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Hundreds of Advocates Speaking Up for Museums with Members of Congress on Museums Advocacy Day 2021

Category: Press Release

For Immediate Release

ARLINGTON, VA–Over 600 museum advocates are urging Congress today to support sustained funding for museums in crisis due to pandemic-related closures.

Organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the thirteenth annual—and first-ever virtual—Museums Advocacy Day, February 22–23 welcomes a record number of participants from all fifty states and Washington, DC.  Advocates are presenting Congress with powerful research and stories on the economic, educational, and community impact museums make locally and nationally and how they are vital to our nation’s recovery.

“The pandemic has provided an overdue wake-up call for Congress and decision-makers who haven’t always understood the business models, or value, of museums,” said Laura Lott, AAM President and CEO. “While the museum field received record levels of support from the federal government in the past 12 months, the funding provided only temporary relief. Museum recovery will take years and without a sustained Congressional lifeline, I fear that many museums will be lost forever.”

The Alliance reports the following figures that exemplify the importance of investing in museums:

  • One-third of museums are at risk of shuttering permanently within the next twelve months without immediate financial support which would mean the loss of 12,000 museums and 124,000 jobs.
  • Museums invest more than $2 billion in education programs each year.
  • Pre-pandemic, US museums contributed $50 billion into the economy each year, and support more than 726,000 American jobs.
  • Pre-pandemic, museums received more than 850 million visits annually, more than all major league sporting events combined.
  • For every $1 invested in museums and other cultural organizations, more than $5 is returned in tax revenues.
  • Museums have a significant financial impact in every state.
  • Nearly all museums are nonprofit organizations, and over one-third of their funding comes from charitable donations.

All museum supporters are encouraged to advocate from anywhere by sending letters to elected officials, engaging local press, and sharing messages via social media using #museumsadvocacy2021.

Legislative asks

Museum advocates will urge Congress to support funding for museum programs at the Institute of Museum and Library Services and other agencies that help museums better serve their communities. To boost charitable giving, they also will urge Congress to enact a universal charitable deduction allowing taxpayers to deduct their charitable contributions regardless of whether they itemize. They will also urge Congress to support increases in funding and ease eligibility requirements for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants, formerly known as Save Our Stages.

In recent years, museum advocates’ collective efforts have not only defeated multiple and ongoing attempts to eliminate IMLS, NEA, and NEH, they have fought for and won increased funding for museum programs at IMLS, including a $2 million increase this year, as well as $5.25 million increases for each, NEA and NEH in addition to museums’ inclusion in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans, other CARES Act funding, charitable giving provisions, and Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG). During Museums Advocacy Day 2021, advocates are encouraging Congress’ tradition of strong bipartisan backing of the agencies that support the critical role museums play in society and the communities, urban and rural, they serve every day, all across the nation.


Congressional Honorees

During Museums Advocacy Day, the Alliance will present awards to legislators who have demonstrated exemplary support for museums. This year’s awardee is Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a longstanding champion of museums across the nation.

Advocacy Leadership Awards

During Museums Advocacy Day, the Alliance will present awards to advocates who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in their advocacy for the museum field:

Johnna McEntee, Executive Director, of the Ohio Museums Association

Johnna McEntee has led the Ohio Museums Association (OMA) over the past several years centering advocacy as essential and empowering OMA members to be effective advocates in Ohio and on Capitol Hill with this year marking the 10th virtual Speak Up for Ohio Museums Day. The Ohio Museums Association is a staunch supporter of Museums Advocacy Day, and Johnna is a dedicated advocate whose work leads the strong Ohio delegation then and throughout the year. In 2020, Johnna and OMA committed to advocating for and supporting Ohio museums in new ways to ensure state and federal legislators were aware of the pandemic’s impact on museums in Ohio and beyond, quickly becoming a central source of pandemic-related information for Ohio museums and legislators. Ohio museums have a strong and invaluable voice thanks to Johnna and OMA’s dedicated advocacy and leadership.

Celeste DeWald, Executive Director, California Association of Museums

Celeste DeWald has been Executive Director of the California Association of Museums (CAM) since May 2004, being an advocate for museums and helping them become more relevant and effective organizations. She has served on the Boards of the Coalition of State Museum Associations and CalNonprofits and has always prioritized advocacy for museums in this ongoing work. Throughout 2020, Celeste was tireless in advocating for museums with federal and state legislators. CAM was regularly communicating with its members, board, Government Relations Committee, and legislative contacts at the federal and state level to make the critical case for museums, including several letter campaigns with the most updated available data and asks from the field. These important efforts urged all California legislators to recognize the dire circumstances facing museums in California and beyond, and to include museums in needed pandemic economic relief. In addition, Celeste has been uniquely vital in helping reach congressional leadership on legislation and issues affecting not just California museums, but all museums. Celeste and CAM are unparalleled in their support of and advocacy for California museums and the cause of museums.


About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Natanya Khashan
Director, Marketing & Communications
American Alliance of Museums

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