By Eric Morse, AASLH Senior Manager of Marketing and Member Strategy
Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in my first Museums Advocacy Day. I had a great time, and I hope you’ll join me at this event on February 26 – 27, 2024!
Museum Advocacy Day is an annual event that brings history and museum professionals and volunteers to Washington, D.C. to advocate for federal support of history organizations and museums.
Museums Advocacy Day is organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). The American Association for State and Local History is an organizational supporter of this event. AASLH is encouraging our members and friends to join us at this year’s Museums Advocacy Day.
Here are five reasons why you should participate:
1. Making it Personal Makes a Difference
On February 27, you’ll meet with lawmakers or their staff. The funding you’ll advocate for can be abstract to members of Congress. The stories you’ll share about the work you and your organization do will allow your representatives to see the impact this funding makes in their districts. This is the most powerful way to secure funding for history organizations and museums!
In addition, you may find that your Representative or Senator may be more responsive to you when you return home. I live in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Zach Nunn. Nunn was the only lawmaker I was able to meet in person (I also met with staff from all of Iowa’s House districts and both senators). That meeting made an impression. In follow up advocacy, I’ve received a personal phone call from Nunn’s office.
2. Federal Funding of History Organizations is Under Threat
Unfortunately, the federal agencies that provide grants to history organizations and museums have faced the threat of eliminated funding for the last six years. Just a few weeks ago, an amendment to a federal funding bill would have eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
Thankfully, attempts to eliminate or reduce funding for the NEH and Institute for Museum and Library Services have been defeated. Better yet, these agencies and others have received budget increases.
This has only been possible thanks to the advocacy by the history and museum fields. We need to keep the pressure up on Congress. Budget disagreements have resulted in the federal government almost shutting down twice in the last two months. We need to make sure that lawmakers understand that funding supporting history organizations must be included in future budgets.
3. Participating is Easy
The American Alliance of Museums will set up all the Congressional meetings for you. You’ll receive training for your meetings the day before. Even if you’ve never done anything like this, you’ll be fully prepared before you go to the Hill. As our representatives in our government, everyone will be open to hearing from you.
You’ll meet other people from your state and region and will work with them to meet your state’s Congressional delegation. Staff and representatives of state, regional, and national associations that serve the field will also be in attendance, including me and my colleagues from AASLH. Museums Advocacy Day is a great opportunity to make connections with others working in the field. I met Nolan Dahm and Lauren Wallace from the Charlotte (NC) Museum of History last year and they wrote their own blog post about their experience.
There is plenty of networking on the first day, when training takes place, and at a reception at the end of the second day. That reception is held in the beautiful Capitol Visitors Center.
5. See Museums in DC
It had been around 15 years since I had last been to our nation’s capital. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture had opened since I last visited, so I extended my stay by a day to visit it. If possible, I recommend extending your stay. Seeing other museums puts you in the position of a visitor, which can lead to all kinds of inspiration for what you can do back at your organization.
I hope you’ll join me at Museums Advocacy Day 2024. AASLH members can register at the AAM member rate. Contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-320-3203 to get the discount code. Registration is open through January 19!