USC public history graduate students attend Museum Advocacy Day
For the second year in a row, students and faculty of the University of South Carolina's Public History Program and McKissick Museum joined forces to speak up for why museums matter. They joined hundreds of museum advocates in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 27 and 28 to participate in Museum Advocacy Day. They spoke to South Carolina legislators and representatives of their home states in an effort to reverse the alarming trend of slashing museums' and other non-profit arts and cultural organizations' funding. As a result of such budget cuts, museums are losing staff, reducing hours, or even being forced to close, just as struggling communities are clamoring for the inexpensive educational and entertainment opportunities these institutions offer.
These budget cuts are at the risk of losing the driving force such institutions are to local and regional economies. Tourists often choose to visit cities based on the quality of their cultural offerings. This is especially crucial in South Carolina, where tourism is the mainstay of the state's economy. Similarly, cultural institutions improve the quality of life of cities, which in turn helps to attract high-skilled workers and the companies for which they work. The students who attended MAD shared these, and other reasons, why museums matter with their government representatives.
After attending Museum Advocacy Day in 2011, Public History students Caitlin Podas, Katharine Klein, and Celia James said they would continue advocating in Columbia.
"It is a terrible thing that most of the students here at USC don't even know there is a museum on their campus. By advocating in Washington DC and then here in Columbia I hope we can change that," Podas said.
Together with other students from the history department they formed a group called History Advocates in order to advocate not just for museums but for the study of history and institutions important to the discipline. Through social networking and advocacy, they work to bring historians, community members, and policymakers together by informing them about the many history activities happening around the state and the importance of supporting the institutions that make such activities possible.
Director of the History Center at USC, Dr. Matt Childs, said of the organization and Museum Advocacy Day, "Museums and cultural organizations are one of the primary vehicles for highlighting what is distinct and unique about a community, as well as a gauge of commonalities with other cultures and experiences in the past and the future. I applaud History Advocates for drawing our attention to the current state of funding for museums on Museum Advocacy Day and encourage others to follow their lead by becoming involved."
USC participants in Museum Advocacy Day this year included history graduate students Caitlin Podas, Celia James, Shane Lesko, Katharine Klein, Amanda Noll, Caitlin Mans, and JoAnn Zeise, as well as Dr. Allison Marsh, Assistant Professor of Public History, and Jill Koverman, Chief Curator of Collections and Research at McKissick Museum.
For more information about Museum Advocacy Day , visit the American Association of Museums website aam-us.org . You can learn more about history happenings in South Carolina by following History Advocates on twitter @Hist_Advocates and online at facebook.com/schistoryadvocates.