the mission— in so doing the community members will be the best advocates.

A main point from Silberglied is that the advocacy inventory is built by joint effort. The joint effort can be internally among museum staff, volunteers and board members, or externally between the museum and the community. However, there is no mention of the communities as a co-creative partner for the inventory.  Instead, communities are mentioned merely as a venue of testimony to get the advocacy inventory heard by elected officials. Community members’ effort is mentioned by Silberglied only in terms of being testimonials to support advocacy inventory and its credibility but not as direct advocates.

In the light of the current museum effort towards creating participatory museums that are co-created by museum staff and the community, why do we not call for a participatory advocacy that includes these communities? Harris has mentioned success of three small museums in the Memphis area in terms of advocacy effort. A main success for their advocacy is engagement with local communities. If a museum does not attain local visibility/impact, it will not be visible to elected officials who would not recognize the cultural and the economic importance of museum(s) to their communities.

Since community effort is of importance, how can a museum increase its visibility to the community? Both Silberglied and Harris suggest different programs and events that museums may implement to increase their participation in advocacy work. Silberglied in a week-by-week plan suggests 75 tips to be followed by a museum to create an advocacy inventory. In one of the tips, Silberglied advised museums to “become a community meeting place”. Although, the concept sounds plausible, the examples provided might not be the best. The community activities she suggested such as “blood drive, food drive etc.” only increase the visibility of the museum to the community in terms of museum locale. However, for an advocacy effort, museums need to create events that are mainly focused on increasing the visibility of the museum’s mission. A museum should be careful that attracting people to its place is different from attracting people to its mission. The support of the community to the museum does not necessarily involve physical visiting to the museum locale. Harris analysis implies that part of the successful advocacy effort of the three museums she discussed is using online visibility to the museum mission through Facebook, a museum webpage, and other social media.

Visibility to the museum mission invites us to broaden our identification of the museum community. The museum community is not just its neighbors or those who can physically make a visit but those who believe in and support its mission. Silberglied’s explanations imply that nationality or citizenship does not hold you back from submitting your advocacy to elected officials. Some museums include volunteers and staff of different nationalities, such as the Metropolitan museum whose director of the Egyptian department is a British Egyptologist. One of the most successful advocacy inventories that got direct response from the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt was advocating for the Egyptian museum was made by tourists who believed in the museum mission rather than the museum locale. So the real relationship between a museum and its community is to share the museum mission.

Chapter six of Silberglied’s book on “Expert Insider advice from elected and public officials” provides examples of official reactions to successful advocacy. One of the most effective pieces of advice was by the Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Aileen Adams. She draws museum attention to promoting joint advocacy. I suggest that the two or three small museum in Memphis which responded to advocacy inventory need to propagate this effort to other museums in Memphis and create joint advocacy cases. Joint cases will multiply the museums’ reasons to create an advocacy inventory. It will also be more effective if museums made joint participatory advocacy inventory involving their communities as mentioned above. The participatory advocacy will create strong multivocality that empowers the museum advocacy and draws the elected officials’ attention towards the museums in Tennessee.

Building relations with the community is a slow process but we should remember that legislation process to address elected official and get their feedback is a slow process as well. This slow legislative process might have been one of the main reasons that ten of the twelve museums in Tennessee contacted by Harris did not implement an advocacy inventory. Elected officials response sometimes is not direct and a museum cannot build up a plan on such vague responses to advocacy. This may be another reason that prevented ten museums from implementing an advocacy inventory. Therefore, I suggest creating a participatory advocacy inventory as a joint effort between the museum and the community. The participatory advocacy will create mulitivocality for the advocacy case presented and hence become more powerful and well heard. Overall, the community is the one who choose the elected officials which means their voice is the power that brought them to office and the power that will make the museum advocacy effort be heard.

Amr Shahat is a student in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program and a PhD Egyptology student & teaching assistant in the History Department at the University of Memphis.  He can be reached at akshahat(at)gmail.com

The Experience of Museum Advocacy

PatriciaHarrisPatricia Harris is a recent graduate of the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis (UM).  She also served for two years as a Graduate Assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  For her Graduate Thesis Project at the UM she assessed a three-year museum advocacy project in greater Memphis, Tennessee, US.  At the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Meetings this past month in Seattle, Patricia was featured in the session Effective Advocacy in Your Community: Learn How! where she spoke about her advocacy project.  Below is a summary of her presentation.

Measuring Advocacy Effectiveness in Memphis Museums

by Patricia Harris

My thesis project at the University of Memphis explored advocacy practices in Memphis area museums, as well as the broader concept of museum advocacy.  My personal advocacy experience began in 2012 in the Museum Practices seminar, one of the core courses in the University’s Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program. From 2011-2013, students in the Museums Practices seminar initiated the creation of Advocacy Inventories with eleven Memphis and mid-south museums. These inventories are taken from Speak Up For Museums: The AAM Guide to Advocacy. Based on the initial inventories, the Museum Practices students made advocacy recommendations for the institutions, conducted follow-up surveys on advocacy practices, and created educational/economic impact statements for each museum.

The advocacy projects carried out by the students with the museums are important for two reasons.  First, the process introduced the students as emerging museum professionals to advocacy. If the museum field desires to continue and sustain advocacy as a practice, new generations of museum professionals must be active participants in advocacy work from the beginning. Second, the projects also introduced museums to advocacy work. Many museums, especially smaller institutions, are unaware of how to do advocacy, and in some cases, unaware of the concept.

Of the eleven museums that completed initial advocacy reports with students from the class, only three institutions participated for all three of the years. So, while it is important to understand the advocacy done by these three institutions, perhaps more significant is why the other eight museums did not, or could not, take part in advocacy work.

The Museum Practices students were providing a variety of resources, and were quite literally willing to do free advocacy work for the institution. Why did some museums not take part? Did they feel advocacy wasn’t important? Did they simply not have the time? Or did they not have the interest? Were the resources being provided not relevant for the size and/or type of the institution?

When speaking about advocacy we are quick to share what went right.  Stories of success are extremely important, but perhaps acknowledging and understanding why things went wrong or why things never even got off the ground is vital to truly institutionalizing advocacy in the museum field.  In so doing, we learn and we can better fine-tune our advocacy resources to encompass more institutions.

The take-away from this project is that we still need to advocate for advocacy. Presumably, you’re all here because you believe in advocacy and what it can do for your institution and your community. In just one metropolis like Memphis, eight out of eleven museums aren’t there yet. Why aren’t they being reached?

It is up to the other three museums out of that eleven to show the hows and whys of advocacy. During graduate school I was a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. We fall into the small museum category with only three full-time museum staff and four part-time graduate assistants – which I know is still much more than many places have. Just in the past three years Chucalissa has sent a graduate student to Museum Advocacy Day each year, participated in “Invite your Legislator to Your Museum Day,” hosted four NCCC AmeriCorps teams (we received Sponsor of the Year award in 2013), and completed economic/educational impact statements now featured on the American Alliance of Museum’s website.  The results of these activities also helped leverage funding from the University of Memphis to support our Museum. I say all of this not to brag, even though I am proud of our work, but to emphasize the importance of grassroots advocacy. The AAM points out that advocacy is not just about making “asks” for money and resources from the federal government, but instead is more about building relationships. Though we often think of this “relationship” as the bond between a museum and it’s elected officials, perhaps museum advocacy needs to start with relationships between museums.

For example, as we’ve seen a small institution with limited staff and resources may not feel that advocacy is the right endeavor for them. Though, if a fellow small museum in their community or the next town over is successfully making strides for advocacy and touting its value, the museum may feel more comfortable and supported in beginning their own advocacy efforts. For smaller museums, it is hard to make that trip to Washington DC for Museum Advocacy Day, or to attend a national conference like this, or even feel that such a large organization’s resources like the AAM are right for them. Thus, sharing advocacy resources and knowledge with other museums in your community may be key to getting those other eight interested and participating. A great example of this is of course museum studies classes at the local university.

State or regional conferences are a great place to share these resources and build relationships. The information in advocacy sessions at state or regional conferences is locally sourced, and comes from museums or colleagues you probably already know.

Advocacy can be intimidating and will take effort by you and your staff to implement at your institution. But the reward is great. You’re not only advocating for your museum, but you are advocating for your community, your city, your field, and yourself. If you don’t think you’re important enough to advocate for, why would anyone else? Building advocacy locally and at the ground level through partnerships and relationships with other museums can be the key to your success.  Remember our voice is strongest together.

 

Contact Patricia at pcharris@memphis.edu

AmeriCorps, Archaeology and Museums

This past Friday I participated in a session at the Annual Meeting of the Tennessee Association of Museums that considered the role of AmeriCorps NCCC Teams at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  Below is a portion of my presentation:

In the past year, we logged about 2500 community service learning hours at Chucalissa.  The hours are primarily attributable to AmeriCorps NCCC Teams.  We also worked with a host of other service learning groups including State AmeriCorps teams and alternative spring break students from throughout the Midsouth.  

Team pic

AmeriCorps Team and Homeowner

In addition to a considerable amount of collections work, over the past two years the NCCC teams completed a host of other projects at Chucalissa.  For example, they conducted a shovel test program in the “meadow” area of Chucalissa to determine if there were any intact archaeological deposits.  They expanded the community garden that had outgrown its original bed.  Over a one year period, three different AmeriCorps Teams worked on successive construction phases of our replica Mississippian house structure.  This past fall, a team built a 30 x 30 foot pergola so that we could have a covered shelter for outside activities.  They also built a rain structure along our nature trail.  AmeriCorps Teams are the best when it comes to clearing and refurbishing trails, and then have done a good bit of that at Chucalissa too.

All of these projects are certainly interesting and very worthwhile.  In fact, Wendy Spencer, the Corporation for National and Community Service CEO appointed by President Obama, stopped by Chucalissa when she was in town to check in on the work of the AmeriCorps Team.  This past year, Chucalissa was honored to receive the Sponsor of the Year Award for the Southern District of AmeriCorps NCCC.  But I suggest that the reason for the visit, the award, and the success of our AmeriCorps program extends beyond completing the tasks I noted above.  Instead, I believe that the AmeriCorps experience at Chucalissa brings together the very best of the community service aspect of AmeriCorps with the civic engagement that is very foundation of the modern museum in the United States.  I am fond of quoting John Cotton Dana’s 1917 statement from the New Museum where he challenged practitioners to “Learn what aid the community needs: fit the museum to those needs.”

In 2007, the University of Memphis and by extension Chucalissa, had a less than stellar reputation in the Westwood community of Memphis, the location of our Museum.  Area residents were concerned about the stench from the sewage treatment plant, code violations, and crime rates.  The community perceived the University interests as research from which the University made money and faculty gained prestige but with little or no relevance to the community.  As one resident stated at a community meeting I attended in 2007 “Don’t tell me what the University of Memphis is going to do for my community.  The last time you were here doing your research for two years and all we got was a map on the wall.”  The man was right.

That brings us to another part of AmeriCorps work at the C.H. Nash Museum.  Since 2007, the C.H. Nash Museum staff began to reconsider our role as an educational resource of the University of Memphis.  Now, a central focus of the Museum since 2007 is to engage the surrounding community in all aspects of Chucalissa’s activities. The engagement flowed from the museum’s commitment to begin functioning as a social asset and stakeholder in the Southwest Memphis community.

Over the next four-year period we participated in many collaborative and co-creative projects with the surrounding community (detailed in this article).  In 2012, through a partnership with T.O. Fuller State Park and the Westwood Neighborhood Association, we proposed a 3-way partnership for an AmeriCorps NCCC Team.  Over an eight-week Round, we proposed that the Team would spend about one-third of their time working at T.O. Fuller State Park, one-third of the time working in the community, and one-third of their time working at Chucalissa.  The University of Memphis put a good bit of money and labor into rehabbing a residential facility at the Museum to house the AmeriCorps Team.  In the past two years, we have hosted four eight-week AmeriCorps Teams.

In the Westwood Community, modifying John Cotton Dana’s 100-year-old suggestion, we sought to “Learn what aid the community needs: and fit the Museum and AmeriCorps to those needs.”   Those needs focused on working with the elderly and veterans on fixed incomes to correct code violations or perform minor to moderate structural repairs on their homes.  For example, in the fall of 2013, the River 4 AmeriCorps Team performed an exterior makeover to the home of an 88-year-old WWII Veteran in the Walker Homes neighborhood, a community established for returning African-American veterans in the late 1940s.  Mr Ford Nelson, the Veteran homeowner, had lived in the house for 60 years.

AC Vet 13

AmeriCorps Team presenting Veteran’s Day Banner at the Westwood Community Center.

A highlight of each AmeriCorps Team is their participation with the community in a Day of Service, whether on 9/11, Martin Luther King Jr. day, or Youth Services Day.  This past November, the River 4 Team presented a banner they created honoring veterans at a Veterans Day event at the Westwood Community Center.  The presentation was a BIG deal.

Here is how this all comes together.  The AmeriCorps Teams provide the Westwood neighborhood with a community service that they desperately needed and wanted – correction of code violations and housing rehabs.  The AmeriCorps Teams also are instrumental in allowing the C.H. Nash Museum to engage with the community in cultural heritage projects.  This intersection is reflected by Mr. Ford Nelson, whose house the AmeriCorps Team worked on in November, attending and speaking at the Black History Month event hosted at Chucalissa in February.  This intersection also allows the President of the Neighborhood Association to be a strong advocate and participant in the planning for Hidden Histories cultural heritage program collaborations between the community and Museum for the summer of 2014.

2012 Veterans Honorsmall

Veteran’s Day Banner created by AmeriCorps Team

This intersection is the essence of Civic Engagement as envisioned over one decade ago in the American Alliance of Museums seminal publication Mastering Civic Engagement: A Challenge to Museums.  As Hirzy wrote in that volume

“when the museum and community intersect – in a subtle and overt way, over time, and as an accepted and natural way of doing business . . . Working together or diversifying audiences is not enough.  What is needed are reciprocal, co-created relationships that connect the assets and purposes of organizations.”

That sentiment is a critically important part of the AmeriCorps experience at Chucalissa.

In 1986, during my first archaeological field experience, the instructor, the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis told us on the first day “If you cannot explain to the visitor why their tax dollars should go to support these excavations or keep this site open, you might as well go home.”  I puzzled over this mandate for many years.  Today, I find the mandate comes down to being relevant.   The AmeriCorps experience is part of our Museum’s relevance to the communities that support us through their time, energy, and resources.

We find this process is not linear or without ambiguity.  But the community engagement does not detract in any way from the components of our mission related to the prehistory of the area.  In fact, we argue that through our multi-faceted work with AmeriCorps, we invite more stakeholders to the table for dialogue. We believe this incorporates the very essence of the International Council of Museums definition of a museum that notes they are “. . . institutions in the service of society and of its development.”

Thoughts on How to Get a Museum Job

Professionalism

Fitting for Labor Day here in the United States is a post about employment in the cultural heritage sector, specifically, museums.  Users of LinkedIn and various LISTSERVs often post discussions lamenting the lack of jobs in the Museum sector and the glut of students graduating from Museum Studies Programs.  In response, I often comment that although the employment picture is not rosy, there are steps job applicants can take to enhance their possibility for employment in the museum or cultural heritage industry.

Please note, I am aware that there are many individuals who have taken all the steps I list below and remain unemployed.  I accept that as true not just for museums but for many other industries.  My intent in this post is simply to offer examples of what has worked for some folks, not to discount or dismiss the very real concerns of those seeking employment.

As a starting point, today the employment picture is not particularly good for most job sectors.  The profession I left over 25 years ago as an industrial machinist now has a 26% unemployment rate.  Unemployment rates for telemarketers is 23% and actors is 28%.  On the low end of the spectrum astronomers, biomedical engineers, judges, and nurse practitioners all have less than 1% unemployment (see here for data).  For technical occupations in museums, the unemployment rate is reported at 5% in one source and 1.8% in another, both below the current U.S.  average of 7.4%.  I am not interested in defending the methods for computing unemployment rates – a controversial issue to be certain.  But the data show there is variation in rates of unemployment among job sectors and the museum industry appears better off than most.

Given these data, my experience as an employer of museum professionals, as an educator in a museum studies program, and observing internet employment boards leads me to conclude there are jobs out there – though not as many and of the types and geographic locations suitable to all.  However, I believe there are steps to better prepare oneself for the limited number of employment opportunities in museums.

First and foremost, the time to start thinking about getting a Museum job is not upon graduation with degree in hand, but before walking into the classroom on the first day.  An excellent framework to think of this process is laid out in The Anthropology Graduate’s Guide: From Student to a Career.  Don’t despair of the Anthropology in the title – the approach is the essence of the volume.  The book covers the critical importance of creating a skills portfolio, internships, volunteerism, and professionalism – all issues that must be considered long before applying for the first job.   A Life In Museums: Managing Your Museum Career from the American Alliance of Museums is also very insightful with a similar coverage of topics, though a bit light on resources.  Museum Careers: Fit, Readiness and Development is a free download from Virginia Association of Museums that has some basic Q & A info to help determine the type of museum work for which a person is best suited.  These are three examples written by professionals on how to get a job in the Museum sector.  If you are seeking employment or will someday seek employment in the cultural heritage sector, and you are reading this blog post but have not read the above resources, you should go over to amazon.com and order the first two titles immediately.

If you seek employment in a small to medium-sized organization that make up 75% of the museums in the U.S. today, you will be one of just a handful of employees.  If there is single consistent response to the LISTSERV questions on education and experience needed for the first job in a museum, the mantra is experience trumps degrees.  Therefore, a skills portfolio, published and conference papers, internship projects, and so forth can be the tipping point.

What have you done?  This question is critical and a point of departure I have with some folks when discussing paid vs unpaid internships.  Internships are the opportunity for hands-on training and experience.  Internships and volunteer positions should be negotiated agreements among all parties.  If one has a career interest in collections and has a choice between an unpaid internship assisting with condition reports and learning PastPerfect software vs a paid internship to arrange publicity for the opening of a blockbuster exhibit, which is the better deal?  Upon graduation when applying for jobs in collections, the resume line will read either a three-month position assisting with collections inventory and condition reports or arranging publicity.  .  . paid or unpaid will not be relevant.  A common response is that all internships should be paid.  Ideally, yes.  For small to medium museums with shrinking budgets, in the 2013 economy, that option is often not possible.

Flexibility is also key.  If you intend to work in a museum, and unless you live in a large metropolitan area like Washington DC or London, you may need to relocate.  This fact should not be surprising.  If you live in a city with 50 or fewer museum jobs, you might snag one of them eventually, but you will likely need to be mobile for the first few years.  Relocation is a commonly accepted fact for those with graduate degrees seeking jobs in academic institutions.  I raise this point as I am often surprised by the number of folks who seem surprised by this reality.

Flexibility in career choice within a museum is also key.  For example of the over 5000 respondents to the American Alliance of Museums 2012 Salary Survey, less than 1% were conservators yet nearly 12% were educators.  Assuming no bias based on job title in survey response, there are far fewer museum jobs for conservators than educators.  Knowing this fact the day before you take your first class is a valuable insight.

Careers, especially today, are processes and not events.  I am 61 years old.  I got my “dream job” at the age of 55.  That dream job resulted from my previous experience working in heavy industry, archaeological excavations, teaching, managing nonprofits and a few other things – all of which I enjoyed.  I have been perplexed on more than one occasion when unemployed graduates turned down a museum position offer because it was not their “dream job.”

In summary, yes, getting a job in a museum today is not easy.  And yes, academic institutions are into recruitment in a big way to bolster their sagging finances.  However, the student is responsible from separating the hype from the reality.  Know what you are getting into. I advise students that cultural heritage institutions will continue to be viable and vital institutions in the future.  However that future involves less thinking outside the box but expanding the boundaries of the box.  The Center for the Future of Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services host many reports and studies to contextualize the future employment in the cultural heritage sector.  Knowing this information is crucial the first day of class so that a student can tailor their academic career to suit the existing and future job market.

Finally, if you are looking for an unpaid 150-hour internship based in prehistoric collections research, educational programming, or community outreach that will provide all you need to then write a conference and/or published paper, we have a limited number of internships available at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.  Drop me a note at rcnnolly(a)memphis.edu to discuss.

Museum Advocacy as a Year Round Activity

wtn disc mus

In the past week representatives for Congressmen Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker visited the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa as part of the American Alliance of Museum’s Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week.  Advocacy with not just elected officials but the public in general, is increasingly a critical component of work for cultural heritage institutions.    Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied’s book Speak Up for Museums: The AAM Guide to Advocacy is a treasure trove of ideas and insights in this process.  For the past two years students in the University of Memphis Museum Practices Graduate Seminar have worked with area museums on advocacy projects.  Below graduate student Jody Stokes-Casey talks about her follow-up in 2012 to the previous year’s initial advocacy discussions with the Discovery Museum of West Tennessee.

The brief excerpt below from Jody’s report points to the many possibilities for advocacy work available at limited or no cost that also draw on local volunteer resources.

Increasing advocacy efforts at the Discovery Museum of West Tennessee

by Jody Stokes-Casey

The purpose of this proposal is to make suggestions for advocacy programs that will increase awareness of elected officials and visitors from both the city of Jackson and the state of Tennessee about the contributions of the Discovery Museum of West Tennessee as an educational asset to the community.

Information about Advocacy Survey

In 2011, an advocacy inventory was completed for the Discovery Museum of West Tennessee (DMWTN) by Grace Lahneman for the Museum Practices course at the University of Memphis. The inventory was based on Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied’s book Speak Up for Museums: The AAM Guide to Advocacy. 

This proposal is part of a follow up discussion with DMWTN Director, Ms. Belinda Cooper about the current advocacy efforts of the museum that include advertising, website development, and grant writing.

Suggestions for Advocacy Programs

Testimonials

In regards to gathering testimonials/stories, the museum currently uses a guest book where visitors leave short comments (usually a word or small phrase) about their experience at the DMWTN. Director, Belinda Cooper, reporting mailing surveys to solicit visitor feedback about their museum experience but received a very limited response. A few suggestions for gathering testimonials we discussed included:

1) Electronic surveys through Survey Monkey that can be either emailed to visitors that have left their address in the guest book or a survey that is posted on the museum’s webpage.

2) In accordance with new core standards for education, teachers who visit their students could be given a lesson plan in which the students use writing and language arts to describe their experience at the museum. The teachers would then send copies of the best student responses to the museum to be used in advocacy work.

3) We considered purchase of inexpensive flip-type cameras to interview visitors after their experience in the museum.  The interviews could be used in promotional videos or postings online.

The above types of testimonials can be used in newspaper editorials or other media segments, posted on the Museum website and Facebook page, or collected and sent to elected officials when advocating for government funding or grants.

Cost: Electronic Surveys – free with potential volunteer labor; Written Testimonials – cost of postage; Video Testimonials – Video Recorders available to nonprofits at TechSoup cost as little as 50.00.

Connections

The Museum maintains a list of media marketing contacts that are used to organize the annual golf tournament which is the museum’s major source of funding. The Museum will benefit from networking with other museum professionals in the region, such as Bill Hickerson a Jackson resident and Director of the West Tennessee Regional Art Center. Bill is the type of contact who would be a great resource as he is the past president (2011-2013) of the Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM).

Costs: none

Advertising

Advertising can be cost prohibitive on a limited budget. The Museum currently uses public service announcement type resources such as the ‘Community Calendar’ through the local television news source WBBJ ABC7. The Museum also contacts local teachers of Civil War history and invites the educators to bring their students to the museum for an educational opportunity on Civil War artifacts. The Museum Director also appeared on Jackson’s local ePlus television program Six in the City to promote the West Tennessee Discovery Museum. For additional advertising opportunities, the museum could contact the local radio station 105.3 to the ‘Frankie Lax Show’ that highlights local Jackson events and venues.

Costs: Free resources include WBBJ ABC7’s Community Calender, the Frankie Lax show on 105.3, and ePlus television’s Six in the City.

Online Presence

Improving the Museum’s online presence would also raise public awareness of Museum activities. The Museum currently does not employ someone with expertise in this area. Volunteers could be sought from local high schools and colleges that teach courses in graphic and web design. Such a process would provide community outreach and involve students that may not be otherwise involved in the museum.

Cost: Free with volunteer labor.

Grant Writing

Grant writing was an area of considerable interest to the Museum and would be a great resource for any director involved in museum advocacy. I was reminded of a grant writing workshop that I took several years ago, while interning at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center. The same or similar workshops are available at no or little cost.

Cost: Typical workshops are either free or heavily subsidized through the Chamber of Commerce or other organizations.  For example, the full day class I attended cost only 25.00.

Attention from Public Officials

As proposed in the week-by-week plan of the advocacy inventory, gaining attention from public officials can be done as easily as the museum ‘friending’ the official on Facebook. For a more professional online environment, consider signing up for LinkedIn and make connections with elected officials and colleagues.

Cost:  Facebook Account – free; LinkedIn Account – free

Jody Stokes-Casey

Jody Stokes-Casey

Conclusion

The Discovery Museum of West Tennessee in Jackson is under excellent direction from Ms. Belinda Cooper. If implemented, the suggestions presented in this proposal will serve as a further resource for advocacy that will contribute to the growth of the institution.

Jody Stokes-Casey is currently a University of Memphis M.A. graduate student in Art History and the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program.  She can be contacted at jlstkscs(at)memphis.edu or visit her Tumblr blog 

A Simple Yet Effective Advocacy Opportunity

walker art

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has designated August 10 – 17 as Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week.  The AAM notes that this “work period” is an excellent opportunity to have legislators visit museums to see the role of U.S. cultural heritage institutions as a public resource for education and engagement.  This year, the AAM posted a 12-step guide for arranging the visits from the initial invite to thanking the official for their participation.  This advocacy event is a simple yet effective means for communicating with the individuals who vote on the funding for many of the programs that support our work.

For example, at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa we benefit directly from the Institute of Museum an Library Service (IMLS) programs, an agency that in the past few years has been considered by some as providing services that are not “core” to the Federal Government.  However, for Chucalissa the IMLS services are essential to our operation.

Three years ago we received a Connecting to Collections Bookshelf Award that provided over $500.00 worth of best practices literature on a range of museum operations.  Our staff regularly consult these books for everything from determining pest control standards to digitizing photos.

Over the past three years we participated in both the Institutional and Collections Stewardship components of the Museum Assessment Program (MAP).   We applied to take part this fall in the Community Outreach component.  Our participation in MAP is essential to our development as an institution.  Again, based in the best practice expertise of the IMLS and the AAM, for the MAP process we complete a self-assessment in the component area and are matched with an expert who completes an on-site peer review and evaluation.  At Chucalissa, the recommendations of our MAP reviewer proved crucial for the policies and standards we ultimately developed.  Our governing board has taken the MAP evaluations very seriously and provided the resources for implementation of key recommendations.  Today, our stakeholders recognize the C.H. Nash Museum for the renewed and essential role that we play in our community.  Without a doubt, the two federally funded programs noted above are critical to that success.

The above discussion leads me to ask: Is it the federal government’s responsibility to fund the administration of these types of projects, such as MAP and the Bookshelf award?  Are these truly essential services contrary to the House Budget Committee statements in the past year?   I argue emphatically yes.  Here is why:

First, museums by definition are nonprofit institutions, charged with presenting and preserving the cultural heritage of a community or interest.  That is, like schools and other government agencies, they operate for the community good.  For the MAP and Bookshelf examples I note above, organization and dissemination on the national level simply makes sense from both logistical and economic considerations.  The expertise that the national organizations such as the IMLS and AAM bring to the local community cannot and would not effectively be replicated locally.

Second, the MAP and Bookshelf programs provided our Museum with information and direction to run more efficiently from both mission and economic perspectives.  For example, our Institutional MAP provided insights to stream-line and focus the application of our mission.  In no small part because of our participation in the MAP program, our annual revenues have increased and we reduced our expenses.  We are now more “grant ready” to seek and receive added outside funding.  We have set a goal of creating an institution that going forward will be sustainable.

This leads to perhaps the most critical point for cultural heritage institutions today – the need to be relevant to the public we serve.  I do not believe the purpose for going to Museum Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. or inviting our elected officials to museums this August is just so we can ask for increased funding or protecting our economic self-interests.  Rather, these processes are first about building relationships so that our relevance to the public as cultural heritage institutions is understood.  The way I think this works is summarized in an article recently published about C.H. Nash Museum in the Museums and Social Issues journal:

We consider the relevance of our cultural institution to the community of prime importance. We believe that if in 2007 we had asked the residents of Southwest Memphis what the C.H. Nash Museum meant to them, in all likelihood, their response would have focused on how some of “our children visit for school field trips and Chucalissa is where the Indian Mounds are located.” If we ask that question today, we hope the response will include “Chucalissa is the place where there is an exhibit on the cultural heritage of our community; where there is a resource center on our community history; the place where we hold our Black History Month celebrations; where our traditional foods garden was planted last year; where the AmeriCorps Teams that work in our community live; and also where the Indian Mounds are located.”

So, if we ask ‘is the community more likely to vote for public funding and find relevance in our institution in 2007 or today,’ the answer is obvious.  Federally funded programs have helped us develop that relevance.  Telling that story of relevance to our elected officials allows them to have a complete picture not just to impact their funding decisions, but to become a part of the story they tell and highlight from their districts.

How will your cultural heritage institution take part in Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week? 

Summertime Museum Advocacy

toy museum

As we head into the summer months archaeological sites and museums will see an increase in the number of visitors.  Typically, the April to October period is the high visitation season for cultural heritage venues.  Family visitation at regional cultural heritage institutions will increase as staycations remain popular.  During this busy season the last thing on the mind of most cultural heritage professionals is advocacy.  After  all, the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) celebrates Advocacy Day in February and the Archaeological Institute of America‘s International Archaeology Day is not until late October.

However, perhaps the best time to gain public support for cultural heritage venues is during the time of greatest visitation.  Consider the following:

  • The families whose children take part in museum day camps and visit the summer field school excavations are the same people who will be voting in the November elections for officials who will decide the public funding for these institutions.  Why should we not take advantage of telling the public about how their current and future tax dollars are needed to continue the services they are experiencing during their visit?  
  • Elected officials spend a good bit of August in their home district on summer recess.  Last year the AAM promoted “Invite Your Representative to Your Museum Day.”  We have four months remaining to plan for these events this year!
  • As we all know advocacy works best as a year-long process institutionalized into our everyday operations.  Our elected officials and the public need to know about the importance of our institutions, not just when we are in need of funds, but by building long-term relationships that extend throughout the year.

So how can we insert advocacy into our already packed summer schedules.  Here are a few ideas:

  • The AAM website has a great fact sheet on the importance of cultural heritage venues as integral components of today’s economic, educational, and entertainment engines.  Consider inserting relevant information from this sheet or link the entire document to your newsletter, website, or Facebook page.
  • Create an Economic Impact Statement and Educational Impact Statement that highlights the role your cultural heritage institution plays in your local economy.  Here are some samples provided by the AAM including our own from the C.H. Nash Museum.
  • Speak Up For Museums by Gail Ravnitzky Siberglied is the best single source I have found on advocacy for a broad range of cultural heritage applications.  The book is loaded with effective projects from simple five-minute tasks to complex programs on advocacy.  I use this text to create projects for graduate students in my Museum Practices seminar.  For example, here is an advocacy inventory that Ashley Foley Dabbraccio completed for a Memphis area museum.
  • Today we understand that advocacy is not just for the marketing, government affairs or public relations departments.  Rather, advocacy is also the responsibility of the exhibit designer, field director, docent, and field school student.  Nearly 30 years ago during my first field school experience the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis told her students that “If you cannot explain to the visitor why their tax dollars should go to support these excavations or keep the Fort Ancient site open, you might as well go home.”  Sound advice then and today.

How do you make advocacy a part of your everyday operation?

Celebrate and Act on Museum Advocacy Day

advocacy 2013

Today is Museum Advocacy Day in the United States.  I have posted before about the critical role that advocacy must play in the life of cultural heritage professionals.  I believe that we must be mindful to develop an attitude and consciousness of advocacy in all of our actions.

I am pleased that Patricia Harris, a student in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis and a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is in Washington D.C. today as part of a delegation of six Tennesseans meeting with our state’s elected officials as part of the advocacy activities organized by the American Alliance of Museums.  The Alliance also has suggestions for actions you can take locally.

What actions will you take to support the preservation and presentation of our nation’s cultural heritage today on Museum Advocacy Day?

Below is an essay written by Patricia on the importance of museums to our culture.

Museums vital to economy, education

by Patricia Harris

Defining an American museum is not as easy as you might think. Some may respond to this challenge with definitions such as: a refuge for relaxation and renewal; a sanctuary for learning; or, in an increasingly digitized world, one of the last strongholds of authenticity.

But here’s one definition of U.S. museums you might not have thought of: economic engines. Just as American museums of all types – from art museums to zoos and everything in between – are essential elements in our educational infrastructure, museums are also vital cogs in the economy nationally, regionally and locally. But don’t take my word for it.

The American Alliance of Museums notes that in direct expenditures alone, U.S. museums inject some $20 billion into the economy, and employ nearly half a million Americans. Museums and other cultural organizations attract businesses to communities large and small. Museums are also key drivers of cultural tourism, and studies by the U.S. Travel Association found that cultural tourists stay 53 percent longer and spend 36 percent more than non-cultural tourists.

Right here in Memphis, Tennessee there are more than 60 tourist attractions, a number of those cultural heritage sites. More than 4 million visitors go to Beale Street Historic District, making it the most visited attraction in Tennessee. In 2010, over 2 million people visited tourist destinations in Memphis and Shelby County. For every visitor that stayed, ate, visited, and shopped, revenue was generated back into the Memphis economy.

But as substantial as is the impact of museums on jobs and local economies, the contribution of museums goes much farther. As state and local government budgets are continually stretched thin, many museums are taking up the slack, filling voids in our social and community fabric. Certainly museums are critical tools for the estimated two million homeschooled children in the U.S.

Art museums have created programs for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of engaging with our artistic treasures. Other museums have led the way in working with children on the autism spectrum, providing a safe, comfortable day out for the children and their parents. Visionary children’s museums have become sanctuaries for families caught up in the juvenile justice system. Museums have served to bridge cultural and ethnic divides in communities, from bringing recent immigrants together to meld their old traditions with those of their new homes, to offering English as a Second Language courses. Many museums have led efforts to help our citizens upgrade their job skills through computer training courses.

Here in Memphis, the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa provides participatory and hands-on activities for school children and community members alike. At a time in our city when the state of our education system weighs heavily on the minds of parents and city councils, we must not forget the importance of the informal educational experience that museums can provide. Chucalissa alone serves many thousands of students a year with over 100 local schools participating in field trips.  Through visits to museums such as Chucalissa, children can participate in programs that are designed to meet curriculum standards while at the same time provide meaningful and lifelong learning experiences.

A key part of the mission of museums is public service, and we are constantly enhancing and expanding that service to our local communities. And the public has shown its appreciation via the estimated 850 million visits to U.S. museums annually – more than the attendance at all major league sporting events combined. All we ask in return is that the public let their elected officials know how much they appreciate their local museums, as economic drivers, as educational pillars, and as community assets.

Museum Advocacy Day on February 26 is hosted by the American Alliance of Museums. Along with other museum representatives from across the country, I will meet with members of congress to make the case on Capitol Hill for federal support of America’s museums.

Patricia Harris is a student in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.

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