Laurie Norton Moffatt: Save America's treasures: Preserve the endowments

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STOCKBRIDGE — President Trump has proposed elimination of funding for arts, culture and public broadcasting, as well as for museums, libraries and archives. Let's look at one example of how shortsighted such an action would be.

Norman Rockwell Museum received 18 federal grants exceeding $1.9 million from 2005-2017 from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Archives and Records Administration and Save America's Treasures program. We are proud to have received these competitive peer reviewed grants as they attested to the importance and quality of the museum's work as well as made real investment in our programs and in turn, in millions of people's lives.

Reached millions

These funds were invested in preservation and access to museum collections, national touring exhibitions, publication and research, and educational programming about Norman Rockwell and American illustration art that have touched millions of lives across America and abroad.

In addition to the imprimatur by peer review, the grants further leveraged millions of dollars of support from private, foundation, corporate and municipal support that has been invested in Massachusetts and many states across America and funded hundreds of jobs.

Regional economies around our country thrive on cultural tourism, including our own Berkshire community where the arts are the leading economic driver. A significant percentage of grants from the NEA, NEH, and IMLS support programs that serve children and families in underserved communities.

Let me cite four examples of specific outcomes of this funding:

1. The impact of this investment brought Norman Rockwell's artwork to 18 cities across America in an American Masterpieces tour. American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, Norman Rockwell Behind The Camera, and other traveling exhibitions reached more than 2 million visitors who would never have had opportunity to visit the Museum in Stockbridge, served hundreds of thousands of school children in the regional cities it travelled, generated more than $5 million in private, foundation, museum and corporate support, and employed dozens of jobs and vendors in preparing, traveling, and managing the exhibition.

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2. These investments ensured the conservation, preservation of, and access to Norman Rockwell's art and archive collections, national treasures, through art conservation at Williamstown Art Conservation Center, digitization of tens of thousands of original photographs and archival documents now available globally to researchers, students, teachers and general interest visitors to the Museum's online digital collections, web experiences and digital learning an engagement. These digital images have been disseminated widely through book publication, educational curricula, online digital engagement, and exhibitions.

3. Investment in Norman Rockwell Museum's educational programs has enabled us to serve more than 100,000 students within the Berkshires and nationally through our school-based programs, and now with our online curricula available to teachers and students anywhere in the world.

4. Norman Rockwell Museum is the leading institution in the nation for research and scholarly work in American illustration, thanks to several federal grants that helped to launch the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, supported original illustration research and the creation of the first online information data base on the history of illustration art. These small grants signaled the stature of the Museum's work and leveraged substantial private investment and funding in the Museum's research activities.

In short, without these important investments, Norman Rockwell Museum could not have engaged new audiences across America, nor could we have achieved national growth and investment in our renowned collections. The ability of the museum to leverage these funds has been powerful, and we have witnessed lives changed as a result of the museum's work.

Works preserved

National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Archives and Records Administration and Save America's Treasures programs were vital to the success and growth of Norman Rockwell Museum into an important American museum serving millions of people around the world. With federal investment our museum is spreading Norman Rockwell's humanitarian message and illuminating the power of visual images to shape and reflect American society. These funds have ensured preservation of the work of one of America's most influential artists.

Elimination of funding for these agencies would be one of the most ill-considered and reckless actions Congress could make. Cultural non-profits have leveraged these investments to enrich our communities while preserving our nation's heritage. These endeavors are multiplied exponentially by thousands of organizations like Norman Rockwell Museum who save America's treasures to better the lives of all Americans — especially our nation's children — America's future treasure.

Laurie Norton Moffatt is the CEO/Director of Norman Rockwell Museum and a former trustee of the American Association of Museums, Association of Art Museum Directors and New England Museum Association.


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