August 6, 2020

190 IMLS Grants to Museums Generate More Than $36 Million in Matching Funds
Projects to Foster Lifelong Learning, Collections Care, Community Engagement

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced grant awards totaling $25,899,000 for museums across the nation to improve services to their communities.

“Museums large and small have a significant impact on their community through collections, programs, and educational resources, and much of that also relies on the experience, knowledge, and training of the professionals,” said Crosby Kemper, IMLS Director. “IMLS understands the importance of investing in professional development and is pleased to fund programs that will help build the capacity of museums and continue to provide expanded access to collections, strengthen community engagement, and enrich learning experiences.”

Through the agency’s largest competitive grant program, Museums for America, and special initiatives under this grant program, Museums Empowered and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums, a total of 190 projects were selected from 631 applications requesting $98,198,305. Institutions receiving awards are matching them with $36,379,177 in non-federal funds.

“These grants help museums at the institutional level and are essential for the vital role they play in their local communities,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Deputy Director of the IMLS Office of Museum Services. “This year thanks to the $3 million increase in funding, we were able to support more museum professional development projects through our Museums Empowered grant program in the relevant areas of Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion, Digital Technology, Evaluation and Organizational Management, and fund double the number of projects compared to last year under the Inspire! Grants for Small Museums program.”

Museums for America supports projects that strengthen the ability of an individual museum to benefit the public by providing high-quality, inclusive learning experiences, serving as community anchors and essential partners in addressing community needs, and by preserving and providing access to the collections entrusted to its care. The IMLS website lists the 109 projects funded through this year’s Museums for America program, including:

  • The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will conduct the Million Orchid Project Authentic STEM Initiative to provide inclusive and accessible STEM learning opportunities for approximately 1,800 students annually from the most diverse and under-resourced middle and K-8 schools in Miami–Dade County. The initiative will use the Fairchild's STEMLab—a mobile plant propagation lab designed especially for schoolchildren—to bring the museum’s specialized scientific research to young learners in South Florida neighborhoods.

  • The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History will improve stewardship of its Native American Languages Collection by creating a new digital infrastructure. The Native American Languages Collection is the only language archive in the world whose primary focus is the indigenous languages of the central United States. With this upgrade, the museum’s collection will be secure, preventing against catastrophic loss of irreplaceable materials. The museum also will be able to greatly improve public access to collection materials.

Museums Empowered: Professional Development Opportunities for Museum Staff is a special initiative of the Museums for America grant program supporting staff capacity-building projects that use professional development to generate systemic change within a museum. Each of the 21 recipient institutions will focus their projects on one of four categories: digital technology, diversity and inclusion, evaluation, or organizational management. Examples include:

  • The Ohio History Connection will conduct an online professional development program to help their network of historic sites, museums, and local partners become better managed, more resilient, and better able to serve the public. The professional development training modules will strengthen network members’ capacity and organizational management. Modules will focus on topics such as board development; collections handling; engaging with local communities; and essential museum knowledge for boards, directors, staff, and volunteers from outside the museum field.

  • The Tennessee Aquarium will conduct a three-year, cross-departmental project to build capacity in evaluation and develop a sustainable evaluation mindset among its staff. The project will focus on developing staff understanding of evaluation across multiple departments, including education, husbandry, marketing, and visitor services. An expert consultant will facilitate the project, helping staff to develop a framework for evaluation, provide ongoing training and coaching, and develop a culture of evaluation across the institution. To help develop evaluation capacity across the Chattanooga region, the aquarium will invite other local informal education institutions to participate in the professional development workshops.

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums, a special initiative of the Museums for America grant program, was designed to reduce the application burden on small museums and help them address priorities identified in their strategic plans. The 60 recipients will focus on learning experiences, community partnerships, collections stewardship, or expanding access to collections and resources. Examples include:

  • The Jackson Hole Children’s Museum will expand its K–5th grade STEAM programs, which provide inquiry-based, hands-on programming. Each two-hour program opens with interactive, student-centered, scientific method lab stations. Students are then challenged to use newly acquired vocabulary and knowledge to complete a hands-on building project. The program is designed to contribute to increasing science and engineering literacy in the community and to support the development of students’ 21st century skills.

  • The Whittier Historical Society will improve stewardship of its historical photograph collection and increase public access to it via a continued partnership with the Whittier Public Library. Through the Whittier Digital History Collaboration project, the project team will create and digitize metadata descriptions for approximately 8,000 historic photographs. They will preserve the content and make it accessible in the Whittier Public Library’s database and via Calisphere, a statewide digital library project of the University of California.

The FY 2021 Notices of Funding Opportunity for these three programs will be posted later this month. The anticipated application deadline is November 16, 2020.

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 libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums
Museums Empowered
Museums for America