John and Bethany at Museums Advocacy Day

A record number of museum people hit Capitol Hill offices last week for Museums Advocacy Day. I participated alongside several AASLH Council members and our Chief of Operations, Bethany Hawkins. In total, there were 387 people representing 48 states. It was an even more exciting and productive weekend than usual. AASLH is grateful to the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) for organizing this important event, and intends to continue participating as an official partnering organization each year.

We spent Monday learning the issues and historical context, then honed our strategies for talking with Members of Congress and their staffs on Tuesday. Top of the list this year was reauthorization of the Institute for Museum and Library Services and funding ($38.6 million) of IMLS’s Office of Museum Services, as well as opposition to tax code changes that might limit deductions for charitable donations. Advocates also spoke up for the National Endowments for the Humanities (NEH) and the Arts (NEA), arguing that like IMLS, these federal agencies transform a trickle of federal dollars into much more private and corporate support at the local level which lifts the entire field.

Bethany Hawkins and I managed to visit seven offices of legislators from Tennessee, where AASLH is based. We brought specific examples of the impact Tennessee museums have on their state, leading to several great conversations with staffers, and in one case, with the representative himself.


AASLH Council members took some time before Museums Advocacy Day began to visit AASLH member site President’s Lincoln’s Cottage, a great place to get inspired before meeting with legislators.

To see the specific resources with which AAM armed each advocacy participant, click here. Most popular this year were the State Snapshots, infographics that show how many federal dollars are returned to each state, and the Museums: Did You Know? Infographic. These are rich sources of facts to work into your own advocacy efforts. And don’t forget to use Value of History Statement, too, from the History Relevance campaign.

This year, AASLH developed online programming to help increase advocacy awareness and skills among our members. This included a free webinar on Everyday Museum Advocacy (watch the recording here) as well as a open #AASLHchat on Twitter (see the Storify here) on the same subject.

And we’re growing our year-round advocacy capacity as well. At the AASLH Council’s meeting the day before Museums Advocacy Day began, the creation of a new AASLH staff position was approved. This new staffer will help support our organization’s collaborative relationships, particularly those in the area of history advocacy, such as the History Relevance campaign and the National Coalition for History.


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