Museums increasingly realize that if they want government funding and support, they need to make a case for it, and get their voice heard. So today and tomorrow is ‘Museums Advocacy Day.’ Flocks of staff, volunteers, trustees, students, even museum enthusiasts are rallying to make a strong case to legislators for governmental support, both online and on Capitol Hill.
Right now, in Georgetown, Washington, DC, event organizers are training attendees in how to make the case for museums, especially by emphasizing economic impacts. The American Association of Museums organized this 3rd annual advocacy day. The conference includes sessions about threats museums are facing with new laws and budgets, backgrounders on why museums should matter to the public and to legislators, and role-playing training, to learn what to do when visiting Capitol Hill. This is an issue briefing this afternoon:
Tomorrow morning, busses will take participants from Georgetown over to Capitol Hill. There will be a morning congressional breakfast in the Senate Dirksen Office Building, where selected museum leaders will mingle with members of congress and staffers over coffee and pastries. During the rest of Tuesday, freshly-trained participants will be unleashed to drop by their senator’s and representative’s offices and make a pitch for museums. Supporters who can’t attend to write their legislators, with form letters ready to emulate.
Government funding is vital for many museum’s operation, and in the heat of budget debates (and slashed arts & humanities budgets) in Washington, museums seek more funding for grants from IMLS, NEH, NEA, and NSF; and they want governments to subsidize their advertising. In addition, museums want the federal government to encourage donations (which accounts for over a third of museums’ operating funds) by boosting tax breaks to donors; and they want some changes to regulations such as copyright controls on orphaned works, reduction of security-related costs for cargo transport, and reduction of restrictions from the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The American Association of Museums has page summarizing the issues.
Event organizers emphasize that museums help society by: serving the public, being trustworthy, being popular, serving every community, partnering with schools, educating their communities, and driving local economies. See a full list of museum facts, compiled by AAM.