From the President
The importance of history is at risk
For the past month Mystic Seaport and its staff have been actively advocating in Washington, D.C., Hartford, locally, and online for a variety of issues important to the Museum, the region, and the state of Connecticut.
Museum Executive Vice President Susan Funk and I joined our museum colleagues from around the country for the American Alliance of Museums annual Museum Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Every state in the union was represented, and we spent two days learning about the issues and walking the halls of Capitol Hill speaking to our country’s leaders about the key issues affecting museums today.
At the forefront of our concerns is the proposed federal budget that calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and other programs that provide competitive grants that in turn help fund meaningful experiences for our citizens and which are today some of the most trusted sources of information.
Our presence in Washington was timely, as the announcement for these budget cuts was made on the first of the two advocacy days. Museums both large and small benefit directly from NEH, NEA, and IMLS. Many of our exhibitions and special programs would not be what they are without such funding. For instance, a portion of the Charles W. Morgan’s 38th Voyage programming and the culminating Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers exhibition were funded by an NEH Chairman’s Grant of $450,000.
Museum Director of Communications Dan McFadden and I have been to Hartford several times recently to advocate for the continued funding of tourism marketing for the State of Connecticut. In addition, Governor Malloy and the Department of Economic and Community Development made a special visit to Mystic Seaport to hold a press conference that spoke to the economic importance of tourism to the state’s economy and the recent successes of same. There is no doubt that Mystic – and the many destinations and museums in the region – help to fuel an economy that is directly driven by the number of visitors who come to visit each and every month of the year. A robust tourism industry doesn’t happen by chance; it requires both quality places to visit and a far-reaching marketing plan that raises awareness of the area.
At the very end of the month, another Museum Advocacy Day was held in Hartford and attended by Susan Funk, Supervisor of Interpretation Rachel Thomas-Shapiro, and Public Programs Project Manager Arlene Marcionette. We met with members of the General Assembly to help them understand the importance of museums and the arts to the well-being of our State. At a time when budgets are challenging, we have to make sure that the value of our institutions and the importance of our missions are made clear to those that are making decisions about policy and budgets.
We also continue to advocate within the State for continued funding for Connecticut Humanities, another important granting agency. Elimination of funding here means that the Connecticut institutions most responsible for sharing experiences and information regarding history, art, and literature, to name just a few, are at risk.
Finally, Mystic Seaport is proud to be an early supporter and adopter of the principles and values of the History Relevance Campaign. As hard as it may be to believe, the importance of history is at risk. Thus, in 2013, a number of associations and individual organizations like Mystic Seaport came together to clearly articulate and promote the value of history in our lives. At a time when science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are getting a tremendous amount of attention, it’s important that we also remember that history is the foundation for our understanding of ourselves and for our place within it and within America.
We learn from history and we create history, and if, I surmise, every citizen in America truly valued history, then there would be no way that agencies such as NEH and NEA could ever be under threat for lack of funding. Further, there would be no way that institutions that promote the importance of history should ever want for lack of funding. I encourage you to visit the History Relevance Campaign website. Let people know that history matters to you!
As you can see, there is much for which to advocate, and I invite you to become your own advocate for the humanities in every way possible. We thank you for your enduring personal involvement with Mystic Seaport.