COVID-19: Five Actions to Take Right Now for Archives, Museums, and Cultural Heritage Organizations

I hope this post finds you and your family safe and healthy during this challenging and unprecedented time. Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the US have had to shut their doors quickly and with little notice to staff and the communities they support. While we’re worried about the organizational logistics and health implications for the short-term, we’re also incredibly anxious about the economic implications in the long-term. For myself, it’s the future unknown and inability to plan that kills me. We are already seeing and experiencing the effects of COVID-19 that go beyond our physical health and we feel so unprepared for it. But, we can take baby steps and make our way to a future that’s a little more certain.

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The purpose of this post is to give you five actions that you can take right now to help you and your organization. For each of these actions you’ll find helpful guides and links to free resources to help you navigate the uncertain future we all face.

ACTIONS

ACTION 1: WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
As of writing this, the Senate appears to have reached a deal with the White House to pass a 2-trillion dollar stimulus bill. Details for the bill and whether it adequately covers the arts, culture, and humanities industries is unknown, and the bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives. It is imperative that our representatives hear from us. You need to communicate clearly just how, exactly, COVID-19 is impacting you and your organization. While an impassioned narrative will certainly help, quantifying (with numbers) is going to make it easier for your representatives to understand how this crisis has impacted you and what they can do to help you. I know writing letters to your representatives may not be top of mind, especially in our current state of overwhelm, but it’s absolutely necessary to do it now. To help you out, I’ve provided a “fill in the blank” template so that you can quickly and effectively state your case and ask for what you need. You can find your elected officials via the Senate and House contact pages. And I recommend you include your Governor to get support at the local level.

Write Your Representatives Template

ACTION 2: SHARE CALLS FOR SIGNATURES AND SURVEYS
In addition to signing proforma letters and taking related surveys (below), it’s important that you share them with your staff, peers, and community. The more information we gather now, the better our future decisions will be, and the better off we’ll all be. Please distribute the following calls for signatures and surveys to your community as you find appropriate.

Tell Congress: Include Museums in COVID-19 Economic Relief by American Alliance of Museums is a pro-forma letter requesting museums are included in a relief package.

Urge Support for the Humanities Community During the COVID-19 Crisis by the National Humanities Alliance seeks support for the humanities in the stimulus package.

Sign-on Letter for the Lankford Amendment by the National Council of Nonprofits. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) is planning to propose an amendment to the Senate COVID-19 Stimulus bill that would, for 2020, create an above-the-line deduction for charitable donations.

The Economic Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Arts and Cultural Sector by Americans for the Arts is a 5-minute survey to capture the financial and human impact of COVID-19.

Contingent Archival Workers Survey is an informal survey by the archivist community and is for both United States and Canada-based professionals. From the call: If you are a #displacedarchivist — if you are furloughed, working remotely, working reduced hours, or otherwise no longer working within your institution — or if you are concerned about the effect of COVID-19 on your workplace status, income, or access to sick time and family leave time, we would like to hear from you.

ACTION 3: FIND AND JOIN YOUR COMMUNITY ONLINE
You may already have your personal network available to you via social media channels. But, if you haven’t already, I invite you to find your professional community online. It’s through these informal channels where professional support and problem-solving is happening in real-time, and you can find quick answers when you need them. Where does your industry live and communicate? For me, I find lively conversation with archivists via Twitter and receive helpful insight and important updates for museums on Facebook. And the good news is you don’t need an account to view (though you do need one to participate). I’ve created a quick reference infographic to help you find these communities and join the ones most appropriate to you.

Find My Community Online

ACTION 4: KNOW YOUR GRANT DEADLINES AND APPLY
I realize applying for grants may be the furthest thing from your mind right now. But, they shouldn’t be. Many granting agencies and foundations have received their money for the year and it’s there, right now, ready to be handed out. And, it may not be there next year as the nation attempts to rebalance and recalibrate. If you have projects that you can get grant application ready, now is the time. Pay attention to the grant opportunities you’re eyeing and get to work! You may not have the opportunity to do so later. If you’re a little rusty on the grant writing side, don’t worry, I’ve got you. If you haven’t already, download a free e-copy of my book A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing (button below), and check out my free webinars available via Lucidea. If you’re stuck on finding a grant worthy project, here’s a post on the Top 4 Funding Ideas for Museums. And, if you’re not sure where to find the right funding opportunities for you, here’s a post on How to Find the Best Museum Grant Funding Opportunity. Note: While “museum” is in each of these titles, these resources are appropriate and adaptable for libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage organizations.

Link to Request the Free e-Book

ACTION 5: INVEST IN YOURSELF
There is only so much we can do *right now*. I know it may sound odd, but the best thing you can do right now for you and for your organization is to invest in yourself. During this challenging time we find ourselves with the unexpected opportunity of open-ended time and focus. No matter what things look like on the other side of COVID-19, I know there are skills you’re going to need to not just survive, but thrive. What skills have you wanted to learn, but haven’t had the time to? What articles have you wanted to write? Which colleagues have you always wanted to collaborate with? I’m telling you: the time is now. For my part, I’m converting my grant workshops to an online platform and hope to make those available to you in the near future. If you’re interested in getting in on the pre-launch invite please reply to this email and let me know. Until then, here are a few free webinars happening this week:

Society of American Archivists’ Independent Archivists Section presents Authors Among Us: A Conversation with Christina Zamon, Rachael Woody, and Margot Note. RSVP here and join live here. When: March 26 @11am Pacific. A recording will be made available.

Margot Note, owner of Margot Note Consulting LLC presents Close Together/Far Apart: Creating Family Archives While Social Distancing. RSVP here. When: March 29 @10am Pacific.

Society of American Archivists presents Archival Advocacy at Home, an on-demand webinar currently available for free here. When: On-Demand.

MuseWeb is offering its annual conference programming online, free for MuseWeb members as a membership benefit. Membership is $120. When: March 31- April 4.

TAKE A BREATH AND CONNECT

I know these are uncertain times and we don’t know when we’ll return to “normal”. But, I do know we’ll get through this. Even during a time of extreme physical isolation, I see we are strengthening our connections with each other. If you need support, professional or not, please reach out to me. And if there’s information or resources you need that you don’t see here, please let me know.

If you know colleagues who need access to these resources please forward this message. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

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