Notes from IHA
Hundreds of advocates gathered in Washington,D.C., during February 25-26, for Museums Advocacy Day 2013, sponsored by the American Alliance of Museums. The first day was spent in intense preparation for visits to Capitol Hill. Delegates learned about PILOTS (payment in lieu of taxes) and how to craft a two-minute “elevator speech” to make a succinct case for museums. They received updates on activities at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Science Foundation. Attendees were given briefings on important issues and advice on how to meet with elected officials. The second day was devoted to scheduled meetings with members of Congress and ended with a reception at which Illinois’s Senator Dick Durbin was honored for his support of museums. One of the issues brought out at the meeting was the threat to charitable deductions that provide support to many museums and cultural heritage organizations. This topic is up for consideration as legislators continue to search for spending cuts and new revenue that can help them balance the budget. More information can be found at www.aam-us.org/advocacy.
Closer to home, museum advocacy is the subject of efforts at the state level. The Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) and Museums in the Park have again joined together to sponsor Museum Day, scheduled this year for Thursday, April 11. Museum staff, board members, and volunteers are invited to participate in this important event in Springfield. The day’s activities will begin at the host museum, the Illinois State Museum, with breakfast with state legislators, followed by an advocacy program. The afternoon includes an opportunity to visit elected officials at the statehouse. For an invitation to participate and information about registering for Museum Day, go to www.Illinoismuseums.org. All registrations are due by April 5.
To assist Illinois museums in making their case for the economic and cultural value they provide, IAM conducted its third survey about the current situation in our state’s museums. Approximately 175 museums participated. The survey documented that Illinois museums employ 6,500 Illinoisans; spend over $548,155,000 annually in goods and services; and serve more than 20,350,000 visitors each year, including more than 2,610,000 schoolchildren and 121,300 teachers.
Nationwide, museums rank among the top three destinations for family vacations, and cultural and heritage activities account for over 23 percent of all domestic trips recorded by the tour and travel industry. When making a decision to relocate, businesses consider access to cultural resources that include a dynamic museum community, according to research by the National Governors Association. Governments that support the arts see an average return on investment of more than seven dollars in taxes for every dollar that is appropriated. Museums help teach state, local, and core curricula to K-12 students; provide professional development for teachers; and serve as valuable community resources.