Alaskans to Attend Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

For Immediate Release

DATE: January 30, 2020
END: February 25, 2020

Della Hall, Executive Director
Museums Alaska
(907) 474-5484

Patricia Relay, Director
Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
(907) 835-2764

In February, Michelle Cullen and Patricia Relay from the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive, and Della Hall and Selena Ortega-Chiolero from Museums Alaska will travel to Washington, D.C. to join hundreds of museum professionals from across the country for Museums Advocacy Day, hosted by the American Alliance of Museums, February 24 & 25, 2020. The purpose of the visit is to share the important work that museums do with their legislators.

Joined by over 300 museum leaders and professionals from across the country, Cullen, Relay, Hall, and Ortega-Chiolero are proud to be attending Advocacy Day. After past years’ Museums Advocacy Day visits, all Alaskan legislators have joined in support of continued funding for important federal grant programs and agencies that support museums.

In Alaska we have over 100 museums, cultural centers, and historic properties that preserve and exhibit our history. Rooted in their communities, they are anchor institutions that deliver education services, research opportunities, exhibit local art and culture; provide public programs, and generate revenue through cultural tourism.

Alaska’s cultural affiliations and geographic distances are immense. Federally supported grants are vital to our cultural organizations, especially in remote communities such as Valdez. Valdez, population 3800 has one venue in which artists can exhibit their work. It is only through the Alaska State Council on the Arts Community Arts Development Grant, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, that the Valdez Museum can provide a venue for local and regional artists.

The American Alliance of Museums’ publication Museums as Economic Engines: A National Report, is an unprecedented economic study to quantify the economic value and impact of museums nationwide. Researched and prepared in partnership with Oxford Economics with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this comprehensive report outlines the economic benefit of museums, including jobs, direct spending, and supply-chain effects. Museums support their communities, and create jobs and wages that are vital to the health of their hometowns.

Relay stated, “Gathering in Washington DC each year with museum professionals to advocate for the field from around the country has been such a wonderful and beneficial experience. The fact that our little delegation travels so far to make a case for the important work that museums do in Alaska highlights our dedication to the field. I am so thankful for to Alaska’s representation for their recognition of this effort and their willingness to meet with Alaska Museum professionals about supporting the arts and humanities in the great state of Alaska.”

Della Hall became the Executive Director of Museums Alaska in 2017. She holds an MA from University of Delaware in History and Museum Studies, a BS in History, Technology, and Society from Georgia Institute of Technology, and has worked with museums for over a decade. Hall has served on the Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board, and currently serves on the board of the Coalition of State Museum Associations, which will hold its annual meeting at in conjunction with Museums Advocacy Day for the second time this year.

Selena Ortega-Chiolero has been the Museum Specialist for Chickaloon Native Village, an Ahtna Athabascan Tribe in Southcentral Alaska, since 2018. She holds degrees in Art History and Asian Studies from California State University, Sacramento, and is currently completing a Museum Studies indigenous certification program through the Institute of American Indian Arts. Selena has been part of the Alaska museum community for the past ten years working in a variety of areas including museum administration, development, curatorial, collections, exhibitions and programs. She is currently serving as the Board Secretary and Advocacy Task Force Leader for Museums Alaska.

Patricia Relay became the Executive Director of the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive in 2010. With over 20 years of experience, she has a lifelong love of museums and cultural organization. She believes that museums and galleries are much more than places to store relics and artifacts. Museums serve as vital community resources that provide gathering places where thoughtful exhibits and educational opportunities co-exist, bringing communities together to learn, to play, and to delight in. Ms. Relay and her family moved to Valdez, Alaska from Bellingham, Washington in 2010. I cannot see myself anywhere else. Valdez is a wonderful place to call home. She Bachelor of Arts in Art History (2001) from Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration (2008) from Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland.

Michelle Cullen has been involved with the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive as a volunteer, summer programs director. She is retiring from the VMHA Board of Directors after 9 years of service and she will continue to volunteer and help with advocacy. She works as an adjunct professor at Prince William Sound College in Valdez where she teaches Solar System Astronomy. Michelle has been an advocate for the Museum in local, state and National venues. This is her 5th year participating in Museums Advocacy Day.

About the Valdez Museum:

The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive is an active place. We bring the stories of our community’s history alive through our programs and activities.

For more information please visit our website at or on Facebook and Twitter.

About Museums Alaska:

Museums Alaska supports museums and cultural centers in Alaska and enhances public understanding of their value. To accomplish its organizational purpose, Museums Alaska maintains a central office to receive and disburse information about museums, cultural centers and their activities, and to collect and share professional opportunities. Museums Alaska organizes an annual meeting to focus on the needs of Alaska museum professionals, volunteers, and their institutions.

For more information please visit our website at