Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington

Posted on February 29th, 2012 by

A blog post by Amy Smith, Development Coordinator

On February 27 and 28, I had the opportunity to represent the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Council of American Jewish Museums at the 2012 Museums Advocacy Day.  Presented by the American Association of Museums, this advocacy event brought museum professionals, lay leaders, volunteers, and supporters from all over the country to Capitol Hill to lobby for federal funding for the Office of Museum Services through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Amy Smith at the Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center holding her Museums Advocacy Day schedule.

On Monday, I attend a series of workshops about how to lobby for museums and learned about the critical issues facing museums today.  The primary issue AAM focused on this year was IMLS; they wanted delegates to support funding of at least $35 million in FY13 for the IMLS Office of Museum Services.  Second, they wanted the delegates to know that museums have a huge impact on the economy, contributing $20 billion to the economy each year and providing 400,000 jobs.  Third, they opposed President Obama’s FY13 budget proposal that would limit the deductibility of charitable gifts, thereby hurting museums and other nonprofits.  Finally, since museums are critical partners in education, they wanted to make the delegates aware of our educational programs and the fact that museums partner with school districts to teach the curriculum.

February 27 Museums Advocacy Day training session at Georgetown University Hotel.

After the instruction on Monday, on Tuesday I was ready to lobby!  From Maryland, I met with staff members from the offices of Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Representative John Sarbanes, and Representative Elijah Cummings.  Since I was representing CAJM, headquartered at the Center for Judaic Studies in Denver, Colorado, I also had meetings scheduled with Senator Mark Udall, Representative Diana DeGette, and Senator Michael Bennet.  These meetings were scheduled back to back, and it was exhausting to run around the Capitol, from building to building.  But, the weather was beautiful, and it was an invigorating experience.

Amy Smith standing in front of the Capitol.

The location and structure of each meeting varied; some were literally small group meetings of two or three people in the hallway outside the delegates’ office.  As a side note, Research Historian Deb Weiner shared with me that lobbying actually comes from the custom of influence-seekers gathering outside legislative chambers: http:///www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=lobbying&searchmode=none.  And I thought we were giving new meaning to the word lobbying!

Other meetings were much larger.  The one with Senator Cardin’s office (first meeting of the morning, I should add) involved 20 people sitting around a conference table, where each person had enough time only to introduce themselves.  In this meeting, JMM docent Robyn Hughes argued that museums have a huge impact on education, and therefore should be able to compete for these funds.  For example, she elaborated on the JMM’s Student Immigrant Stories program where JMM staffers go into area high schools and facilitate storytelling with ESL students who have recently immigrated to the U.S.  Eventually these students are able to tell their stories in front of their classmates and community organizations.  As we were wrapping up, the legislative aid fondly remembered visiting the JMM for a staff retreat a couple of years ago, so I consider that a success.

Tom Smith waiting outside the office of Senator Ben Cardin for our meeting with his legislative aid.

Robyn Hughes and Amy Smith at Museums Advocacy Day

Other meetings were much more intimate.  Since I was representing CAJM, I also had the privilege of meeting with Colorado delegates.  The most rewarding was the meeting with Sally Mayes at Senator Bennet’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building, and not just because my group ran into Senator Bennet in the elevator.  This was my last meeting of the day, and by that time I had practiced articulating my case quite a few times.  I talked briefly about the JMM’s annual Summer Teachers’ Institute, a professional development program where we educate teachers on how to teach the Holocaust to their students.  My husband Tom talked about economic impact, and how his small technology startup company works with organizations that receive IMLS funding.  The meeting was refreshing because Ms. Mayes was so engaged in the conversation, which made it easy for everyone to tell their stories.

I met some amazing people from Colorado – Glo Cunningham, Director of Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum; Andrea Miller, Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, and Megan Bell, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo who was there to support her home state of Colorado.

Museums Advocacy Day was an extremely rewarding experience.  It was my first time lobbying on Capitol Hill, and I got the opportunity to meet and connect with some really interesting museum professionals.  I’ll definitely be back next year.

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JMM Interns take over Washington D.C.

Posted on June 27th, 2011 by

Last Thursday, the 23rd of June, all the interns, plus Rachel Kassman and Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, took a day field trip to Washington D.C! After an early morning start by car and train, we got to D.C. about 10 A.M. and did were released to do some exploring around the Mall. I went with interns Codi and Morgan to the National Museum of the American Indian as well as the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden.

Choctaw Indian Dance outside of the National Museum of the American Indian

Our first major stop and tour of the field trip was at the American Museum of American History. There, we learned the extensive process of making a museum more interactive while teaching the visitors about the exhibit. Overall an informative tour about a possible type of job in a museum.  I also got the chance to see the dress I had been waiting to see for a long time, the one worn by Michelle Obama at the Inauguration Ball of President Obama! No matter your politics it really is a beautiful dress.

The dress and accessories worn by Michelle Obama.

From there we did more exploring and I went with Codi and Morgan to the Rotunda to finally see the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I’m glad I finally was able to see them!

Posing with one of the new Humvees at the Armory.

Our last stop of the day was to the Armory of the National Guard of D.C. We were given a tour by the new curator, Lt. Miranda Summers, of the in-progress National Guard Museum. I definitely feel much more privileged to be working in a well catalogued and organized museum after seeing the collections at the Armory. With the end of the tour we headed home after a full but very informative day. I am greatly appreciative to the internship coordinators for structuring and including field trips such as this one to expand our knowledge about Museum work. I’m excited to see where we go next!

 

A blog post by summer intern Mary Barthelme.

 

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A Day on the Hill

Posted on March 19th, 2011 by

At the beginning of this month I participated in the American Association of Museums (AAM) Museums Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. This year is the third time that AAM organized and implemented Museums Advocacy Day and it was my first time participating in the effort. Over two days I had a chance to meet with other museum professionals around the county, learn about important issues effecting museums and their ability to be positively impact the community, and advocate for certain key issues to Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Images of the Capitol of Museums Advocacy Day

This year I had the honor of not only representing The Jewish Museum of Maryland, but also representing the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM). Because the CAJM conference overlapped with Museums Advocacy Day, the CAJM staff was not able to be in two places at once. It was decided a few months ago that I should be the JMM and CAJM representative because this falls under my responsibilities as Community Outreach Coordinator and I live in Capitol Hill in DC where the advocating takes place. I do have to say, there was something really wonderful about being able to walk five minutes to work on the day I advocated on the Hill. Don’t worry though – I’m not leaving my position at the JMM to become a lobbyist on the Hill anytime soon.

AAM’s Advocacy Day was very organized and prepared me well for speaking informatively and confidently to Congressman and their staffers. I fully admit that although I am passionate about museums and my work at the JMM, I was not prepared to speak intelligently about major issues currently affecting the museum field. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. As soon as I began the training, however, I realized that there was no reason to feel this way. AAM’s philosophy in regards to Advocacy Day is that it is important that all museum representatives stand together and focus on a few key issues. The main issues that we focused on include: funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Office of Museum Services and promoting stronger museum/school partnerships in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). To read more about these issues, visit AAM’s Speak Up for Museums website. In addition to learning about key issues AAM was smart and gave participants time to meet with other representatives from their so that each state group could strategize about their message and delivery when speaking to Congressman. I joined the Maryland delegation and together we decided who should share what stories and who should deliver our message.

Waiting outside of Senator Cardin’s office.

 

Day two was spent entirely on Capitol Hill.  I found the experience of meeting with Congressman and their staff to be exciting and exhilarating. In the morning I met with Senator Cardin’s staff from Maryland and then I ran across the Capitol Campus to make it to a meeting with Representative Cantor’s staff from Virginia. I learned my lesson that day. Do not wear heels when meeting with several Members of Congress within a short period of time because you most likely will have to literally run from one meeting to another and chances are those meetings will not be located near each other. In the afternoon I met with Representative Cummings’ staff from Baltimore. Despite the large size of the Maryland group I had a chance to speak in each meeting about my IMLS funded job as Community Outreach Coordinator.

At the end of the two days I was tired, but enthused about my time spent advocating for museums on the Hill. Now that I have this experience under my belt I hope to be a better museum advocate throughout the year rather than limiting myself to Museums Advocacy Day. I invite anyone who is interested in learning more about advocating for museums and cultural institutions to contact me or visit AAM’s advocacy website at www.speakupformuseums.org.

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