Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks in terms of museums, history, and legislative priorities. Let’s take a walkthrough.
First, the stimulus package. On Feb 6, the Senate approved, by a large majority, an amendment proposed by Tom Coburn of Oklahoma which forbid the following kinds of institutions to receive federal funding from the stimulus package: “any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.” For reference, of Michigan’s two senators, Levin voted against, Stabenow for (I wrote her an angry letter.)
Museum folks organized and sent, according to AAM, 4000 letters and emails to legislators about this issue, and, thankfully, in conference committee museums were taken out of the Coburn Amendment. However, zoos and aquaria are still prohibited from receiving stimulus funding.
The National Trust analyzed the stimulus bill in terms of historic preservation, mentioning things like school renovation as wins for preservation projects. I hate to be contrary, but I have to agree with a commenter who called this analysis “wishful thinking.”
We clearly need to make a better case for the economic impacts and benefits of museums, history and culture. AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day, Monday and Tuesday of this week, apparently went well, with over 300 museum professionals, volunteers and board members descending on Washington. That’s just a first step. We need to be advocating for our community memory institutions locally. I challenge the Oklahoma museum community to invite their museum-skeptic senator to visit all their institutions and see the ways museums serve their communities. I challenge you, my reader, to call your county commissioners and invite them to your museum. Build up support locally and we won’t have to fight so hard on a federal level.
Moving on to the omnibus appropriations bill, which passed the House last week, we get some better news for cultural organizations:
Tyler Green notes some earmarks for the arts and arts institutions in the omnibus.
Lee White of the NCH ran down all the budget lines for agencies of interest. They are all increases over recent years’ budgets: National Archives, NHPRC (which the Bush administration kept trying to zero out of the budget), Teaching American History grants (a modest increase), NEH (the digital humanities initiative funding about doubled!), NPS cultural programming and preservation, and the Smithsonian.
I’ll keep you informed of any new developments.