Speaking Up: Museums Advocacy Day 2013



From: Jason B. Jones, Executive Director, Western Museums Association

WMA was a proud supporting Partner of the Fifth Annual Museums Advocacy Day – a two-day event February 25-26, 2013, in Washington, DC. While many working in the museum field know that museums play a key role in education, job creation, tourism, economic development and more, many elected officials are not fully aware. In February, WMA helped support the field by advocating on Capitol Hill for museums and against potential budget cuts for next year.

I was lucky enough to represent WMA at Museum Advocacy Day 2013. It was my first time at Museum Advocacy Day, and my first trip to DC - both were great experiences. America’s democratic process is amazing, and participating in it made me all the more aware of the truth in Heather Ferrell’s blog from last year:

“The importance of having a voice in your government and the right and security to speak with elected representatives. For museum leaders we often spend more energy focused on the pressing priorities of raising money for our institutions’ budget, our capital campaign, or creating the next season of a stellar exhibitions and programs than spend the time to connect with our representatives. In the furor of our busy schedules, it’s easy to overlook an inherent right and its associated civil liberties that millions of other people fight for today.”

Here’s a brief update on Museum Advocacy Day 2013 from Ben Kershaw, Assistant Director of Congressional Relations, American Alliance of Museums:

MAD 13 Durbin Illinois advocates meet with Senator (and 2013 honoree) Richard Durbin

Do you know what this year’s federal budget, next year’s federal budget, comprehensive tax reform, and a rewrite of our education laws all have in common?  They’re all being considered in Congress right now.  They’re also of critical significance to museums nationwide, which is why this is such an important moment for our field.

On February 25-26, 265 museum professionals and supporters from around the country met in Washington, D.C. for the fifth annual Museums Advocacy Day.  They spent their first day strategizing, receiving legislative briefings and picking up the insider knowledge they’d need to make the most of their time on Capitol Hill.  Then, armed for success, these brave advocates stormed the Hill, making the case for museums in over 300 Congressional offices representing 48 states.

They asked legislators to support funding for the IMLS Office of Museum Services and explained how museums create jobs in their state or district.  They emphasized that museums were a bipartisan cause when asking members of Congress to protect tax incentives for charitable giving.  Many also made their legislators mindful that museums aren’t just vital stakeholders in education policy; they are beloved community institutions.

This year was a huge success, but we’ve still got a long ways to go before all 535 members of Congress hear from their constituents on Museums Advocacy Day.  So if you joined us in Washington, D.C. this year, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  If you couldn’t make it, we hope to see you next year.  While you’re getting an extra early start on your travel plans, here are three things you can do to advance the cause of museums everywhere:

  1. Set up a meeting in your legislator’s local office
  2. Get to know them and connect on social media
  3. Share an Economic Impact Statement with your member of Congress


Ben Kershaw is the Assistant Director of Congressional Relations at the American Alliance of Museums.  Before coming to the Alliance, he handled tax, budget, and workforce issues for Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).  He also previously served under Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), working on a wide range of issues including arts, historic preservation, taxes, and transportation. 



I found the experience of speaking with legislators and staffers to be invaluable. I went for the first time and represented Alaska and Nevada! There was a distinct advantage in advocating issues to members that had visited any of their state museums. I recommend strongly that your institutions extend a first time or renewed invitation to visit.

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