News, Planning Reports, and Milestones

American Alliance of Museums Advocacy Day 2013

Washington, D.C. February 25-26 – A Brief Report

Approximately 280 registrants, representing about 46 states, participated in two full days of focused meetings on how best to support all museums across the country. Monday’s sessions included a review of current and future teaching methods and why museums are considered a primary link in the educational process. The meetings were held in the Marvin Center on the campus of The George Washington University, who was the co-convener and host for the two-day event.                               

In addition to making a strong “pitch” about your respective museum’s needs and desires, you were expected to engage the congressmen you visited on Capitol Hill about signing a letter of commitment for appropriations for support of museums. Currently, Federal funding is at $35 million, which is considered rock-bottom support. A more important issue we were to discuss was the continuation of IRS tax-exempt deductions for charitable giving, as so many museums and other institutions rely heavily on them in their budgets. A third topic for discussion was adequate funding of the National Science Foundation in its many areas of service, especially for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Since the American Alliance of Museums provided free attendance at the conference, the least we could do is speak on their behalf.

Principally, through the efforts of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Louisiana museums received approximately $2,315,000 in the years spanning 2006 through 2012. The American Alliance of Museums played a significant role in the awarding of these grants.

On Tuesday the 26th the day began with a Congressional Kickoff and Breakfast on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office Building. In addition to reviewing the planned congressional visits of the day, attendees were entertained with a special event featuring President Lincoln, as portrayed by Fritz Klein from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Afterwards, we began our visits. Our first was to the office of Senator David Vitter in the Hart Senate Office Building, followed at mid-day to the office of Representative Steve Scalise in the Rayburn House Office Building, and lastly, a visit to the office of Senator Mary Landrieu in the Hart Senate Building. These buildings are about a mile and a half apart, on opposite sides of the Capitol Building. Because both the Senate and House were in session, we met with staff in each office. All seemed genuinely interested in our presentations and requested that we follow up with them in the future. As a “plus,” for my office visits, Julia Bland, the CEO of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans, was helpful with supportive comments for our LSU museum effort. Julia is on many national museum boards and serves on the Board of the American Alliance of Museums and has many associates in Washington. At the invitation by Julia Bland, we were fortunate to have the input from a professional lobbyist associated with Adams & Reese during our visit in Senator Vitter’s office.

Ford W. Bell, President of the American Alliance of Museums,
addresses attendees at opening session of the Fifth Annual
AAM Advocacy Day Conference

President Abe Lincoln, as portrayed by Fritz Klein from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, addressing attendees of the Congressional Kickoff Breakfast on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office Building

The Advocacy Day conference concluded with a Congressional Reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. Congressional honorees were Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Each was given awards for their years of service in promoting museums across the country.

 View of Congressional Reception in Kennedy Caucus Room — A grand space!

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) delivers acceptance speech
after receiving award for his long support of museums across the country.

Ed with "President Abe Linclon" at
Congressional Reception in the
Kennedy Caucus Room of the
Russell Senate Office Building

In closing, I must state the Advocacy Day event was very instructive, but at the same time, it was a most-tiring, stressful event. Unfortunately, the day of our congressional visits was extremely cold with strong winds and light rain. Standing outside in long lines to pass security checks made the day all the more stressful.

Ed Picou, Jr. • President – Friends of Louisiana Museum of Natural History Foundation • March 2, 2013

2006 :
Informal Site Study

In 2006, a preliminary informal site study for a new museum facility to unify all of the collections was conducted in cooperation with the LSU Office of Campus Planning. The study outlines anticipated requirements, design considerations & site selection criteria and identifies several options which could potentially serve the public, unite the collections in safe facilities and provide top notch working conditions for students and researchers alike. You can download the Site Study here :

2009/2010 :
Museum Expert's Informal Report Discovers Irreplaceable, World-Class Collections at Risk

In 2002, at a meeting of Natural History curators, Ed Picou, the Build-A-Museum team leader, suggested that a study be commissioned by experts in the field of museum development. In May of 2009, Dr. Michael Mares and Mr. Peter Tirrell from Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH), visited the LSU campus, and viewed the 16 collections of the Louisiana Museum of Natural History at LSU which they called "superb". They prepared a report on the collections and the potential for a Louisiana Museum of Natural History at LSU as a unified, accredited, full service museum that encompasses research, collections, teaching, displays, and community outreach. In 2004, the American Association of Museums Accreditation Commission Chairman had commended SNOMNH, which was developed under the direction of our reviewers, for its strategic planning as follows: "The commission commends the museum on its growth since the last review and on its strategic planning process, which we find could be a model for others", wrote Commission Chair Martin Sullivan in a letter congratulating SNOMNH on its accreditation, in its newly built facility.

( DOWNLOAD > more info on the qualifications of Dr. Mares and Peter Tirell, and what people are saying about their successful project at the University of Oklahoma : Mares_Tirrell_Background-May_09.pdf {16Kb PDF)

This long awaited visit by these independent observers and highly credentialed champions of University Museums has provided the LSU community with an important perspective on the real benefits of developing a NEW natural history museum building for the LSU campus to house the legislatively recognized collections of the "Louisiana Natural History Museum" , how the museum can benefit the community by providing the types of educational activities that families and children really respond to, while serving as a showcase for all of the great science being done here at LSU, that would otherwise be inaccessible to most citizens. The report states that the job of museum professionals is to ensure the continuity of collections through time, and with the current LSU collections being some of the most unique and extensive in the world, the importance of adequate facilities cannot be overstated. 

( DOWNLOAD > Dr Michael Mares, Director and Peter B. Tirell, Associate Director of the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Oklahoma : "Development of a New Natural History Museum Building for Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge" {5.2MB PDF, 30 pg}

2010/2011 : 
Faculty Senate Task Force on Museums and Performing Arts 

Friends Incorporate

Board member Mark Dupuy, with the assistance of other Foundation Board members, develops Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of Friends of Louisiana Museum of Natural History Foundation, incorporates it, and successfully applies for 501(c)(3) status.