Museums Advocacy Day Success Stories

Be Nominated for a National Medal for Museum Service

“I got to personally meet with Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and her key staff people…and explained the importance of continued funding for IMLS as the Palace currently [has] a Museums for America grant. Then this summer, I received a letter from IMLS indicating that Rep. Hanabusa nominated the Palace for the National Medal for Museum Service…I also got to meet Congresswoman Mazie Hirono’s acting Chief of Staff for the D.C. office, Susan Michels. When Susan flew out to Hawaii a couple of months later, she came for a personal tour of the Palace and saw firsthand some of the tangible results from our ongoing IMLS grant.  She is also helping with a letter of support from Rep. Hirono for our National Medal nomination.”

—Kippen de Alba Chu, Former Executive Director, Iolani Palace, Honolulu

Visit and Build Relationships with Local Congressional Offices

“The State of Nevada has had a hard time sending any or many delegates to D.C. for the event. I have gone in person a few times [but in 2012] I decided that it would be better to [visit local Congressional offices]. Directors Allan Palmer of the National Atomic Testing Museum and Marilyn Gillespie of the Las Vegas Natural History Museum joined me for some visits and Trustee Joan Lolmaugh of the Discovery Children’s Museum also participated in a visit…As a result, some of our local museums are better connected with [our local Congressional] offices which is a very positive development.”

—Arthur H. Wolf, Principal, WOLF Consulting

Secure an Item for an Exhibit

“I traveled to D.C. with the South Carolina constituency and as a member of the SC History Advocates. After a very successful visit with Representative Joe Wilson’s office, I extended an invitation to Representative Wilson to visit the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum. I kept up with my correspondence with Representative Wilson’s staff, and am happy to say that he did come to visit McKissick [in August 2012]…Not only did he tour the museum, he also hand delivered an object from his office which is now on view at the museum in the student curated exhibition The Ultimate Vacation: Watching Other People Work, of which I was a co-curator. His model BMW X5 will be on loan at the museum for the duration of the exhibition, through December 2012. I am positive that we will continue to build our relationship with Representative Wilson in the future. I’m looking forward to Museums Advocacy Day 2013!”

—Caitlin Podas, Public Historian, and Past President, SC History Advocates

Secure Grants

“I attended Museum Advocacy Day [in 2009] representing the state of Tennessee and my museum, the Blount Mansion. I paid close attention, took copious notes and followed up on all suggestions made. Wow, did it pay off for my organization and for my career as a museum administrator! The Blount Mansion submitted appropriation requests to our congressmen and senators. In the end, we were awarded a $250k Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant thanks to the support of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). It is the second largest SAT grant ever received in our state. Attending the Museum Advocacy Day programs set the stage for this award. I am now moving on to be the Director of the Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY. This is a significant career move which again is a tangible result of having the experience with AAM and advocacy on my resume.”

—Billye J. Chabot

Testify Back Home in Support of Museums

“I have two sisters, and they worked for Congresspeople during their early careers. They were very insistent that I go [to Museums Advocacy Day] because they knew that every voice that goes to Congress, every letter you write, is incredibly important. With that incentive, I went to Washington, D.C. AAM made it exceptionally easy, which was very important to me. I knew they were going to train me, I knew they were going to set all my appointments so I didn’t have to worry. Obviously, talking to members of Congress can be a little nervewracking, but it was a great experience. The most interesting part of my day was over lunch…I assumed that the cafeteria would be filled with staff people and maybe some tourists. But the people I was eating lunch with down there were all [citizen] lobbyists. They were all people like me, actually, and I didn’t meet anyone who was doing something I really hated. I met people from the teachers association, I met open space advocates, and I loved them all. I loved their causes, and I thought, ‘We should have been here before now, because if I like their causes, I bet their Congresspeople do, too!’…Now, being from a small museum, I spend a lot of time scheduling my year, and I expected that Museums Advocacy Day would be just that, one day, and I would come home and maybe next year I would think about going again…

While in D.C., a colleague of mine, Elsa Bailey, was asked by our local congresswoman [Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)] to make a presentation [about funding for museums] to her district office and a local council that she had set up. We put together a group of other small museums, a group of museums, by the way, that I never met, had no previous contact with. I called them out of the blue. I said, ‘Your Congresswoman wants to know about you,’ and everybody came. Everybody came because they realized that here was a way for everyone who didn’t get to go to D.C. to still do that. The district office was very nice, the local council was made up of local elected officials, business leaders, union leaders, people I hadn’t had a lot of contact with before. They asked good questions and they were interested in us and suddenly Museums Advocacy Day not only led to federal advocacy but also local advocacy…

The local paper even came to cover it so we all got in the paper, too. This was a huge benefit, …

Advocacy raised the profile of about a dozen small museums in our district and so now I’m planning on keeping advocacy in my day-to-day schedule because of this great experience.”

—Jenny Benjamin, Director of the Museum of Vision, San Francisco

Network with Your Peers and Build Your Business

“I didn’t fully understand the real value of going to Museum Advocacy Day when I registered. However, after hearing from expert speakers and learning about the issues affecting the field, I really got a sense of how the success of our business is directly impacted by the health of the museum industry. We were then able to meet on Capitol Hill with representatives from our own state and talk with them about how money invested in museums not only strengthens the institutions, but also contributes to local businesses and jobs. An added bonus of attending was the formation of several relationships with museum professionals, some of which have already translated into real projects. It was an excellent experience that we plan to attend year after year.”

—Chris Tebbutt, Exhibit Designer & Museum Planner, Boston

Host a Congressional Forum on Autism

“We met with Sen. Bob Casey’s office during Museums Advocacy Day 2011, and told his staff about the Please Touch Museum’s unique Autism Access Program, which provides innovative tools to make a museum visit more comfortable and enjoyable for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Sen. Casey’s staff was very interested in this program, which includes accessibility tools, mobile programming and special Autism Access events. Several months later when Sen. Casey was planning an autism awareness event, his staff remembered our program, contacted us and we were very proud to host and participate in the senator’s Autism Roundtable in October, 2011. The event received extensive media attention, which highlighted the Please Touch Museum’s important community programs for families and children dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The event also helped strengthen our relationship with Sen. Casey’s office. Our Museums Advocacy Day visits to Capitol Hill made all of this possible.”

—Laura Foster, President and CEO, Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia

Host the Congressional Art Show

“During Museums Advocacy Day 2011, I met a staff person for Congressman Bobby Shilling (R-IL), a newly elected member of Congress. That conversation led to our hosting the Congressional Art Show for his district. We hosted this at our Dickson Mounds Museum, which is centrally located in his sprawling district. We had no relationship with him prior to the event and he had not visited our facilities. We had an in-depth opportunity to tour him through Dickson Mounds Museum and tell him more about our facilities and programs. His wife is very interested in art, and he has 10 children. We invited the director of our IL Arts Council, which provided additional opportunities for us to talk about the importance of the arts and federal support. Congressman Shilling believes in less government, but noted that he doesn’t believe in cutting things out completely.  I believe we made good connections with a new member of Congress, and we discussed ways to improve how we could manage the Congressional Art Show in the future. It is kind of remarkable that he pursued doing the Congressional Art Show as a new member of Congress, with a limited time frame to get this organized. The only reason this came about was due to the connection I made with the Congressman’s staff person at Museums Advocacy Day.”

—Karen Witter, Associate Director, Illinois State Museum, Springfield

Provide Your Museum’s Posters and Brochures for the Congressional Office

“At the Museum Advocacy Day in February 2010, I was part of a delegation of Massachusetts museum representatives who visited the office of newly elected Sen. Scott Brown. In addition to presenting advocacy day issues to the senator’s staff and meeting Sen. Brown briefly, the group learned that the office brochure rack was empty and the walls were largely bare. Encouraged by the staff, Historic New England immediately sent brochures for our Massachusetts museums to be available in the reception room. Historic New England staff then selected three historic images from our collections to represent the Senator’s career, including a historic bicycling scene, a natural scene reflecting environmental interest and a view of the Massachusetts State House where he once served. Framed photos, crediting Historic New England, were sent and now hang in the office reception room where they are viewed by dozens of visitors every day. Thanks to Museum Advocacy Day, Historic New England directly increased its visibility in Washington and before many Massachusetts constituents, and contributed to building visibility for all museums through our Senate office.”

—Carl R. Nold, President and CEO, Historic New England

Build Your Public Speaking Skills

“I attended Museums Advocacy Day 2012 as a class assignment in the George Washington University Museum Education Program. I was scheduled to meet Congress Members from both Georgia (my home) and Virginia (where I lived during school). As one of only four members of the Georgia delegation, I was extremely nervous when I realized that I would be meeting with my Representative alone. Everyone assured me that the Members probably would not attend the meetings in person, and that I would have plenty of time to practice with both delegations before that meeting later in the afternoon. My first meeting was with Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia. I primarily listened and observed the other delegates, but I did have the opportunity to tell Senator Isakson about how growing up in Georgia museums shaped the educational and career path I had chosen. In the subsequent meetings with congressional aides, I emphasized how students would be affected by proposed legislation.

Representative Austin Scott ran over from voting to meet with me personally, and at the end of our meeting said that I was, “very professional.” AAM did an excellent job of clearly outlining the points that needed to be covered, and training me to build my own story around those points in order to be an effective advocate. I enjoyed MAD immensely! The advocacy skills I learned and the opportunity to meet with my Congress Members were excellent preparation for my current job with the Close Up Foundation. In my position as a Program Instructor, I am more than comfortable facilitating meetings between students and their Members; MAD was instrumental in my developing that comfort. I not only had a great time, but developed applicable job skills as well.”

—Jamila Lewis

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