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Each grant program has specific eligibility requirements. The links below provide general eligibility criteria for museums, libraries, and tribal organizations, but please note that additional organizations may be eligible for grants under certain programs. Additionally, ineligible organizations may still be able to participate in grant programs through partnerships with eligible organizations. Please see Applications and Guidelines for specific information.
To be eligible as a museum, you must:
be either a unit of State or local government or a private nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;
be located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and
qualify as one of the following:
1. a museum1 that, using a professional staff,2 is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates.3
2. a public or private nonprofit agency which is responsible for the operation of a museum may apply on behalf of the museum.
Please note that a museum located within a parent organization that is a State or local government or multipurpose not-for-profit entity, such as a municipality, university, historical society, foundation, or cultural center, may apply on its own behalf if the museum: (1) is able to independently fulfill all the eligibility requirements listed above; (2) functions as a discrete unit within the parent organization; (3) has its own fully segregated and itemized operating budget; and (4) has the authority to make the application on its own. When any of the last three conditions cannot be met, a museum may only apply through its parent organization.
IMLS may determine that a non-profit organization that is affiliated with a museum is eligible for this program where the organization can demonstrate that it has the ability to administer the project and can ensure compliance with the terms of these guidelines and the applicable law, including the Assurances and Certifications. The applicant organization must submit an agreement from the museum that details the activities that the applicant and museum will perform and binds the museum to the statements and assurances made in the grant application.
1. Museums include, but are not limited to, aquariums, arboretums, art museums, botanical gardens, children's/youth museums, general museums (those having two or more significant disciplines), historic houses/sites, history museums, natural history/anthropology museums, nature centers, planetariums, science/technology centers, specialized museums (limited to a single distinct subject), and zoological parks.
2. An institution uses a professional staff if it employs at least one professional staff member, or the full-time equivalent, whether paid or unpaid, primarily engaged in the acquisition, care, or exhibition to the public of objects owned or used by the institution.
3. An institution exhibits objects to the general public if such exhibition is a primary purpose of the institution. An institution that exhibits objects to the general public for at least 120 days a year is deemed to exhibit objects to the general public on a regular basis.
An institution that exhibits objects by appointment may meet the requirement to exhibit objects to the general public on a regular basis if it can establish, in light of the facts under all the relevant circumstances, that this method of exhibition does not unreasonably restrict the accessibility of the institution's exhibits to the general public.
An institution that does not have as a primary purpose the exhibition of objects to the general public but that can demonstrate that it exhibits objects to the general public on a regular basis as a significant, separate, distinct, and continuing portion of its activities, and that it otherwise meets the museum eligibility requirements, may be determined to be eligible as a museum under these guidelines. For more information, please see 45 C.F.R. Chapter XI, Subchapter E (Institute of Museum and Library Services).
Prospective applicants that cannot fulfill all of these requirements should contact IMLS to discuss their eligibility before applying. IMLS may require additional supporting documentation from the applicant to determine the museum's autonomy.
Note: Special conditions of eligibility apply to the Museum Grants for African American History and Culture program, the National Leadership Grants for Museums program, Sparks! Ignition Grants for Museums, and the Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program. Please see the individual guidelines for these programs for specific eligibility requirements.
An eligible applicant must be:
- either a unit of state or local government or private nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;
- located in one of the fifty states of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and
- one of the six types of organizations listed below:
- A library or a parent organization, such as a school district, a municipality, a state agency, or an academic institution, that is responsible for the administration of a library. Eligible libraries include public libraries, elementary and secondary school libraries, college and university libraries, research libraries and archives that are not an integral part of an institution of higher education and that make publicly available library services and materials that are suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available, and private or special libraries that have been deemed eligible to participate in this program by the state in which the library is located.
- An academic or administrative unit, such as a graduate school of library and information science, which is a part of an institution of higher education through which it would make application.
- A digital library, if it makes library materials publicly available and provides library services, including selection, organization, description, reference, and preservation under the supervision of at least one permanent professional staff librarian.
- A library agency that is an official agency of a state or other unit of government and is charged by the law governing it with the extension and development of public library services within its jurisdiction.
- A library consortium that is a local, statewide, regional, interstate, or international cooperative association of library entities that provides for the systematic and effective coordination of the resources of eligible libraries, as defined above, and information centers that work to improve the services delivered to the clientele of these libraries.
- A library association that exists on a permanent basis, serves libraries or library professionals on a national, regional, state, or local level, and engages in activities designed to advance the well-being of libraries and the library profession.
Note: Special conditions of eligibility apply to the Grants to States program, some categories of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, the National Leadership Grants program, and the Native American and Native Hawaiian Library Services programs. Please see the individual guidelines for these programs for specific eligibility requirements.
For the Native American Library and Museum Services grant programs, Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages and corporations are eligible to apply for funding. Entities such as libraries, museums, schools, tribal colleges, or departments of education are not eligible applicants, although they may be involved in the administration of this program and their staff may serve as project directors.
For purposes of funding under these grant programs, "Indian tribe" is defined as any tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village, regional corporation, or village corporations (as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. Section 1601 et seq.)) that is recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians. Eligible applicants are listed on the Bureau of Indian Affairs Website, except for the recognized regional corporations and village corporations (Alaskan entities should refer to applicable provisions in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, referenced above).
Native Hawaiian Library and Museum Services grants are available to nonprofit organizations that primarily serve and represent Native Hawaiians (as the term is defined in section 7207 of the Native Hawaiian Education Act). The term "Native Hawaiian" means (a) any individual who is a citizen of the United States and (b) a descendant of the aboriginal people who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the area that now comprises the state of Hawaii, as evidenced by genealogical records, Kapuna (elders) or Kamaaina (long-term community residents) verification, or certified birth records.