Interview with an Advocate: AAM’s Director of Advocacy on Museums Advocacy Day & More

Ember Farber is Director of Advocacy at the American Alliance of Museums, where she has been on staff since late 2003. Here Ember answers some of the questions about advocacy and Museums Advocacy Day she gets asked most often throughout the year.

Why is an advocacy day so important?

An advocacy day for any cause serves several important purposes.  First and foremost, on Capitol Hill, it puts your cause and your issue on the radar in a way few other activities can. Having that annual visit helps ensure congressional offices have to learn about your industry and the federal agencies that support it. It’s also a critical way for museums and museum advocates to develop an on-going relationship with Congressional offices and key staff. As advocates see each year, many, many issues come to Capitol Hill annually for an advocacy day to make their case directly to Congress, so it’s important that museums make that effort to make their case each year as well. Additionally, it’s a powerful networking opportunity and chance to interact directly with the federal agencies and partners that support museums’ work. There’s really nothing else like the energy that comes from joining with other passionate museum advocates and collectively making our presence known on Capitol Hill.

And let’s not forget – it’s how we let legislators and their staff know our key asks for the year, and, where appropriate, get to thank them for their critical work on behalf of museums.

Who comes to advocacy day? Do I have to be a director in order to advocate for my museum?

We often get asked who should participate or if you have to have a specific role in the field or at a museum to come to Museums Advocacy Day. Part of the strength of Museums Advocacy Day is that is brings together museum advocates from all parts of the field – museum professionals in all roles (education, visitor services, external relations, development,  director, deputy director, curator, exhibit manager), museum studies, museum education and public history students, independent professionals, museums service providers, museum trustees and advocates in-between museum positions. Whatever your role in a museum, or working for and with museums, your voice matters and adds to the impact of Museums Advocacy Day. We continue to hear positive feedback about the variation of advocates making visits together in a given state or congressional district.

What has the museum field accomplished over the past 10 years of advocacy days?

That’s exciting to think about! We’ve heard Members of Congress speak passionately about the value of museums, the impact of museums on their lives and society and the importance of fighting for them. Museums have developed relationships with their legislators where none previously existed.

We’ve seen legislators and staff seek out visits to the museums they represent following their visits from constituents on Capitol Hill. Advocates and their institutions have been added to congressional mailing lists and websites and become go-to resources for their legislative offices. Museums have received recommendations for federal grants and been asked to work with their legislators as hosts for the annual congressional art contents in their district. And we’ve created a world where congressional offices now expect and look forward to seeing museum advocates each February.

In addition to those types of impacts, we as a field have strengthened our advocacy skills and our amplified our unified, field-wide message. And we’ve deepened our relationship with partners across the field, such as Western Museums Association, without whom Museums Advocacy Day as we know it would not be possible.

What can I do now to Speak Up for Museums?

Great question, let us count the ways! While Museums Advocacy Day is an accomplishment in and of itself, for us it’s really the beginning of our year-round work to make the case for museums throughout the year. It’s the beginning of the legislative year and a great time for any advocate to get involved.

Here are a few ways to get started today:




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