Insights from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, April 19, 2013
In this month’s JMM Insight we wanted to take you into the world of government relations. In the last few years direct support from government agencies to museums has fallen sharply at both the state and federal levels. However, government policy – on issues ranging from education to tax law still have a profound effect on museum operations. The American Association of Museums changed its name to American Alliance of Museums last year to reflect its important role as a collective voice for the industry on a national scale (JMM is an accredited member). While we work closely with the Baltimore Jewish Council on government issues of local concern, we also participate in the Alliance’s national efforts to make the contributions of museums better known to Congress. Each year we send a delegation to Museum Advocacy Day. In this issue you’ll hear from Esther Weiner, store manager, board liaison and museum advocate extraordinaire.
MUSEUM ADVOCACY DAY 2013
February 25 and 26, 2013
When Deborah Cardin sent out an email to the staff asking for volunteers to attend a 2-day meeting in Washington, sponsored by the American Alliance of Museums, a meeting titled, “Museum Advocacy Day 2013”, I jumped at the opportunity.
I was quite familiar with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a key federal agency, having worked with the grants that came to the JMM from IMLS, so I knew of the marvelous work that they accomplished with museums all over the country thru their grants. I wanted to learn the inside of this organization, as well as AAM, and see how they accomplished the quite amazing things that they did through the grant awards that were given. Another key federal agency is the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); the JMM has been the beneficiary of grants from this agency as well.
Robyn Hughes, our wonderful and amazing docent, had already volunteered for the second time, so I thought this would be great, the two of us to represent the Jewish Museum of Maryland. In her own words, Robyn said, “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the American Alliance of Museums as an Advocate on Museums Advocacy Day 2013 on Capitol Hill. It is my sincere hope that our lobbying efforts for the inclusion of museums in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will enable thousands of public school students from city schools across the nation to continue to benefit from museum outreach programs.”
There were approximately 270 representatives to this conference from all over the country. Most of the representatives had been to this conference before, but there were also novices like myself. The conference was a two-day affair. The first day the meeting was held at George Washington University, in their Marvin Center, with speakers all day long. It was also a great opportunity to network with representatives of museums from all over the country and to learn how to advocate for our own museum, in two minutes or less! We heard of the unique budgetary and political challenges that museums face in 2013 and the power of having the museum speak with one voice.
On the second day, all of us were inspired and primed with our own two-minute talk to the representatives and senator that the Alliance had arranged for each of us. I had prepared an Economic Impact Statement well as an Educational Impact Statement with facts about the JMM. Our preparation was to encourage the representatives and senators to vote for increased funding for IMLS, which we knew would be cut in the new budget. We went in groups to the offices of Congressman John Delaney, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, and in the afternoon to the office of Senator Ben Cardin. We were always cordially received, and met with the Legislative Assistants in each case.
It was an extraordinary experience and I am so glad that I volunteered to represent the JMM and to travel around the House and Senate with Robyn Hughes. Robyn was great, and having her mother with us was a treat. Being “on the Hill” has its own particular fascination, and fascinated I was! Would I do this again? You bet, so thank you Deborah, for giving me the opportunity to hopefully make a difference for the JMM.