Legislative Awareness at the Saugatuck-Douglas History CenterBy: Nathaniel Nietering, former Executive Director, SDHC
I have made it an increasing priority to keep both our state and federal legislators aware of who the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center is and what we do for our community and region and have made an effort to invite these individuals for a tour of our History Museum, one of our two facilities.
Each year we apply for competitive grant funds from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), which receives some federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in addition to allocated state funds.
Accordingly, it is in our own best interest to keep our state and federal legislators informed and aware of just what we are doing to preserve local history and who benefits from our work.We recently gave special museum tours to our U.S. Representative Fred Upton and state representative Mary Whiteford. In these tours, the legislators learned some of the fascinating local history which makes our area so special, but also about how critical government funding is to our operations and activities. They asked good questions - about who we serve, where they are from, how they participate, etc. All this helps to shape a real picture in their minds of the impact of cultural funding - bringing life to what may otherwise just be another line item in the budget. In addition to MCACA and NEA, in the past SDHC has also received federal funding from the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) and IMLS (Institute for Library and Museum Services). These matching grant funds generate support through local dollars and help establish our credibility among our cultural peers. Thank you, Reps Upton and Whiteford, for your time and interest during your tours at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum!
The significance of inviting legislators to tour facilities and talk about the importance of government funding is critical - something I learned while working at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut, which was severely impacted by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. Due to our strong relationships at the state and federal level, that museum was awarded over $1.5 million in FEMA remediation funds to help repair hurricane damage and several hundred thousand dollars from the state of CT for mitigation work. I managed some of this award money while employed there before accepting my current job at the Saugatuck-Douglas History Center.