Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter VAM Voice Sneak-Peek

Soon, our members will be receiving the Winter 2011 edition of the VAM Voice newsmagazine, complete with annual report. We've focused this edition of the Voice around the idea of advocacy and the importance of being an advocate for your museum. VAM got a legislator's perspective on this, and we're giving you a sneak peek, below. Members can look for the full newsmagazine in your email-box soon!

Many thanks to legislator David L. Bulova for answering the following questions for us. Mr. Bulova represents Fairfax City and parts of Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 37th District. Find out more at

What do you know about the museums in your district? Would hearing from your museum constituents be of interest/helpful to you?

I have several wonderful museums and historic properties located in my district, including the Blenheim House in the City of Fairfax (c. 1858-60), the Fairfax County Courthouse (c. 1799), and Mount Gilead in historic Centreville (c. 1785). All three are integral parts of the character of the surrounding communities. Hearing from my museum constituents and the historic preservation community is very helpful to me. In fact, it is how I became aware of the need for HB1963, which passed in 2011 and allows local governments to create resident curator programs to manage historic properties.

From your perspective as a legislator, what is the most helpful information a museum constituent can provide for you? 

Museums are an important part of protecting our cultural heritage and it is important that we make the investments necessary to preserve historic objects and properties for future generations. Especially in tight budget times it is critical to hear from constituents about the importance of museums, and their contribution to our economy, since they are competing with many other services and programs throughout Virginia. It is also helpful to hear about creative ideas for preservation and programming that do not involve funding, or that capitalize on public-private partnerships. The resident curator program was a great example of out-of-the-box thinking.
What would be your advice to a person who has never been involved in the advocacy process, but is interested in starting?

Make an appointment to sit down with your legislator several months before session, which starts on the second Wednesday of January. Most legislators love to discuss the legislative process and can help a constituent develop an advocacy plan. Before making an appointment, think through what you are interested in accomplishing. Do you have a specific idea? Do you want to create greater awareness? Remember that in Virginia, legislators are part time and only meet a couple of months out of the year. If you have a specific idea, think through whether it will cost money and who will likely support or oppose the idea. Touch base with other stakeholders to see what they think as well. Be patient and understand that your legislator will help out if at all possible, but that legislators also need to be strategic about what they introduce, and when. Timing is everything, especially when trying to get an idea through the committee system. Finally, remember that advocacy is about relationship building. Stay in touch with your legislator and invite him or her to special events and functions in the museum community. Your legislator won’t be able to make all of these events, but will appreciate being given the opportunity to participate.

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