August 9, 2021

IMLS Awards More Than 200 Grants to Help Museums Meet Community Needs
Projects to Foster Community Engagement, Lifelong Learning, Collections Care Across America

Child engaging with coding activity.
A child engages with a hands-on coding activity at the ECHO Leahy Center. Photo courtesy of FY 2021 grantee ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced grant awards totaling $29,545,363 for museums across the nation to improve services to their communities.

Through the agency’s largest competitive grant program, Museums for America, and its special initiatives, Museums Empowered and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums, a total of 208 projects were selected from 758 applications requesting $99,543,356. Institutions receiving awards are matching them with $35,214,339 in non-federal funds.

“Our current round of grants for the museum world reflects the important work of our nation’s cultural institutions during the pandemic and the deep thinking about the future of our culture in a post-pandemic world,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “Advancing the preservation of collections, diversity through staff training and programming, community response, and formal and informal education for future generations is inspiring.”

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. 126 projects were funded through this year’s Museums for America program, including:

  • The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens will implement a 36-month project entitled “A Garden That Builds Community, a Community That Gardens: Growing Horticulture for a Sustainable Future." They will establish a community of practice to address an urgent regional community need for new career paths and trained recruits in sustainable horticulture, and create three community catalyst tracks: Experiential Education for Youth; Advanced Studies in Horticulture for Landscapers, Design Professionals, and other Practitioners; and Community of Practice Development for Horticultural Therapy.

  • The North Carolina Maritime Museum plans to improve the conservation lab at their Beaufort location and to process an enhanced scope of underwater archeological artifacts which include contents taken from sunken U-boats and Civil War shipwrecks and represent more than 300 years of North Carolina maritime life. A better equipped lab will allow the museum to treat larger and more complex items inhouse and prepare them for display more quickly. All conservation work will be done in public view as a “living exhibit.”

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 22 recipient institutions will focus their projects on one of four categories: digital technology, diversity and inclusion, evaluation, or organizational management. Examples include:

  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will increase its capacities to prepare for and respond to new and evolving cybersecurity threats, including those related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The impact of the project activities will be an improvement to security infrastructure and practices across the museum, enhancing the museum’s ability to serve its public safely and securely through innovative new virtual programs launched at the outset of the pandemic.

  • The Denver Museum of Nature and Science will partner with a researcher to develop an evaluation tool that measures the meaningfulness of the visitor experience. Project activities focus on developing, testing, and disseminating a tool to understand what makes visitors choose a museum, how that experience is remembered and shared, and how to create experiences to which visitors will want to return. This will result in increased evaluation capacity among all museum staff and leadership along with a tool to measure the success of the museum’s implementation of its strategic plan.

University students in a laboratory.
Undergraduate students working on orchid DNA barcoding projects in the Conservation Genetics Laboratory in the Southeastern Center for Conservation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. (Photo by Lauren Eserman, courtesy of FY 2021 grantee the Atlantic Botanical Garden)

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 Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco will create an exhibition and a community Youth Engagement Program exploring the state of Asian American identity and xenophobia facing the community. Programming will be codesigned with the Community Youth Center and lead artist Cathy Lu to serve Chinatown youths, and the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco will provide free admission as well as bilingual-printed postcards and brochures. This project will feature artistic work that highlights youth stories, which will give young people critical and inventive tools to re-examine their neighborhood and supportive spaces to work together.

  • The Delaware Contemporary will create a residency program for artists to provide teens with professional development and arts entrepreneurship opportunities. Students will engage with creative and museum professionals to generate individual and collaborative artworks, as well as participate in the planning and execution of a culminating exhibition, pop-up retail operation for work produced in the program, and two large-scale social activities at the museum for teens from across the region.

“This year’s awardees exemplify museums as learning institutions,” said Laura Huerta Migus, Deputy Director, Office of Museum Services. “These projects reflect the varied roles that museums occupy in the fabric of their local communities, and the focused investments needed to improve their capacity to be of service.”

The FY 2022 Notices of Funding Opportunity for these three programs will be posted later this month. The anticipated application deadline is November 15, 2021. For more information, please visit the IMLS website.

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.

Museums for America
Museums Empowered
Inspire! Grants for Small Museums