Two weeks ago, I attended a museum advocacy workshop organized by the Ohio Museums Association and hosted by the Massillon Museum in Northeast Ohio. The workshop was well attended and the speakers – who I am glad to call friends and colleagues – were stellar. Advocacy and lobbying were clearly defined, best practices (and those to avoid) were discussed, and connections were made with a variety of organizations from around the state.
The truth is, any conference, annual meeting, or workshop you attend will probably at least touch on advocacy – advocacy on behalf of your organization, your project, your community. Why?
Because advocacy matters.
The government shutdown has been on my mind quite a bit (perhaps yours, as well?), though I’ve been struggling to write a post about it, and figure out what to say, even as we are approaching the end of week two of the shutdown itself. But I’ve had to remind myself that everything national is local. This federal government shutdown is affecting me and my community. It’s affecting you too.
At this difficult time when museums and national parks are being shuttered, community benefits aren’t available, checks are being delayed, and very real hardships are being felt by hundreds of thousands around the country what can we do?
This past Monday, October 7, was the second annual Speak Up for Ohio Museums! Day. On this day, museum professionals and supporters alike shared their love of museums online, actively advocating for them through letter writing campaigns to their local leadership and joined the broader conversation about how museums matter.
At lunch with a few OMA board members, the week before, we had a spirited discussion about whether it was even worth sending letters to our elected representatives, given the current state of affairs. Would they be focused enough to care about our plight given the fights currently happening at the federal level? What impact can our small voices have in the current climate? But, the truth is…
Our voices matter now more than ever.
In this time of political, financial, and national instability, contacting our elected leaders matters. If we don’t speak to the impact that the shutdown is having on museums, national parks, monuments, NASA, and other necessary federally funded culturally significant programs is having at the federal, state, regional and local levels, who will? If our elected leaders aren’t reminded that these programs matter in the face of this larger crisis the risk that they are sacrificed increases to an unnerving degree. Clearly, it is going to take a concerted effort. World War II vets storming the gates of their National monument have proven that a loud enough set of voices can make some impact (and some pretty compelling TV). But the longer this drags out, those images fade and new issues emerge. In that climate, creativity, clarity and persistence will all be necessary to be effective advocates for our causes.
And there are many ways to effectively advocate. Speaking at the national level is a logical place to start – but it’s not the only place. Take this opportunity to connect with your local and state-wide leadership: discuss the direct or indirect impact the shutdown is having on your community and organization; discuss the impact that your local leadership has on the important work your organization does and contributes to the community at large. This is an opportunity to advocate for now and for the future.
Need some inspiration? Try to watch the National Zoo’s Panda Cam, see what the Mars Rover is up to, or check out the National Archives’ last tweet.
Our voices matter. Now is the time to be heard.
What will you do? What will you say?