Today, the 400,000 Americans employed at museums and supporters of their causes will celebrate Museums Advocacy Day. Several local museums are among the nation's 17,500 that are trying to show their value to their communities.
Across the nation, museums contribute roughly $21 billion to the economy, according to the American Association of Museums. On the local level, museums have supported the area economically and in education.
"I don't think the general public and the legislature understand the value museums bring to the community," said Joni Blackman, director of the Fenton History Center. "They're not just a place to hang pictures or to put old stuff. They provide a lot of support for the school programming. By law, they're chartered by New York State Education Department. They work hand-in-hand with the schools to give a greater experience for students to learn."
The Fenton History Center was one of several Jamestown museums to participate in Doors Open Jamestown in January. Across the nation, museums contribute roughly $21 billion to the economy, according to figures provided by the American Association of Museums.
P-J photo by?Scott Shelters
On the economic level, Doors Open Jamestown, an annual free day at local attractions, has brought more than 10,000 people through area museums on the third Saturday of January during the past seven years. This year's participating venues included the Fenton History Center, Jamestown Audubon Society and Nature Center, Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, Robert H. Jackson Center, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Reg Lenna Civic Center, and the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
During Doors Open Jamestown on Jan. 21, 2,080 visitors spent $1,500 at local museum gift shops. Since its creation, Doors Open Jamestown has accounted for more than $8,000 in gift shop sales and has given a boost to local restaurants due to increased tourism.
"Cultural tourism and heritage tourism are huge," Blackman said. "($8,000) doesn't sound like much, but when you consider some of us don't have very big price tags, that shows a lot of interest."
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, cultural tourism accounts for $192 billion in economic activity annually. Cultural and heritage activities make up 23 percent of all domestic trips, and museums rank among the top three family vacation destinations, the American Association of Museums' website states.
Locally, museums are hoping for more support.
"Part of the reason Jamestown has museums is because Jamestown has a lot of non-profits," Blackman said. "I think that goes hand-in-hand. Because museums are chartered not by the Department of State, but by the Department of Education, they deserve support from the government to promote their education programs."