TROY, N.Y. — The Museum Association of New York (MANY) is pleased to announce a new initiative to help museums in New York State amplify the role that our state and people have played in the development of American democracy as we approach the Semiquincentennial.
In the latest grant funding for humanities projects, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded MANY $499,988 to support “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy,” produced in partnership with Humanities New York (HNY). The series will use the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition Voices and Votes: Democracy in America as a launching point to support the work of twelve museums and their communities to explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American Democracy and envision the future of our nation.
“These 258 newly funded projects demonstrate the vitality of the humanities across our nation,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “NEH is proud to support exemplary education, preservation, media, research, and infrastructure projects that expand resources for Americans, support humanities programs and opportunities for underserved students and communities, and deepen our understanding of our history, culture, and society.”
“The lives of New Yorkers are richer because of our commitment to education, humanities, the arts, and preserving the history and culture of our state,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This $499,988 in federal NEH funding will keep this proud tradition alive and help ensure our communities can continue learning from New York’s many wonderful educational and research institutions. I will always fight to support these essential community institutions and to make educational and cultural opportunities more accessible for all.”
“Our state’s museums are integral parts of our communities, serving as educational, historical, and cultural resources for residents in every part of our state,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20). “With that in mind, I’m thrilled to celebrate this significant infusion of federal funding that will allow the Museum Association of New York (MANY) to create museum spaces where visitors can explore the context and controversies behind our democratic system. This investment will allow MANY to install a Smithsonian exhibition at twelve museums across New York State that will help communities facilitate thought-provoking discussions about the roots and responsibilities of our democracy. Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve been a strong supporter of museums in our region and beyond. I’m proud to lend my support to this worthy and timely project.”
Adapted from American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Voices and Votes includes historical and contemporary photographs; educational and archival video; engaging multimedia interactives; and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material. MANY is New York State’s representative of the MoMS program, an outreach program of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service that brings traveling exhibitions, educational resources, and programming across America to communities through local museums, historical societies, and other cultural venues.
“We’re excited to collaborate once again with the Museum Association of New York, to share the wealth of the Smithsonian’s research on democracy in America,” said Carol Harsh, Director of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. “As one of the original thirteen colonies, New York was at the heart of the American experiment to create a government of, by, and for the people. The support from the NEH will expand the reach of Voices and Votes and help communities amplify their own local history.”
The exhibition will open at Preservation Long Island in March 2024 then travel to Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, National Women’s Hall of Fame and Museum, Robert H. Jackson Center, the Munson in Utica, Alice Austen House, Long Island Museum, Onondaga Historical Association and Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center, Genesee Country Village and Museum, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, Chemung County Historical Society, and concludes at the Underground Railroad Education Center in Albany in January 2026.
Each museum will display the Smithsonian exhibition and produce an exhibition drawn from their own collection that relates to their community’s role in the development and advancement of democracy in America. Smithsonian resources available to the twelve museums will include digital learning curricula and communication tools. MANY staff will organize the exhibition travel, and help each museum plan, implement, and evaluate the exhibitions and interpretive programs.
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation will add $120,000 to the NEH’s award for this 30-month-long project that will support public events, community exhibitions, free public lectures, workshops for teachers, and community for discussion programs at the twelve museums. “As we look forward to the U.S. Semiquincentennial in 2026, the Smithsonian’s Voices and Votes exhibition is an exciting and relevant opportunity to engage people in the history of democracy in America,” said Deryn Pomeroy, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Pomeroy Foundation. “We are thrilled to provide a grant to MANY in support of bringing the exhibit to twelve host sites throughout New York State. This initiative will further enhance the ways in which these outstanding organizations serve their audiences and communities with meaningful conversations related to history, democracy, and our nation’s 250th anniversary.”
The project will help the museums build their capacity to engage with their communities with access to consulting and advising scholars, a project fellow dedicated to program support, New York State Museum education and curatorial staff, AASLH’s Vital Resources program, training by HNY staff in leading Community Conversations, and a subscription to the OurStoryBridge virtual platform to collect and share oral histories about voting and democracy in their communities.
HNY is an instrumental project partner who will share their expertise in developing and leading community conversations and their deep connections to humanities scholarship and audience development. “The New Agora invites New Yorkers to revive and redefine democratic practice in the twenty-first century,” said Joseph Murphy, Director of Grant-Making at Humanities New York. “Humanities New York is proud to join The Museum Association of New York in revitalizing the experiment in self-government, offering all New Yorkers a space in which to exercise the habits of democracy and reflect—in critical and respectful ways—upon our past, present and future. We wanted to support this opportunity to strengthen the public humanities across our state.”
Teacher training workshops will be organized by New York State Museum Senior Historian and Curator of Political and Military History Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator of Social History Ashley Hopkins-Benton, Museum Instructors James Jenkins and Kathleen Morehouse, and Director of Education Kathryn Weller. Workshops will connect exhibition content to New York State Learning Standards and create a teacher training program that encourages hands-on and inquiry-based classroom learning.
“Museums have a crucial role in society’s civic education,” said Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator of Political and Military History at the New York State Museum. “The New York State Museum looks forward to collaborating with the Museum Association of New York and cultural organizations across the state on this exciting initiative to highlight museums as critical gathering spaces for civic engagement and conversations about American democracy.”
“OurStoryBridge is honored to contribute to MANY’s upcoming project for the Semiquincentennial,” said Jery Y. Huntley, Founder and President of OurStoryBridge Inc. “Our methodology is a great fit to help share America’s personal narratives on democracy online and to reach wide and diverse audiences. Thank you MANY for all that you are doing! So proud to be a part of this!”
Each site will host the Voices and Votes exhibition for six weeks. To learn more about A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy and the Voices and Votes MoMS exhibition, visit nysmuseums.org/Voices-and-Votes.
For exhibition images, visit https://museumonmainstreet.org/VoicesVotes
For host site images, visit https://www.dropbox.com/t/4pigrZhNfZgc8cYP
Project Participants and Host Sites
(in exhibition tour order)
Preservation Long Island
Preservation Long Island works with Long Islanders to preserve the cultural heritage of the region. They were founded in 1948 in response to intense post-World War II development with a mission to preserve individual historic buildings and artifacts through the creation of house museums. Today, Preservation Long Island advances the importance of historic preservation in the region through advocacy, education, and stewardship.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be on view March 24 to May 3, 2024 at Preservation Long Island’s Headquarters, an 1842 re-purposed church in Cold Spring Harbor that now serves as their office, library, and exhibition gallery.
Sackets Harbor Battlefield, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Following the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. Today the Sackets Harbor Battlefield is interpreted to the public with exhibitions, guided and self-guided tours, and a restored 1850’s Navy Yard and Commandant’s House. During the summer months, guides dressed in military clothing of 1813 reenact the camp life of the common soldier.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed May 17 to June 28, 2024 in an 1817 limestone structure that originally functioned as the Union Hotel.
National Women’s Hall of Fame
The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the nation’s first and oldest nonprofit organization and museum dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women. In August 2020, the National Women’s Hall of Fame moved into the historic Seneca Knitting Mill which operated from 1844 until 1999. Their comprehensive programming and beautiful museum on the banks of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal uses the stories of its 302 Inductees to inspire and engage all who visit.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented from July 12 to August 23, 2024 on the newly renovated second floor of the Hall.
Robert H. Jackson Center
The Center advances the legacy of Justice Robert H. Jackson through live presentations, exhibitions, multimedia, research, and scholarship that demonstrates the relevance and applicability of Justice Jackson’s ideas to present and future generations. Their programs are based on Jackson’s views on international law, constitutional law, and human and civil rights with special emphasis on educating youth on issues of justice and the rule of law.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented from September 6 to October 18 as part of their annual Constitution Day programming.
Founded in 1919, Munson’s Museum of Art features a renowned permanent collection, rotating exhibitions, and education programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. Munson believes in the power of the arts and serves their entire community with essential experiences that 4 inspire personal and cultural transformation. Munson will partner with the Oneida County History Center to produce their local exhibition.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed November 11 to December 13, 2024 in the 1960 Philip Johnson-designed Museum of Art building.
Alice Austen House Museum
The Alice Austen House keeps the bold spirit of the early American photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952) alive by presenting changing exhibitions of her pioneering historic photographs, providing education programs for students, and offering a range of cultural programs for the public. The museum is a New York City and National Landmark, on the Register of Historic Places and a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s distinctive group of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios. In 2017, they were designated a National site of LGBTQ History.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be installed December 27, 2024 to February 7, 2025 in newly renovated galleries within the Victorian Gothic Cottage that served as Austen’s home.
The Long Island Museum
The Long Island Museum cares for significant regional art and historic collections and maintains one of the most important museum collections of historic horse-drawn vehicles in the nation. A leading cultural institution and the only Smithsonian Affiliate in the region, the Museum is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages through the heritage of Long Island and its diverse communities. Historic buildings from the Stony Brook community were gathered by the museum’s founders onto the site to create the foundation for its current multi-structure complex.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented in the Visitor Center/History Museum’s Cowles Gallery from February 21 to April 4, 2025.
Onondaga Historical Association / Skä•noñh Great Law of Peace Center
The Onondaga Historical Association’s archives and collections give perspective on significant social, political, and religious movements in Central New York. The historical association operates a history museum in the urban center of Syracuse and a Haudenosaunee Cultural Center, the Skä-ñonh: Great Law of Peace Center, in Liverpool. The Center is focused on telling the story of the native peoples of Central New York through the lens of the Onondaga Nation, the keepers of the Central Fire. The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaunee, where American democracy began.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the Skä-ñonh: Great Law of Peace Center from April 18 to May 30, 2025.
Genesee Country Village and Museum
Opened to the public in 1976, America’s Bicentennial, Genesee Country Village and Museum is the largest living history museum in New York State and the third largest in the United States, covering 600 acres with 68 historic buildings and more than 20,000 artifacts telling the story of New York State and 19th-century America. The museum’s interpretation includes the contributions of women, religious groups, and the Black and Indigenous communities. Since 1999, the museum has partnered with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host Citizenship and Naturalization ceremonies.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the John L. Wehle Gallery from June 3 to July 25, 2025.
Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission
The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission is the gateway to resident and visitor experiences about Buffalo’s rich African American history. The Commission illuminates its vibrant neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, people, and institutions, as well as its significant impact on local, national, and international history and brings attention to the resilience of Black communities across our nation. From the Buffalo Anti-Slavery Movement and the Niagara Movement to the Civil Rights Movement and the Jazz Age— leaders in the Corridor understood the importance of democracy and the need for African Americans and women to have the power to vote.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at The Michigan Street Baptist Church, the oldest church built by African Americans in Buffalo from August 8 to September 19, 2025.
Chemung County Historical Society
Founded in 1923, the Chemung County Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the history of the Chemung Valley region. First chartered by New York State in 1947, today CCHS operates two cultural repositories, the Chemung Valley History Museum and the Booth Library. They are the largest general history museum in the Southern Tier telling the history of Elmira and Chemung County with interactive exhibits, educational programming, and lectures for visitors of all ages. Their collections include records that document voting, elections, and politics. They are also the repository for the records of the local NAACP.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented at the Chemung Valley History Museum from October 3 to November 14, 2025.
Underground Railroad Education Center
Inspired by the reclamation of the voices of the Underground Railroad activists written out of American history, the Underground Railroad Education Center (UREC) seeks to empower multi-age, diverse audiences through education, dialogue, and program experiences to learn about the work of historic justice activists and explore their relationship with us today. Located in the history Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, a headquarters for Underground Railroad activity in the Caption Region in the mid-1850s, UREC places the work of the Black abolitionists in their national and international context and relates their work to today’s justice efforts.
The Voices and Votes exhibition will be presented in the newly built Interpretive Center of Underground Railroad Education Center from November 28, 2025 to January 9, 2026.
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About the Museum Association of New York
The Museum Association of New York is the only statewide museum service organization with more than 700 member museums, historical societies, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. MANY helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities. Visit www.nysmuseums.org and follow MANY on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @nysmuseums.
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.
About the William G. Pomeroy Foundation
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation® is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and working to improve the probability of finding appropriate donor matches or other life-saving treatments for blood cancer patients. Established by Trustee Bill Pomeroy in 2005 to bring together his two greatest passions, the Pomeroy Foundation is a private, philanthropic organization located in Syracuse, N.Y. As the nation’s leading funder of historical roadside markers, the Pomeroy Foundation has awarded more than 2,100 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 48 states and Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.
About Humanities New York
Using dialogue, reflection, and critical thinking, Humanities New York applies the humanities to strengthen democratic society. Established in 1975 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities New York is a private 501(c)(3) organization that may receive federal, state, and private funding. To learn more about Humanities New York, visit humanitiesny.org.
Media InquiresKathy Coffta Sims
Director of Communications
William G. Pomeroy Foundation