This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Museum magazine, a benefit of AAM membership.
As I write this in early September, just over six months since COVID-19 began shuttering our museums, I look out at a world of unprecedented and unpredictable change. In a matter of months, we have been confronted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic racism that has plagued us for centuries—not to mention a financial crisis and a divisive national election.
I am heartened, however, that museums have embodied their roles as community anchors like never before. In the spring, when first responders were missing the personal protective equipment (PPE) they needed to be safe at work, museums stepped up, donating PPE despite the financial strains they were under. As community members began grappling with the mental and emotional repercussions of physical distancing, museums offered their outdoor spaces for psychological respite. And as teachers and parents alike scour the internet for curricula, lesson plans, and teaching tools, museums are offering high-quality, engaging, and affordable educational material to help students get through the school year in front of computer screens. During every phase of the pandemic thus far, museums have been quietly mobilizing to fill critical gaps.
While you have been providing these crucial services to your communities, the Alliance has been advocating for you. Over the past six months, we have spent more than 1,600 hours advocating and lobbying Congress for financial relief for our field, including federal support for museums and museum workers. We have created and collected nearly 450 free resources to help you respond to the pandemic, and they are being accessed by thousands of website visitors each day. And we have worked to receive more than 900 local, national, and international television, radio, digital, and print media placements that communicate the dire impacts of the pandemic on the field, correct public misconceptions about museum funding, and highlight the need for community support as museums fight to recover.
This year has tested our mettle. It has been painful, illuminating, and awe-inspiring. It has also demonstrated our collective work in action: when our communities hurt, museums respond. And when museums respond, the Alliance ensures the world knows it. If you can, please consider supporting the Alliance as we close out the year. Your generosity and your membership make our work possible.
While I cannot predict what the coming months will bring, I know that our communities need their museums. They need trusted places that bring us together; lift up different voices, stories, and truths; and ask us to look differently at the world around us. Know that you are part of an Alliance working to move our field forward—and that together, we can find resiliency, rebuild, and recover.