Woodson Goes to Washington

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on July 19th, 2017

Since learning the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum would receive the 2017 National Medal for Museum Service, I have been counting the days until the Washington, D.C. award ceremony.

It’s now come and gone. The memories will be with me forever.

Community volunteer, Museum docent, and National Medal nominator Linda Haney (center), Museum Board member Alice Woodson Smith (right), and I took off for our nation’s capital bright and early Sunday morning. 

We didn’t waste a minute of our time in Washington, heading straight to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, where we spent almost five hours immersed in stirring stories and poignant experiences that not only left us wanting more, but also informed our conversations throughout the evening. The Contemplative Court capped off our visit.

Monday began with an award ceremony run-through for me and Linda at the National Archives. We first made our way to the Rotunda, where our country’s founding documents – Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights – are preserved and presented. The meaning-filled importance of these national treasures cannot be overstated; being in the Rotunda filled me with pride.

A Noon-hour visit to the National Gallery of Art to meet up with Alice provided just enough time to revisit American Art collection favorites . . . Gilbert Stuart’s The Skater, Winslow Homer’s Breezing Up and Right and Left, and the jewel-like gallery filled with extraordinary nineteenth-century still-life paintings.

At 2:00, it was back to the National Archives for the main event.

Live streamed, the ceremony began with a well-crafted and beautifully narrated HISTORY produced video tribute to the five museum and five library National Medal winners. Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero welcomed the audience, referencing the founding documents, and reminding everyone of the important role of museums and libraries in every aspect of American life.

IMLS Director Dr. Kathyrn K. Matthew, Linda Haney, Kathy Kelsey Foley, and Cokie Roberts, journalist & author

Institute of Museum and Library Services Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew eloquently spoke about the agency’s mission and services to the field and highlighted the twenty-year history of the National Medal program.

Guest speaker Cokie Roberts, well-known author, journalist, and National Public Radio commentator, shared her perspective on the multi-faceted ways libraries, archives, and museums serve communities large and small throughout the United States. She acknowledged the vitally important work made possible by support from Federal agencies, including the Institute of Museum and Library Service, and minced no words in advocating for the preservation of these agencies and encouraging all citizens to make their voices heard throughout the budget process.

Cokie and Kit then presented the framed National Medals as each institution’s director and community member made their way to the stage. It was thrilling and humbling and also heartwarming to know that my coworkers, whose dedication and hard work earned the Medal, were watching the action unfold.

Linda Haney, Alice Smith, U.S. Congressman Sean Duffy, and Kathy Foley

Leaving no stone unturned, Linda, Alice, and I used our Tuesday morning time before returning to Wausau for Capitol Hill visits. We were warmly greeted by staff in Senator Baldwin’s and Senator Johnson’s offices and also talked with staff in Congressman Duffy’s office before being treated to a brief visit and photo op with our Congressman outside his committee hearing room. Throughout these morning conversations, we emphasized the importance of museums and the ways we serve all visitors and our communities.

In less than two days, we made memories to last a lifetime.

We want to hear your Woodson Art Museum stories and memories, too. Use Facebook or the Contact Us button on our website. Please also mark your calendar and plan to join us on Thursday, August 3, 4-7 pm, in the Museum’s sculpture garden for a National Medal Community Celebration.

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