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Ask FSA: Introducing The Coalition of State Museum Associations (COSMA)

by Jennifer Thomas, Executive Director, Virginia Association of Museums on

COSMA

There are 46 state museum associations throughout the United States. Like field services staff, these associations work to provide assistance and service to museums and museum staff in their state. Some of the state associations have staff and large numbers of members (the largest has over 2,000 members), while others are much smaller, serving as few as 35 members with an all-volunteer crew of dedicated museum professionals.

The leaders of these associations have long had an interest in working together and sharing resources with each other. The first time these associations were brought together was thanks to an IMLS grant in the mid-1990s, and from that meeting came an organization called NASMA, the National Alliance of State Museum Associations. NASMA remained distinctly informal for many years; its most obvious creation was a listserv through which all of the state associations could ask for advice or share information.

In 2014, AAM and IMLS teamed up to organize another gathering of all state museum associations.There was a growing feeling that these associations needed to work together in a more consistent,formal way and by doing so, they could assist the goals of these national organizations in several ways. First, by building the capacity of these state associations, museums across the country would receive better training and advocacy assistance—particularly the smaller museums with whom the national organizations have less contact. Second, stronger state associations can serve as better conduits of information for the national messages that need to get communicated at the state level. This gathering was an eye-opening experience for all of us that attended, giving us new ideas and contacts, and launching the initial planning stages of what was to become COSMA (The Coalition of State Museum Associations).

COSMA members.

After 2 ½ years of planning and preparation, COSMA was officially announced at the AAM conference in St. Louis in May 2017. COSMA takes over where NASMA left off, replacing the informal organization with a formalized independent nonprofit organization with a mission to “connect and strengthen state museum associations in order to build our collective capacity to advance the excellence of museums in every state.” We have just elected our first board members, and our website is up and running at www.statemuseumassociations.org. Take a look around!

While all of the members of COSMA are museum associations, and our efforts are focused on building the capacity of those organizations, we are dedicated to keeping lines of communication open, and to sharing with those in our field doing similar work—by working together, we only make all of us stronger. So take a few minutes to explore the website, and stay tuned for what’s in store! I look forward to working with all of you, and all of the state associations, to make our field as good as it can be.

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