Maine Archives and Museums, the state’s only membership organization dedicated to “supporting and promoting Maine’s collecting institutions,” adds its voice to those who have already expressed dismay over the University of Southern Maine’s decision to terminate the American and New England Studies master’s program.

As representatives of our field — including museums, historical societies, libraries and archives — we feel that this program is important for the health of both our industry and Maine’s economy.

We know that we must do more to attract, train and empower the next generation of leaders for our field. Though American and New England Studies has long been the only museum studies/public history graduate program in the state, it alone has done a remarkable job of turning out dedicated, capable scholars with tangible and employable skills.

Most of Maine Archives and Museums’ member institutions have had an American and New England Studies graduate as a staff member, intern, volunteer or trustee.

Those who share the often-expressed concern that our talented young people must leave Maine to find opportunities must agree that the elimination of this unique graduate program, and the resulting migration of our best and brightest to Boston for training, is emphatically a step in the wrong direction.

If USM finds itself battling the misconception that museums and other cultural organizations do not contribute to the state’s economy, and thus do not represent practical or viable career tracks or business models, we urge them to look at Maine Archives and Museums’ Economic Impact Statement (MaineMuseums.org/About).

The data shows that our member institutions — many staffed by American and New England Studies graduates — employ hundreds, generate millions in revenue and attract millions of visitors to Maine.

To eliminate American and New England Studies would be to sever an artery that feeds not only Maine’s museum and archive community, but also its tourism industry.

Jessica Skwire Routhierpresident, Maine Archives and MuseumsSouth Portland