The Institute for Museum and Library Services has created a hub on their website for museums and libraries seeking ways to promote civic engagement, highlighting several initiatives from AAMD member museums.
Several AAMD member art museums are featured on the IMLS Civic Engagement site for their work registering voters, serving as polling places, and creating relevant exhibitions and programs that encourage participation.
- The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) transformed its prominent glass-walled Stenn Gallery into a satellite Ann Arbor City Clerk’s office, making the work of administering the election and managing voter rolls and absentee ballots a publicly visible, transparent undertaking. The opening of the Clerk’s Office at UMMA also allowed on-site voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and early voting. Over the course of the project, 5,412 new voters were registered and 8,500 votes were cast at the museum.
- UMMA also partnered with the U-M Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning to develop a free online, interactive Dialogue Deck exercise that uses art as a platform to examine and explore social and political norms through shared dialogue and reflection. Visitors to the site can select an image from the Museum’s collection which will be randomly paired with a series of thought-provoking conversation prompts. The prompts, paired randomly with the works of art, are designed to help visitors have conversations and productive dialogues across differences.
- The Hammer Museum at UCLA began placing voter registration cards at prominent locations around the museum in 2008, and became an official polling place in Los Angeles in 2018. Turnout at the Hammer increased in subsequent elections as L.A. County encouraged residents to vote anywhere in the county, regardless of their residential address.
- The Oakland Museum of California partners with the League of Women Voters to register voters during its Friday evening family events.
- The Corning Museum of Glass’ exhibition Transparent: voting in America explored issues surrounding a core value of democracy - that the voting process is fair and open to scrutiny – conveyed in the exhibition through a series of historical cartoons in which the idea of election transparency is represented by a transparent glass ballot box circa 1884. The Museum also hosted “Connected by Glass: Election Transparency,” a panel discussion about the 19th century glass ballot box, its literal and metaphorical implications for democracy, and how these themes continue to manifest today.
- The Corning Museum of Glass also hosted the League of Women Voters to promote voter registration ahead of the November 2020 election.
- The Frist Art Museum’s exhibition We Count: First Time Voters highlights the history of voting and the first-time voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashville.
The IMLS Civic Engagement website is a direct response to a White House statement calling upon the agency to “create and distribute a toolkit of resources and strategies that libraries, museums, and heritage and cultural institutions can use to promote civic engagement and participation in the voting process.” This statement was itself was a response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14019, Promoting Access to Voting, recognizing that the right to vote is the foundation of American democracy and the responsibility of the Federal Government to expand access to, and education about, voter registration and election information, and to combat misinformation, in order to enable all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy. The site highlights examples of how museums and libraries are promoting civic engagement with IMLS funding and on their own.
Pictured above: The University of Michigan Museum of Art transformed its Stenn Gallery into a satellite Ann Arbor City Clerk’s office, making the work of administering the election and managing voter rolls and absentee ballots a publicly visible, transparent undertaking, which allowed on-site voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and early voting. Over the course of the project, 5,412 new voters were registered and 8,500 votes were cast at the museum. Photo by Dominick Sokotoff