Civic Engagement Resources

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"Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes." – Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich

The Western Museums Association is calling upon our member institutions and the greater museum field to move beyond statements and engage in acts of civic responsibility. In this era of partisan divide that has been swept up by a global pandemic and protests fueled by anger at racial injustice, it is now even more imperative that museums and cultural institutions understand their position in civic engagement and social impact. Join us in this effort and help us to amplify the voices of our communities.

So, what exactly can your museum do?

Understanding Civic Engagement for Museums & Cultural Organizations

Regardless of the type of institution – art museum, science center, natural history museum, etc. – majority are embedded within communities as centralized place-makers and have a mission intertwined with a civic obligation to serve people. Begin your journey to a more unified, inclusive community by understanding the role civic engagement plays within your very own institution.

Foundations for Civic Impact: Advocacy and Civic Engagement Toolkit for Private Foundations – Council of Nonprofits

Civic Engagement – The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook

Civic Engagement – National Council on Public History

Can civic museums become catalysts for social change? by Becca Antink

Calls for Action for Museums & Cultural Organizations

Through dedicated hard work, every museum, historical site, science center, library, and other organization has the potential to become an incubation of innovative, actionable ideas that create long-term change and inspire communities. The following articles, resources and guides will help you to activate civic engagement within your institution and spark social impact across your community.

Toolkit for Organizations – National Voter Registration Day

Become a National Voter Registration Day 2021 Partner – National Voter Registration Day

Nonprofits and the Promotion of Civic Engagement: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding the “Civic Footprint” of Nonprofits within Local Communities – Scholarly Commons, University of Pennsylvania

Calls for Action: Exhibition Interactives as Method to Promote Civic Engagement in Community Centered Museums – Capstone by Angeera Khadka, USF Museum Studies graduate student

Civic Responsibility Guide: Resources to Promote Civic Engagement – Concord Law School

Digitally Accessible Educational Resources – iCivics, a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that every student in America receives a quality and engaging civic education and graduates from high school well prepared and enthusiastic for citizenship.

(Nonpartisanly) Get Involved in Future Elections

As nonprofits, museums and cultural institutions are required by law to remain nonpartisan in any election activities. However, everyone can still play a critical role in supporting political participation by spreading awareness, promoting equity in democracy, and becoming a polling site. From when, where, and how to vote, to mobilizing staff and advertising Election Day, there is plenty that your institution can do and these resources are designed to help.

Nonprofit Vote offers a guide on how nonprofits can use social media to promote voting, engage and educate prospective voters, and raise awareness using a nonpartisan approach.

For all educators and parents – Teaching Tolerance has created the Future Voters Project, offering free, valuable guidance and resources for teaching young people about voting rights and registering young voters.

Additional Resources:

Nonprofit Voter Resources – American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

Get Out the Vote – American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

Now is the Time to Act: Museums & Civic Responsibility – Western Museums Association (WMA)

Why Nonprofits are Crucial for Democracy –

Seven Reasons to Do Voter Registration –

10 things your institution can do from now until Election Day. –

Voter Engagment Checklist –

Webinar: Staying Nonpartisan as a 501(c)(3) Organization –

Webinars to Help Your Organization Master Civic Engagement

Museums Support Democracy (Upcoming 2022 Webinar Series) – Museum Hue + MANY

Museums Cannot Be Silent: Whitney Plantation – SEMC

Justice Now: What Would a Truth and Justice Commission Look Like in America – ICSC

Beyond Statements: People Power – AAMC Foundation

Beyond Statements: Taking Action – AAMC Foundation & Art Fund

Webinar Short: Definitions of Justice – ICSC

Museum Think Tank: Cultural Organizations as Incubators for Social Impact – Cuseum

COVID-19 and Vulnerable Populations  – ICSC

AASLH Conversations: Monuments and Memory – AASLH

Understanding Crisis Through a Transitional Justice Lens – ICSC


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These resources are subject to change and will be updated as new information becomes available.

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