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Book Review: "Speak Up For Museums"

Friday, February 14, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kaia Landon
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"Speak Up For Museums: The AAM Guide to Advocacy"
By Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied
(Washington, D.C.: The AAM Press, 2011)
127 pp. (Free to AAM members, $19.95(pdf)/32.95otherwise)
Reviewed by Kaia Landon

There seem to be a lot of common misperceptions about the legality of lobbying and advocacy efforts by museums and their staff. I think we’ve all heard some variation of “But you’re not allowed to lobby!” in the course of our work. One of the best features of this small book is a chart of things a nonprofit museum employee can and cannot legally do on the job.

The book is specifically written with those who work for 501(c)(3) organizations in mind, although much is applicable to those of us who work in museums with other legal structures. A section covering what sorts of advocacy are minimally allowed in general would be a useful addition.

AAM also provides, a website that disseminates timely information on issues of interest within the museum field, as well as a number of advocacy resources. The first 41 pages of the book are essentially expanded versions of content available there. Chapter 9 also deals largely with information easily available elsewhere (general information about the political process, for instance) or applicable strictly to those attending Museums Advocacy Day.

Chapter 6 “Start Advocating Today! A Week-by-Week Plan” includes 57 ideas for advocacy. For those who are generally familiar with governmental processes, this is the most useful part of the book. Most institutions will find they are already doing at least a few things on the list, and all will find some easily doable options (although I know my small staff couldn’t work through all 57 in the course of a year).  Some include items not often thought of as advocacy, but the author makes a convincing case that most positive sorts of attention are components of a good advocacy plan.

In all, this book offers a good, thorough coverage of advocacy for museums. I feel $32.95 for a 127 page book to be a tad bit outrageous, however. I was pleased when AAM decided to make the pdf a free download for museum members. This move is very much in keeping with AAM President Ford Bell’s hope “that everyone in the museum profession will read this book, absorb its lessons, follow its advice and work at becoming good advocates.” My entire board, small staff, and committed volunteers will all benefit from reading this small book.

Kaia Landon is the director of the Brigham City Museum of Art and History and the Box Elder Museum of Natural History.  She also serves as the Secretary for the Utah Museum Association, and as the AASLH state team leader for Utah.

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