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BLOG POST : March 27, 2017

Supporting Museums, Culture, and Our Creative Rights

Today, I found a letter from American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in my inbox encouraging me to send a letter to my congressperson to sign the letter circulating in the house to support the Office of Museum Services (OMS) within the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education FY 2018 Appropriations bill. The letter that is being circulated says…

“Museums are a vital part of our communities and educational infrastructure. Each year, they spend $21 billion in their communities, more than $2 billion of which is invested directly in education programs. They are economic engines – employing 400,000 Americans, spurring local tourism and contributing to the cultural fabric of our nation. They are also beloved by our constituents, drawing over 1 million volunteer hours every week. Museum attendance continues to increase and educational services are in greater demand than ever. As a result, many are struggling to balance this increasing demand with decreased sources of funding. For FY18, we recommend robust funding to support the important work that the nation’s museums are doing in our communities. This funding would support crucial technology upgrades, education programs, collections care, community engagement and data collection. Museums frequently leverage modest federal investments with state, local, and private funding to amplify their impact. When the Institute of Museum and Library Services – the primary federal agency that supports our nation’s museums – was last reauthorized, the legislation cleared both the House and Senate unanimously. The agency is highly accountable, and its competitive, peer‐reviewed grants serve every state.”

I am fortunate. I work in a museum in Massachusetts and seven out of our nine legislators have already signed the letter, but this is not true for most states. At the time I received the email, seventy had signed out of 435. Think about how often you have learned something new or seen a unique piece of art or history that amazed you by having the opportunity to view it in person. Museums, historic sites, zoos, aquariums, historic houses and national parks all contribute to the fabric of our lives. We are enhanced and changed by having the ability to visit these places all over our country. Museums do not waste money. Our mission is to give back to our communities and provide enrichment to those that otherwise may not have the chance. Everyday, our small staff and volunteers work to bring knowledge about a piece of history to our visitors. We do so because we believe that by learning about the past, our understanding of today and the future will be augmented to bring about important changes in areas that are critical to our society.

There are many pressing needs currently, but our country can not lose the places that inspire us. Please write to your legislators and encourage them to support the Office of Museum Services within the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Please consider asking them to also support the National Endowment for the arts (NEA) and National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). All three of these organizations are critical for the future of museums. Together we can make sure that our culture, history, creativity and vision continue to be supported.

Barbara Elfman

Executive Director