The Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) has so far awarded more than $155,000 to museums and museum employees affected by hurricanes in the Southeast. As of Jan. 31, SEMC has received over $203,000 in donations of cash and stock from nearly 160 museum service organizations, institutions, and individuals, including $100,000 from AAM.
"Financial assistance from museums and individuals throughout the country has been overwhelming, and the museums and museum employees in the affected areas have been so appreciative of the support," said Richard Waterhouse, SEMC executive director. "Because we know that natural disasters will happen again, we hope to continue a fund to provide museum general assistance and museum employee assistance for the Southeast."
The 2005 hurricane season devastated much of the Gulf Coast region’s cultural heritage. With structural damage, displaced staff, and few visitors, many institutions remain closed. Donations are still urgently needed, and the SEMC continues to receive applications for aid. Institutions and individuals are encouraged to donate to the SEMC Hurricane Relief Fund; please visit www.semcdirect.net.
Sixteen national museum service organizations asked their members to participate in Museums Helping Museums: A National Relief Effort for the Gulf Region. All monies collected were donated to the SEMC Hurricane Relief Fund. Museums were asked to consider: • Donating a portion of the admissions • Offering visitors the option to add a contribution at admission
• Erecting a donation box for contributions from the public
• Donating a percentage of the museum shop sales
• Donating in another way
The SEMC’s awards include General Assistance Grants to institutions ($5,000 each) and Employee Assistance Grants to museum staff ($1,000).
Although the grants provide only a small fraction of the money needed to help with the devastating losses, recipients repeatedly note the morale boost they receive from feeling part of the larger museum community. "I just want to thank you in advance for the grant money that you will be sending me," wrote Lorraine Red-Gueringer of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. "It will be a great help in helping me rebuild my life. As I stated in the letter, I lost everything. I’m now living on the cruise ship until March, hoping to find an apartment before then. Thanks to you and the people at SEMC."
Gayle Petty-Johnson, director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS, wrote: "The support from SEMC has meant so much to the staff, especially the support staff who are not necessarily museum professionals. They are now realizing that they are part of a network of people who truly care about our culture, preserving it, and sharing it."
The following associations jointly sponsored the initiative:
American Association of Museums
Association of African American Museums
Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Midwest Museums
Association of Science Museum Directors
California Association of Museums
Council of American Jewish Museums
Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums
Mountain-Plains Museums Association
Museum Association of New York
Museum Store Association
New England Museum Association
Oklahoma Museums Association
Texas Association of Museums
Virginia Association of Museums
Western Museums Association
For more information about Museums Helping Museums, including a list of participating institutions, visit www.aam-us.org/sp/mhm. For a full list of contributors, go to www.semcdirect.net.