[SYRACUSE, NY] – Onondaga Historical Association is pleased to announce that it has been selected as a project participant and host site for Voices and Votes –A New Agora for New York, a new initiative from the Museum Association of New York (MANY) 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.
“Education is at the heart of our organization,” said Lisa Romano Moore, Executive Director of Onondaga Historical Association, “this opportunity to host a Smithsonian exhibit strengthens our work to welcome visitors of all ages and walks of life to better understand the history and influence of this region, and particularly that of the Haudenosaunee people, on the movements that contributed to our present-day form of participatory democracy.”
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
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 from April 18 to May 30, 2025.
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