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IMLS Announces $9.5 Million in Save America's Treasures Grants to Preserve Cultural and Historic Treasures

December 09, 2009 ET


IMLS Press Contacts
Jeannine Mjoseth,
Mamie Bittner,

The Last Column
The Last Column
Photo by Joe Woolhead

Washington, DC—A memorial to the victims of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, the mementos of Civil War officers, and a blockhouse from an 18th-century Russian trading fort in Alaska are among the thousands of historically significant objects that will be conserved with the 2009 Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in collaboration with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), the National Park Service (NPS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), awarded $9.5 million in grants to 41 organizations to conserve significant cultural and historic treasures related to American history and culture.

"Save America's Treasures invests in our nation's irreplaceable legacy of buildings, documents, collections and artistic works," said First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chairman of the PCAH. "These awards empower communities all over the country to rescue and restore this priceless heritage, and ensure that future generations continue to learn from the voices, ideas, events and people represented by these projects."

"The Institute of Museum and Library Services is proud to support Save America’s Treasures," said IMLS Director Anne-Imelda Radice. "These awards are part of IMLS’s commitment to conservation that includes ongoing grant programs and Connecting to Collections: A Call to Action, a multiyear initiative to help improve the state of our nation’s collections."

IMLS began the Connecting to Collections initiative in response to A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections, a 2005 Heritage Preservation study supported by IMLS, which concluded that:

  • 190 million objects need conservation treatment,
  • 65 percent of collecting institutions have damaged collections due to improper storage,
  • 80 percent of collecting institutions lack an emergency plan for their collections and trained staff to carry it out, and
  • 40 percent of institutions have no funds allocated in their annual budget for preservation and conservation.

The evaluation and recommendation of SAT grants is carried out by an interagency group that blends cross-disciplinary expertise of the federal cultural agencies (IMLS, NEA, and NEH) and the NPS, which administers the program in collaboration with PCAH.  In addition to reviewing and making recommendations on grant applications, each agency administers a number of grants. This year, IMLS will administer grants to six institutions:

    1. National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York
    The Last Column, a steel column of the World Trade Center, was transformed into a living memorial to victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Despite its apparent solidity, exposure to harsh sunlight and fluctuating humidity has severely compromised its steel surface and its mantle of ephemera, including writings, photographs, and votive tributes that were layered onto its surfaces. This project will conserve the Last Column so that it may be placed safely on permanent exhibition.

    2. Civil War Museum of Philadelphia,  Philadelphia, PA
    The personal records, possessions, and memories of the Union officers who founded this Philadelphia museum in the 19th century constitute one of the finest collections of Civil War documents and artifacts in the country.  The grant funds will help to conserve and rehouse items in urgent need of treatment, including manuscripts, photographs, paintings, flags, uniforms, and weapons. ($150,000)

    3. Kolmakovsky Redoubt Collection, Fairbanks
    This important historic collection contains more than 5,000 artifacts, including the first building erected at the site. Kolmakovsky Redoubt was the first Russian fort in the interior of Alaska and was the major trading center on the Kuskokwim River from its establishment until the purchase of Alaska in 1867.  This project will rehabilitate and preserve the blockhouse and stabilize the archaeological collections.

    4. Denver Museum of Nature & Science Anthropology Collections, Denver
    The museum’s 56,000-piece anthropology collection encompasses a rich and diverse range of objects, photographs, documents, and materials from a portfolio of George Caitlin to the photographs of Edwin Curtis to Native American artifacts.  Funds will support conservation of collections and objects in preparation for moving them into a new facility.

    5. Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT
    The Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947, holds a collection of approximately 150,000 works of folk art, fine art, and Americana from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and is Vermont’s largest cultural attraction.  This grant will support the design and construction of a communications system that will integrate the museum’s fire, security, and environmental control systems, which is crucial for the long-term protection of its artifacts.

    6. Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, Snoqualmie, WA
    The Chapel Car Messenger of Peace, a wooden rail car built in 1898, traveled the country for 50 years as a mobile church bringing modern evangelism to the frontier and helping to establish churches in numerous communities.  With grant assistance, deteriorated structural components, windows, siding and roofing, and other features will be repaired and replaced, restoring the Chapel Car to its 1920 appearance.

Other funded SAT projects highlight this country’s rich architectural legacy including two rare surviving 17th-century houses of worship and the works of leading 19th-century and 20th-century of American architects like David Burnham, Stanford White, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Rare first-hand accounts of modern dance’s beginnings are told in photographs at Jacobs Pillow. The ideas and aspirations of post-war Americans are captured on tape from This I Believe radio program. And a window on a lost Native American culture is revealed in 18th-century Friendly Association Papers.  These grants will ensure that the nation’s cultural and historic legacy can be experienced by the next generation of artists, scholars, students, and citizens.

"Save America’s Treasures represents an exceptional process that blends the best expertise of our federal cultural partners and the National Park Service to select and recommend projects of exceptional value to our nation’s cultural and historic legacy," says George Stevens, Co-Chair of PCAH.  "With the support of Congress and the White House, this program exemplifies what the public and private sector can accomplish together in preserving these pre-eminent symbols of our democracy and cultural values."

In its 10-year history, Save America’s Treasures has made more than 500 competitive grants to address the preservation needs of the structures, places, documents, artistic works, and artifacts that  are deemed most significant to the nation. To maximize private investment and support for these efforts, the program’s private partner, Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, helps organizations secure the required private match, and provides assistance to SAT grantees and preservation projects all across the country. In 2009, Save America’s Treasures received 402 grant applications from eligible organizations. Two panels of federal experts representing preservation and conservation disciplines reviewed the applications and made final recommendations to the Secretary of Interior.

For the complete list of 2009 Save America's Treasures grants, please click here.

Additional information on the Save America’s Treasures program can be found on the PCAH Web site at, the NPS Web site at

Media Contacts:
Kimber Craine, PCAH

David Barna, NPS

Elizabeth Stark, NEA

Lindsey Mikal, NEH

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit