The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents

  Cultural Education Committee



Carole F. Huxley


Cultural Education Major Issues for 2005/06



June 3, 2005



Goals 1, 2, 4 and 5







Issue for Discussion


What should be the Regents role in relation to Cultural Education’s five major issues, and how can the staff best support the Regents in carrying out their role?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Review of policy and actions to implement policy.


Proposed Handling


Each of the issues requires Regents engagement and support. The CE Committee will discuss the status of issues related to each initiative and explore strategies the Regents may pursue to advance their objectives.


Procedural History


1.     In 2001, the Regents approved New Century Libraries, the Report of the Regents Commission on Library Services, which proposed ten major recommendations to enable New York’s libraries to respond to new and emerging needs for an increasingly information-driven and diverse society. Legislation to address the ten recommendations was advanced, but has not yet been enacted. Progress in the absence of additional funding has nevertheless occurred, but realization of the plan depends upon enactment of the legislation.


2.     Rediscovering New York History and Culture: Supported since 1987 with modest funds, ensures that under-documented areas of our history are not lost or inaccessible.  An infusion of additional funds from the CE Fund will enable the effort to more fully meet the need to capture history in danger of being lost.


3.     Transforming the State Museum: Underway but requiring integration of new technologies and improved techniques for interpreting our natural and cultural histories.


4.     Research and Stewardship Facility: Approved by the Regents in November 2004 to respond to the preservation needs of the Museum, Library and Archives collections, and to accommodate the expansion of collections over the next two decades.


5.     Closing the Performance Gap: Despite many model initiatives across the State, there is still no systematic program to bring to bear the learning resources of cultural institution on the challenge of closing the performance gap.




The major priority of the Office of Cultural Education is increasing access to, and greater use of cultural materials.  Libraries, museums, archives and public broadcasting are repositories of knowledge on which most learning rests.  For the youngest child, they both stimulate and satisfy curiosity.  For the oldest individual, they are often the best connection with the changing world. In between, they support all levels of formal education and independent learning. They are stewards of our past, and make possible its interpretation to new generations.  At the same time, their collections are resources for the production of new knowledge. New Yorkers of all ages and conditions of life should, therefore, have easy access to the extraordinary cultural resources found in this State. Five key issues for the coming year all relate to plans for expanding the availability and use of these resources for research and learning.




The Regents should instruct staff on the support needed for members to effectively advance these priorities and deal with the issues blocking their realization.


Timetable for Implementation


By the start of the next budget season (2006/7), staff will prepare strategies to support the Regents role in advocating for issues one-four.  After the Summit in November, staff will develop a network of cultural institutions in each region with two or three major initiatives to better integrate cultural resources into closing the performance gap strategies.














Key Issues



May 2005






















          ISSUE: Finding ways to put its concepts into practice while advocating for the investment necessary to realize the vision of New Century Libraries.


          CONTEXT: In 2001 Regents approved the ten recommendations of the Regents Commission on Library Services, a comprehensive set of strategies to make New York’s library services serve the new and emerging needs of an increasingly information driven society and an increasingly diverse population.   Regents proposed legislation to fund the ten recommendations has not yet gained support. This coming year a pared down proposal focusing on two areas of immediate priority will go forward, seeking sufficient funds to continue and enlarge the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL) and to provide matching funds for much needed renovation and construction of public libraries across the state. 


NOVEL, currently supported through federal funds that cannot sustain it or grow it, provides electronic access to very large collections of proprietary journals and other subscription-based material not available free on the Internet. The State Library negotiates with vendors a statewide price for their various sets of “databases” as these collections are called. They are provided free to all the academic, public and school libraries and are accessible to New Yorkers at their offices or homes.   To expand and improve this heavily used information resource requires an ongoing State investment.


Construction: More than half the public libraries in the State are over 60 years old. Almost 40% of them are not fully accessible to people with disabilities, and a similar percentage do not have the wiring and infrastructure to take full advantage of the new electronic delivery systems.













ISSUE:   Ensuring the history of under-documented groups of the population and of the century just past is not lost or inaccessible.



CONTEXT:  With a particular emphasis on the history and culture of groups and activities poorly documented until now, the State Archives provides competitive grants and technical help to local governments and to non-profit groups. It also supports original research through the Archives Partnership Trust. Expanding partnerships and resources to support this effort has some urgency, particularly related to 20th Century history.


The legislation for the Documentary Heritage Program and the Archives Partnership Trust provide inadequate spending authority for these two highly successful programs to continue to grow. This year we will seek an amendment to the legislation that created them. We will ask for an increase in spending authority for the grants from the Documentary Heritage Program and for the operating funds of the Archives Partnership Trust. The proposed amendment will come to the Cultural Education Committee in December.

























          ISSUE: The State Museum’s permanent exhibits were designed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. They neither reflect the research of the past 25 years nor the richness of the remarkable collections of the State Museum. Integration of new technologies and improved techniques for interpreting our natural and cultural histories are much needed.


          CONTEXT:  The State Museum is the oldest and largest State Museum in the country and is internationally known for the depth of its collections and the quality of research done at the Museum. In 2001, the first phase of an exhibit master plan opened with 25,000 square feet of new exhibits. Additional enhancements to current exhibits, as well as the new World Trade Center Hall, have since then been developed. Renewal of the remaining 150,000 square feet of exhibit space is essential to the Museum’s future. The immediate need is for support to begin the second phase of the exhibit master plan.



















ISSUE:  The collections of the State Museum, the State Archives and the State Library are both massive and of major research importance. 


Ø    The Cultural Education Center (CEC), a nearly 30-year old building, is almost completely out of collection storage space.

Ø     Many of the storage areas in the CEC have inadequate environmental and fire suppression systems, putting the collections at risk.

Ø    The State Records Center, run by the Archives, is completely filled, requiring commercial lease of space at a higher cost and lower environmental controls.

Ø    The Museum’s collections are, in part, stored in a 100,000 square foot warehouse with seriously inadequate conditions. 

Ø    Detailed projected space needs for the three institutions show a 5-year need of an additional 500,000 square feet, and a 15-year need of 1,000,000 square feet.


CONTEXT:  The Department assembled a Blue Ribbon Panel to assess the current buildings and to recommend next steps. They concluded that the current facilities pose a major risk to the long-term preservation, protection and management of these collections.  On the basis of their findings, at our request, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York commissioned a feasibility study and conceptual plan, including an engineering systems design and a site search. The resulting plan scopes out a “green building” with modular collection spaces that ensure the ability to expand when collection growth requires it. The Museum is a major research institution, working in the areas of biology, geology, archaeology, paleontology and history.  The curators, research staff and their labs will be housed adjacent to their collections in the new facility.


The Regents have approved the conceptual plan and have approved requesting $11 million for site acquisition and architectural design. Gaining legislative and gubernatorial support for the facility is a major priority.









ISSUE: At every level of education, there is a performance gap between those living in poverty and those from more stable backgrounds. The resources of libraries, museums, public broadcasting and even archives can be more successfully and systematically employed to aid the elimination of that gap. Their customers are persons of all ages and circumstances. If accessible and structured to meet real needs, these institutions’ programs can both enhance and continue the educational growth of those whose learning opportunities lag behind.  While there are many good model programs, there is no statewide, coordinated and systematic effort, beyond the school and academic libraries, to link these programs with formal educational programs.


CONTEXT: The gap begins in the very early years of a child’s life. Whether or not the child has: ready access to books and being read to; a way to learn about the world beyond his/her small sphere; opportunities to interact positively with other children; and to engage in creative play are important elements in preparing for formal education. Routine opportunities to have these sorts of activities are some of the factors that determine whether a child will enter school prepared to learn.  Library programs and public broadcasting, as well museums, have the potential to provide these opportunities to children and their parents. How can we make these opportunities more accessible and particularly welcoming to families in poverty? Focusing on one or two powerful strategies may be a useful approach for the coming year. Other options may come out of the pre-Summit meetings.