January 15, 2020

IMLS to Invest $3 Million in Professional Development, Capacity Building Across Museum Sector
Additional FY 2020 Funding to Focus on Development of Museum Professionals at All Career Stages

Washington, DC—The museum sector cares for invaluable cultural and national heritage assets, contributes billions to the economy each year, and improves the wellbeing of communities across the nation. With the passage of the FY 2020 budget on December 20, 2019, IMLS was allocated an additional $3 million through its largest program, Museums for America. IMLS plans to invest this additional funding towards improving the recruitment, preparation, and professional development of museum professionals.

The agency’s 2018 reauthorization specifically called out the need to further invest in museum professional development, especially for those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, and capacity-building at the individual, institutional and community levels, through language establishing the 21st Century Museum Professional Program.

“IMLS has long recognized the importance of professional development and building capacity—these are explicitly called out in the agency’s 2018-2022 strategic plan,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “We’ve been awarding targeted grant funding for the library field through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program for 10 years, and we’re pleased to have complementary focuses recognized for museum professionals. Such investments have a ripple effect, helping museums to build strong, healthy, and vibrant communities across the nation.”

The increased funding of $3 million will be channeled through two special funding opportunities under Museums for America: Museums Empowered, Grants for Professional Development and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.

Museums Empowered, launched in 2017, allows museums to use funds in four focused categories of professional development: improving organizational effectiveness, evaluation practices, digital stewardship, and diversity and inclusion.

Inspire, Grants for Small Museums, launched in 2019, supports small museums’ capacity building efforts related to collections, learning, and community at their institutions.

“Prioritizing professional development and capacity building efforts are must-haves for any institution in order stay dynamic and relevant in today’s world,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Deputy Director of the Office of Museum Services at IMLS. “These opportunities provide a critical way of building institutional capacity—giving staff, volunteers and boards the tools to construct unique approaches that can drive systemic change and sustainable solutions.”

The agency also plans to hold a grantee convening in 2020 for Museums Empowered, gathering together 2017-2019 grantees to share, learn, network and jointly reflect on related issues. IMLS will continue to assess trends and needs through retrospective program evaluations, market analysis and opportunity assessments, feedback from the sector, and through promising practices developed and shared by grantees.

“We can clearly see the needs and trends of the sector with increase in the number of applications for Inspire, Grants for Small Museums and the higher percentage of applications for Diversity and Inclusion and Organizational Management under Museums Empowered,” said Gangopadhyay. “Over the last few years, IMLS has implemented several other strategic changes to its museum funding priorities to integrate professional development and capacity building across our grant programs”.

Highlights include:

  • National Leadership Grants for Museums, realigned in 2018, now offers dedicated project categories for professional development and diversity and inclusion that allow museum associations, universities, and other non-profits to seek funding that can amplify collaborations, offer training, and develop tools and promising practices for the entire sector.
  • The Museums for America, African American History and Culture, and Native American and Native Hawaiian grant programs continue to offer individual museums and tribes support for leadership development and diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as building a pipeline of new professionals.
  • The Museum Assessment Program and Collections Assessment for Preservation program cooperative agreements with the American Alliance of Museums and Foundation for Advancement in Conservation continue to provide much needed technical assistance and capacity building help to smaller museums.

For more information, including future funding opportunity announcements, please visit imls.gov and subscribe to IMLS emails.

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 www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums
Museums Empowered