The Wasilla museum and museum politics

Posted on September 3, 2008 under museums, politics

For a small local history museum, the Dorothy G. Page Museum has been getting unusual amounts of national publicity.

The city-owned museum in Wasilla, Alaska has been spotlighted (or, well, mentioned in passing) in discussions of VP hopeful Sarah Palin’s record as mayor of the smallish town near Anchorage. After Palin took office in the late ’90s, she fired or asked for the resignation of many top city officials, including the museum director, John Cooper, and the library director (who was later spared). Palin also pushed through drastic budget cuts for the museum, whose mission is “to identify, collect, preserve, research, interpret and exhibit the cultural and historical heritage of Wasilla, Knik and Willow Creek areas,” cutting $32,000 a year from a museum with an annual budget of around $200,000. Additionally, three long-term employees were told that one of them must leave and all three resigned in protest. Media reports unfailingly describe these staff members as “septuagenarian,” “grey-haired,” “matronly,” or just “old.” For this I’ll excerpt an article from the Anchorage Daily News, August 1997, which has been making the rounds on the web (for instance, as well as this, and Jessamyn has discussed the library implications):

Opal Toomey, Esther West and Ann Meyers don’t seem like politically active types. There are no bumper stickers on their cars, no pins on their lapels.But the three gray-haired matrons of Wasilla’s city museum decided to take a stand last week. Faced with a $32,000 budget cut and the prospect of choosing who would lose her job, the three 15-year-plus employees decided instead to quit en masse. They sent a letter to the mayor and City Council announcing they plan to retire at the end of the month, leaving the museum without a staff. They also sent a message: They’d rather quit than continue working for a city that doesn’t want to preserve its history.

”We hate to leave,” said Meyers, who at 65 is the youngest of the three. ”We’ve been together a long time. But this is enough.” If the city were broke, it would be different, she said. ”If they were even close to being broke.”

Instead, the city is flush thanks to a 2 percent sales tax passed in 1994 that has left it with $4 million in reserves. There is no reason the museum’s budget should be cut, Meyers said . . . .

The women are only the latest to leave the city payroll, noted John Cooper, who was the museum’s director until Palin fired him last fall.

In addition to Cooper, Wasilla Police Chief Irl Stambaugh left last winter after Palin fired him, and planning director Duane Dvorak and Public Works director John Felton turned in their resignations this summer.

”People are voting with their feet,” he said.

Palin maintains she is doing what voters asked. To have $4 million in reserves is prudent. That’s not even an entire year’s budget, she said.

Much of the latest flap over the museum is a misunderstanding, she said.

All the council wanted was to cut back the museum’s hours in winter from seven days a week to five. The women made the decision to resign, Palin said.

West, Toomey and Meyers disagree. They say they were told that one of them would have to leave in September.

Unfortunately, when small museums have their budgets cut, it usually doesn’t make national news. And if it makes national news ten years later, as it has here in Wasilla, that’s too late for the artifacts and the dedicated volunteers and staff. The city’s website, though, shows the museum open six days a week during the tourist season, including a visitors center and museum with exhibits, and a historic town site with several preserved buildings. My hunch is that these budget cuts made continuing exhibits and programs more important than collections care, but that perhaps the funding has been restored by now. Wasilla also has several other museums, though the city only runs the Page museum and historic town site.

The lesson I draw from this incident, far from being a reflection on national politics, is that, on the contrary, local politics is far more influential for small museums. As I’ve said before, it just takes one county commissioner or mayor who doesn’t understand what museums do and thinks your museum is a waste of money to make decisions that will endanger the future of your museum. And on the local level, it’s much easier to find out candidates’ positions on museum and humanities funding and to influence those positions with your museum advocacy bloc. Susie at Museum Audience Insight notes that museum enthusiasts, a statistical group they call “museum advocates,” vote at a much much higher rate than the general public, 3.5 times more in the state of Connecticut this year. So, small history museums: you and your supporters can have a political voice.

23 Comments on “The Wasilla museum and museum politics”

  1. What a terrific post. Given all the problems at the Smithsonian, this makes me wonder what Palin’s approach/role will be if she becomes vice president. It gives me pause to think that her choices regarding the Wasilla museum might be a preview of her general set of priorities when it comes to historical institutions.

  2. It is my understanding that Sarah Palin ran for mayor of Wasilla on a cut government spending and then hired an assistant after she got into office. The former mayor did not have one. I lived in the area at the time and remember this. Somebody check this out and report to the national media.

  3. It sounds like Palin cut everything when she became mayor, I don’t see where she singled out the museum.

    Now if she had made the museum install a diorama with Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs, we would have a story here!

  4. For the record — the FACT IS — SARAH PALIN does appreciate and support historic preservation, culture and the arts, but fiscal responsibity.

    I am the curator hired by Sarah Palin to replace the ‘sweet gray haired’ ladies who chose to all walk out on the Dorothy Page Museum. They worked hard for years to establish the museum, and I honor all their heart felt efforts to establish the museum. I in no way want to diminish this, but I have to tell you the truth. The ladies could have written grants to supplement the budget , or worked part time in order for all of them to stay, but instead chose to make a big scene and political statement by walking out.

    At the time I was hired to step in and manage the “abandoned” museum I found the collections neglected, documentation out dated and incomplete, and the exhibits dirty and in disarray (much like an antique store). So where did the $200,000 per year go? It did not take a rocket scientist to see that the city funding was not being used to its fullest capacity or prioritized for collections care. I had my work cut out for me, to say the least, and I certainly did not receive offers of help from them. I walked into a big mess, not only the museum, but the City as well. It was like a hornets nest and I took some hard stings for stepping up to the plate to care for the museum — (so much for concern for the collections).

    I can tell you “first hand” that Sarah Palin’, (and the Wasilla City Council’s) decision to reduce the museum budget did not in any way put into jeopardy the care of collections, (I assume this is your main concern here). If you conducted your history research in the same professional “unbiased” fashion you do on other subjects, and were more thorough — you would have discovered that the size of the museum and collections were small and no other state or federal sources of funding were sought for years, leaving total dependence on the City of Wasilla tax payers. If you would have looked into the news paper articles in the following months you would have found positive articles about what was being accomplished in the museum.

    My aid and I hit the bricks running; cleaning the collections, labeling and reorganizing the collections into themed exhibits. We worked hard to bridge the gap between the City and the community, and organized a new “Wasilla Community Christmas Celebration” that included the local schools with art, history, and orchestras, and choirs. We developed educational programs, outreach programs, and produced a Gold Rush Centennial Exhibit at the Alaska State Fair, and all with a reduced budget!! The community loved the changes stating that “new life” (sound familiar) was brought into the museum. Teachers expressed gratitude for the new exhibits and programs. It seems you did not research what happened to the museum as a result, or did you choose only to report on the negative?

    It is disturbing that you are seemingly using your “concern for historic preservation” as a political ploy and sre inaccurately degrading and discrediting Sarah Palin to influence voters!

    The museum was offered up like a sacrificial lamb for the sake of a political statement back over 10 yrs ago , and it seems like it is being used again, and from “historians”??????

    Can we focus on historic preservation and be as responsible in our disclosure of political “history” as we are with our national, state, and local history? PLEASE!! Stay to your mission!

    THE TRUTH — Sarah has a tender heart, and truly cared about those sweet ladies, it hurt her to see the harm caused to them by the cuts. As I recall she thought maybe one might truly want to retire so left if up to them to work out the best way to reduce the budget. Her intent in cutting the budget was to fulfill her commitment to the City tax payers not to hurt historic preservation. She cared about the museum and hired me because of my museum experience, enthusiastic energy, and passion for historic preservation. She wanted the history of the Wasilla preserved, but with fiscal responsibility.

    She passed the museum on to responsible capable hands. I was able to fulfill her vision, and set the museum in a new direction. The museum has continued to grow and evolve into the museum you see on the website today. !!

    FYI
    I had to resign for family reasons, and Sarah wrote a beautiful letter of appreciation for my efforts.

    I later went on to spear-head the establishment of a new museum for the town of Palmer just a few miles from Wasilla – “The Palmer Museum of History and Art” -www.palmermuseum.org. Now I own my own tour company and conduct cultural history tours of Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley http://www.authenticalaskatours.com. Sarah went on to be Governor and now VP Candidate! We are so proud of her!!

    FACTS–
    Sarah is a wonderful person with a BEAUTIFUL family. She is sincere, honest, hard working, and will keep her word to serve her constituents. Don’t throw rocks at someone you don’t know when you don’t know all the facts.

    Please recant this unfair, biased report. – for the sake of historic preservation – at least!.

    Geri McCann
    Past Registrar – Curator
    City of Wasilla
    Dorothy Page Museum

  5. After re-reading my note, I want to clarify some things —
    The “mess” in the City I was referring to was the attacks on Sarah from the media, her opponents, and some of the City employees. I was caught in the fray due to being hired as part of her process of reorganizing and cleaning things up in the City, and there were loyalties to the museum ladies.

    I in no way meant this as a negative reflection on Sarah or the City Manager. I hold them both in highest regards.

    Also I did not mean to portray that the museum was a total shambles. The ladies had worked hard for years and gave their all, but with age they slowed down and were not able to keep up with it as well. It just needed to be upgraded and updated to meet current standards. I did not mean to taint their efforts but to clarify the museum needed to be improved.

    I am very tired of all the attacks on Sarah and her children. So am a bit deffensive and protective when facts are distorted.

    Please be careful — their are real live hearts here. We hurt with her when people attack her. My daughter went to preschool with her daughter, so it hits close to home.

    Be nice, be fair, do what is right.

    Geri

  6. Disagreeing with Palin based on her actual actions is not “unfair.” Here’s another example:

    Fact: Sarah Palin believe shooting wolves from airplanes should be legal and encouraged, despite scientific evidence that it is unnecessary and opposition from hunters who believe it’s not sporting.
    Fact: The federal government bans airborne hunting in the vast majority of cases.
    Fact: There is no scientific evidence that systematically killing wolves protects caribou and moose populations.
    Opinion: I think shooting animals from airplanes is vile.

    I don’t know Palin personally, but I can look at her policy record and listen to the things she says. I don’t agree with the vast majority of her positions, and some outright horrify me. I could go on, but apparently disagreeing with Sarah Palin is “mean.”

    Yes, small town museums are often in disarray, especially when run by people who came along before the development of modern standards. I’m sure you did a lot with your more current training. That doesn’t mean cutting funding was the only (or best) solution. Couldn’t you have done even more with an additional $32K/year?

    instead chose to make a big scene and political statement by walking out.

    My god, how dare they make a political statement! They disagreed with Palin’s actions as mayor and chose to speak up about it; that’s their right. You may not agree, and that’s your right.

  7. From where I sit (at the kitchen table), once you run for public office, you open yourself to Public scrutiny. I am disgusted at the way Palin supporters continue to cry ‘attack’ or ‘smear’ when all people are doing is ASKING QUESTIONS. I don’t understand why everyone is trying to protect her from the big, bad public. From what I can tell, Palin could take a wolverine out with an arm tied behind her back.
    She can’t fire people who don’t work for her, so let’s keep asking those questions. If she’s going to run the country, we deserve to know the truth. Palin does not have the option to put things under wraps now: ‘sorry sweetheart, but you’re messing with all 50 states now’.

  8. Political statements are great, but walking out on a city museum (unnecessarily) that you are responsible for to make a statement, in my opinion is using a museum as a political tool, which is not the purpose or mission of museums. If the health of the museum was the main concern – then revising and reprioritizing the remaining funds would have been the better choice in my opinion. Other options were not explored, – just a stomp out. To say this museum suffered from the cuts is not accurate – to say the museum thrived more with even less funding — is acurate.

    The issue is fiscal responsibility, the message is — museums need to be good stewards of funds to secure future funding. If we waist it, we risk loosing it. Grants require complete reporting, accounting, and evaluations to measure the results and success in meeting the goals of the programs/projects they fund. To fall short on fulfilling the project goals would result in risking the loss of future grant funding. If these are the rules for grants why should it be less for City funding?

    AS FOR THE WOLVES:
    It is fine to disagree on issues when opinions are derived from true factual information. Presenting distorted and inaccurate information on issues – thus manipulating peoples votes for a specific agenda’s is shameful. This is what is happening in the media, they are after Sarah with a vengeance! You obviously based your opinion on Sarah from the article on wolf killing, which was inaccurate and biased, and written to sway the readers to solicit support for an agenda. Not your fault that this was done, but thorough research would shed light on this important issue. I personally have studied this issue and also have personal insights into this.

    In 1990 we had 28 ft. of snow and the moose were slaughtered by the trains and on the roads by cars as they came down from the high country to walk on these easier “trails“. They also grew weak in the wilderness struggling for survival trudging through deep snow, some being stuck up to their neck unable to move. I would ski on wilderness trails and come across many moose who just laid down and died. It was tragic and broke our hearts to see this. That spring the predators had an abundance of moose carcasses to eat and so their population grew strong while the struggling moose population grew weaker. The results of this natural ‘disaster” for moose has now reduced the moose numbers far below the norm. Now there is not enough food for the wolves and bears to eat and they are coming after us and our pets.

    FACTS:

    Last winter people were being stalked by packs of wolves while they walked their dogs, and the dogs were attacked and snatched away as horrified pet owners watched their beloved pets killed and eaten. People would put their dogs out on a chain in their yard only to find them gone with only a colar and blood stains on the ground. This has never happened before, and took place in the municipality of Anchorage, the largest and most modern city in Alaska with a 280,000 population!!YIKES!!

    Recreational trails were shut down for dog walkers protection, and people warned not to leave their pets outsied on dog chains.

    We have had record numbers of bear maulings even on local Anchorage recreation trails and even one during a big bike race. A girl was mauled just off the porch of a big lodge, and saved by a brave tourist who confronted the bear! One jogger actually took on the bear and had a fist fight with it and drove it away after being badly injured by the bear. Bears are breaking inside peoples houses in residential districts and infiltrating the most densely populated areas of the City of Anchorage, not to mention smaller towns as well. The predator numbers are drastically out of control.

    I can not tell you how hard it is for us who live here in Alaska and personally deal with the wolves and bears attacking and killing us, and our dogs, to hear these false statements! Would you like to take a walk in the Alaska wilderness with me and risk being attacked by a bear or wolves? Do you know this is happening because they don’t have enough to eat and they are moving into suburban areas looking for tasty pets? This was not included in that ‘report”.

    Drastic conditions require drastic measures sometimes. It is not just for the sake of the moose and caribou any more, it is for safety of people and pets, like the children in the villages that are being drug off by wolf packs, and people being chased and bitten by wolves along the highway! PLEASE – we are not a bunch of ignorant Daniel Boons up here, and Sarah is not a Mrs. Boon!

    The fact is wolf and bear attacks are up and steadily growing, moose numbers are down, and dropping.

    Here is a quote factual book.

    “Wolves are specialist when it comes to killing moose caribou and Dahl sheep. Simple math shows that a pack of ten wolves requires 120 moose or 360 caribou and sheep annually to sustain life”. From “Hunting the Hunters” – page 140. Rick Kinmon Northern Publishing .

    So do the math how many moose and caribou does it take to feed our 7,000 to 11,000 wolves a year with about 10 or so per pack? How much longer can this go on? Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game are entrusted with responsible game management. Sarah is responding to the cries of Alaskans to bring reasonable balance back for our safety as well as the moose and caribou populations.

    The “balance of nature” is out of whack. As David Johnson a retired wildlife biologist stated “Alaska is poorer today for having failed to appropriately manage wolves in my yesterdays gone by” Now we have some what of an epidemic that is escalating every year.

    Have you seen how wolves kill for sport and leave the meat to spoil? No one wants to see beautiful wolves and bears killed this way, but something must be done to assist in bringing back the balance of nature.

    I appreciate your response I hope now you have a more clear insight into the reality of what Alaskan’s have to “bear” with, and can form you opionion from a more balanced perspective.

    Alaskan Resident for 35 yrs.

    Geri

  9. To Carolyn Long…

    If you really “lived in the area at the time and remember this”, then you wouldn’t be saying “it is my understanding”. If you “remember”, then you know, but if something is your “understanding” then you are saying that you believe somthing, but do not know if you have all the facts. Which is it? Sounds like you don’t have any clue about this issue, but are trying to push an agenda. No need to tell the national media about that…it appears the share your agenda.

  10. Martha, you simpleton…

    There is a BIG difference between inquiring into someones background & attacking them personally. Nobody…NOBODY…has said anything about inquiring about Palin; HOWEVER, many are taking umbrage @ the biased & brazenly distorted coverage that Palin has been getting. & this doesn’t even take into account the “kid gloves” treatment that Obama has been getting. Just go into a magazine aisle & you can see the difference in coverage. Of course, I don’t think you’re interested in equity or fairness.

  11. What gives anyone, including moose-killing Sarah Palin, the right to decide what people can read or what history should be recorded — and who should be recording it?

    Censorship goes back to the days of the Nazi’s burning books — including the Bible (which is on the banned books list in America)and beyond.

    I have fought for historical and literacy efforts my whole life.

    I am a past member of the American Library Association. the Missouri Library Association, vice-chair of the Missouri Center for the Book, member of the St. Louis Museum Roundtable, member of the Troy Historical Society, and past board member of the U.S. Sen. Paul Simon Museum.

    I can tell you that people like Sarah Palin are frightening. They foist their beliefs and opinions on others and feel righteous in doing anything they deem necessary to advance their opinions.

    Voters, beware.

    FYI, I am a descendent of Joe Juneau, the prospector who founded Juneau, Alaska.

  12. To Pat Cox

    When did censorship come into this? I gather you are implying Sarah is into censorship? On what FACTS do you base this inference? Do you have proof that Sarah actually censored books in the library?

    I know some one has “said” that she looked into it. I have heard it was at the request of a constituent who was concerned about the content in some library books. I was working at the Museum (next door to the library) at this time. If I remember correctly, nothing ever came of it.

    Soooo — why are you inferring that Sarah would censor books? On what basis and FACTS do you base your statement: “I can tell you that people like Sarah Palin are frightening. They foist their beliefs and opinions on others and feel righteous in doing anything they deem necessary to advance their opinions”.

    Is this a fictional or non-fictional statement? What are your references to prove this is true? Any quotes from her, or rules she imposed on the Librarian? Any minutes from council meetings? Please produce some evidence.

    Because, I know it not to be true from first hand knowledge of who Sarah is as a person. PLEASE, PLEASE, lets be careful not to enter into slander here. Sarah is not anything close to a Nazi! Don’t stoop to this leve and participate in slinging rumors for the purpose of ‘EXPOSING SARAH”

    As Martha stated people have the right to know the truth. This is what I am standing up for – the truth and to address the misinformation from the media and others.

    AGAIN – DO WHAT IS RIGHT, JUST AND FAIR. Treat others with the same respect you would want.

    I can tell you feel strongly here. I hope you can research this to put your own heart and others hearts at ease.

    Peace,
    Geri

  13. First, there’s always 2 sides to a story. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that a small, regional museum had some disarray in collections. I know of some pretty large institutions that have similar problems [ahem!]. Whether the decision to cut the budget during a surplus year is a wholly different matter of public policy. The wolf question undoubtedly has various complexities, although knowing what I do about wolves in N. America makes me wonder about hunts of any kind for this particular species.

    But, to you, Geri, I suggest less defensiveness about politicians in general. Politics is a vicious business—as something of an historian you ought to have been exposed to numerous examples of the most vicious slanders—leveled in the public press at our founding fathers, among others, long ago! Those examples make today’s look very, very tame by comparison.

    For my part, I always find it hilarious when politicians and their advocates cry foul—and it especially amuses me coming from the republicans today considering their odious history [by contemporary, not historical standards, see above]recently, not only against the dems but against themselves [SC campaign, 2000, for instance]!

    Palin is a completely public figure, now, on the national stage, as are all the rest of them of both parties. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, I say. The gloves are off and so says Palin, btw: she is quite proud of her toughness, brags about it in point of fact. Good for her, I say. We need more tough women inside politics. But please, don’t suggest that I should treat her gently because she has a family or because of her gender. I’m a committed feminist, and I believe in equality. That, Geri, is a 2 edged sword. Palin CHOSE to put herself on a very public stage. As far as honeymoons from the press are concerned, methinks McCain has benefited here as much as Obama—in both cases I’m against such obsequiousness on the part of the press, no matter whom is involved. Rip ’em all, I say.

  14. I never respond to blogs but I feel compelled to do so here. Regarding Palin libraries, museums, and politics:

    “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor. The books were never banned, the discussion was “theoretical,” and Palin backed off when the community rose up in support of the librarian in question. So while she undoubtedly would have gone after many of these books (they are all on the frequently targeted list), and while it was not that she did not try to ban the books it did not happen because a principled librarian took a stand and her community supported her. It was not however, for want of trying.

    As to the museum, if “Sarah has a tender heart, and truly cared about those sweet ladies,” and the comments that “it hurt her to see the harm caused to them by the cuts, and that “she thought maybe one might truly want to retire so left if up to them to work out the best way to reduce the budget.” You have to admit that is an interesting way to show support for people and an institution. Cut the budget when you have a surplus, and place the people you care about in a position where they have to decide which of them will get the axe. (ADN, 8/6/97). What a delightfully Hobbesian choice or, if you would prefer Hobson’s choice (either is applicable in this instance). Putting aside the observation that if one of them had wanted to retire she undoubtedly would have done so, you will have to forgive me if I find it somewhat difficult to regard the action as “tender hearted and caring.”

    I am delighted that you had the opportunity to build your resume, became an accomplished grant writer and that you have a lucrative tour bus company. I am certain that the lovely letter Gov. Palin wrote for you helped you with this endeavor. However, that does not change the fact that she cut the budget of the museum because it was not a priority for her during a time when there was a budget surplus. It does not change the fact that she did attempt to pressure the librarian to ban books;

    In 1996, according to the Frontiersman, Wasilla’s library director Mary Ellen Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. Emmons said, “This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy … She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.” Palin said in response, “Many issues were discussed, both rhetorical and realistic in nature.” [Wasilla Frontiersman, 12/18/96]
    “No books were banned” only because the librarian and the people said “No.”

    It also does not change the fact that she fires anyone who takes a stand against her or that those actions rise to the level of personal vendettas. Nor does it change the fact that the individuals she has targeted are often public servants who are associated with institutions that are supposed to be above politics i.e. museums and libraries, etc.

    As to the examination of her record – that is fair game, as we say in Missouri, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” She chose to be where she is and not only invites scrutiny it requires it.

    Lest I be accused of not having the facts (other than the sources I cited earlier in my post) here are a few additional links to back up my assertions. I always believe in seeking out the facts before I formulate an opinion and before I share my observations with others. In the history business this is called doing research. So here is what the facts reveal.
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/51821.html
    http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1837918,00.html
    http://www.adn.com/sarah-palin/story/515512.html
    http://www.adn.com/politics/story/510080.html

  15. Sarah is not just another politician to us Alaskan’s, she is one of us. She represents 80% of Alaskan’s. We love her and support her. She is our Alaskan Sister being thrown to the wolves and it hurts to see the injustice.

    We have watched other politicians go through this for years, but now it hits close to home, and we feel her pain and suffer with her.

    Alaska is like a big small town. Hard to explain to the metropolis society who don’t know their neighbors names.

    She is tuff, but she has a heart and is human. The vampire press is up here looking for her blood.

    Any way — lets get back to the museum issue here.
    Geri

  16. Regarding your last statement: “So, small history museums: you and your supporters can have a political voice.”

    Perhaps. However, in doing so, small museums should be aware that under IRS codes for tax-exempt organizations, there are restrictions placed on activities relating to political campaigns. The federal tax exemption status of a 501(c)(3) museum could be jeopardized in relation to political endorsements, statements or activity made or conducted by museum staff or representatives.

    Web link for “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations”
    http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=163395,00.html

  17. Shari,

    Your advice is well noted. However, I don’t think that is the kind of “political voice” Suzanne is advocating. I think she is simply saying that the views of the museum and cultural heritage community should be effectively and vigorously communicated to our public officials and to candidates for public office.

    I’m sure you have no problem with this type of advocacy. It’s just that, in my experience, museums, archives, and other non-profits are too often intimidated by the IRS tax-exempt code into thinking that they are forbidden from participating at all in the political process. In fact, there is a pretty clear line between endorsing and campaigning for a specific candidate or political party, and “petitioning the government” in support of one’s interests. The former is forbidden to non-profits by the tax code, the latter is explicitly protected by the First Amendment. Lobbying in support of more public expenditures for musuems, I feel, would fall safely in the realm of protected speech.

  18. Jesse,
    Yes, I agree with what both you and Suzanne are saying in forging ongoing discussions with elected officials and having the freedom to openly voice concerns. My post went on a slight tangent, which, although it is somewhat related, applies more toward campaigning for or against candidates. Museums can and do speak out in the political process through the local, regional, and national level organizations that serve as advocates for their existence and funding. The distinctions you make and Suzanne’s point about advocacy are important for the survival and continued care of historical collections.

  19. Pingback: Website

Comments are closed.