US Cultural Infrastructure Shovel Ready?

When we think of who might benefit from the Obama Administration’s “shovel-ready” infrastructure stimulus program, what comes to mind are roads, bridges and highways. Not zoos and aquariums. But the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has stepped up on behalf of its members to tout the “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects at the nation’s zoos and aquariums. Surely the informal educational structure that so many Americans benefit from should be eligible for stimulus funding, too. The AZA threw some green-speak into its request, pairing job creation rhetoric with long-term environmental concerns. Better yet, there is economic activity that zoos and aquariums stimulate that makes the investment a good bet. The AZA cites that across roughly 200 institutions, $7.6 billion in economic activity is generated every year and helps to keep 100,000 people employed.

I say public libraries and museums need to make a similar case. As we dive deeper into an economy more driven by ideas, our cultural infrastructure will matter. Think of it as the stimulus for experimentation, insight, cross-cultural exchange, community building, lifelong learning and enlightenment.