Advocates Make the Case for Museums

Museums Advocacy Day 2020

Last week, nearly 400 individuals from across the country came to Washington, D.C., to make the case for museums as part of Museum Advocacy Day. This annual event, organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), brings the entire museum together and raises the profile of our community to Members of Congress and Federal agency leaders.

There was a record number of participants this year with more than 375 advocates, including several dozen from ASTC member institutions.

MAD 2020 participating institutions
ASTC member institutions participating in Museums Advocacy Day 2020

Monday, February 24, featured a range of briefings, training, and preparation for Capitol Hill visits. Speakers included leaders from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), National Science Foundation (and a discussion of informal education in science centers), National Park Service, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Endowment for the Arts. We were armed with data and talking points and given advice about how to be successful in advocating with Members of Congress.

That afternoon, ASTC collaborated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for a concurrent public policy briefing on STEM Funding & Priorities. The standing-room-only crowd heard an overview of STEM funding opportunities across the Federal government then engaged with the talking points and asks for our visits to the Hill—and a broader discussion of science and museums.

This session highlighted the established funding programs of most interest to museums, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) and Bay-Watershed Environmental Training (B-WET), NASA Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions (TEAM II) program within NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement and their Science Activation program, within the Science Mission Directorate’s Science Engagement and Partnerships Division. Increased funding levels for these programs were part of AAM’s official legislative agenda and “asks” that advocates made when meeting with members of Congress.

STEM Funding & Priorities
A full house for the STEM Funding & Priorities session

That evening, ASTC joined with the Association of Children’s Museums to host a reception for members of both organizations and other friends and partners participating in Museums Advocacy Day. Thanks to so many of you for joining us.

ASTC and ACM members and friends gather for an evening reception at Museums Advocacy Day 2020.

On Tuesday, the entire group gathered at the U.S. Capitol before heading off to more than 400 meetings with Congressional offices. The major requests suggested by AAM were requesting a budget increase for the Office of Museum Services at IMLS and the establishment of a universal charitable deduction, which would allow taxpayers to deduct all charitable deductions, regardless of whether they itemize. Advocates were also encouraged to ask their elected officials to support federal agency efforts to ensure all Americans have lifelong access to high quality STEM education, including through implementation of the 5-year Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan.

ASTC member leader at MAD2020s
At Museums Advocacy Day 2020 (left to right): Douglas Jones (Director, Florida Museum of Natural History), Laura Lott (President & CEO, American Alliance of Museums), William Harris (CEO, Space Center Houston), Chevy Humphrey (Hazel A. Hare President & CEO, Arizona Science Center)
ASTC’s Director of Communications and Advocacy Adam Fagen and Graduate Intern Laura Dickson meet with Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA)
William Harris and John Cornyn
Space Center Houston CEO William Harris meets with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)


The day concluded with a reception in the Capitol Visitors Center, where several Members of Congress and other government leaders came by to underscore their support for museums.

Crosby Kemper III and Cristin Dorgelo
ASTC President and CEO Cristin Dorgelo (at right) speaks with the new director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Crosby Kemper III (at left)
Sen. John Hoeven
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), one this year’s Congressional Honorees

On Wednesday following the Hill visits, ASTC hosted a half-day session connecting the museum and science center community with representatives of eight Federal agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology. This blog post, the first in a series of three, summarizes that event and sharing some of the opportunities for engaging the agencies on public engagement in science.

Participation in Museums Advocacy Day is just one element of ASTC’s policy and advocacy agenda. Many more activities, conversations, and resources will be rolling out over the coming weeks and months, so we encourage you to stay tuned.


Additional Information:


(edited on 3/12 to include details about funding programs discussed in STEM Funding & Priorities session)

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