August 3, 2023

Projects to Foster Community Engagement, Lifelong Learning, Collections Care

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced grant awards totaling $31,509,007 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 218 projects were selected from 568 applications requesting $73,685,100. Institutions receiving awards are matching them with $46,546,077 in non-federal funds.

“It is a delight to announce the Museums for America grants for 2023 to an extraordinary group of Museums, Gardens, Zoos, and Aquariums. These funds will in turn put the riches of our cultural institutions in reach of so many of our communities,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper.

Museums for America supports projects that strengthen the ability of individual museums to benefit the public by providing high-quality, inclusive learning experiences, maximizing resources to address community needs through partnerships and collaborations, and by preserving and providing access to the collections entrusted to their care. 122 projects were funded through this year’s Museums for America program, including:

  • The Rocky Mountain Butterfly Consortium’s Butterfly Pavilion will support an increased diversity of invertebrate species, such as insects and crustaceans. Staff will improve animal welfare by implementing environmental controls in the Invertebrate Research and Rearing Lab, rehousing animals in new enclosures, and creating a designated food preparation room. Staff will provide annual training for volunteers and interns and share the results of the project at a professional conference. The Invertebrate Research and Rearing Lab will support the Butterfly Pavilion’s exhibits as well as education, research, and conservation programs.

  • The New York Historical Society will create the Tang Academy for American Democracy Digital Curriculum, a free digital curriculum that blends the study of civics and history for middle school students. Building on the successful in-person version of the program for New York City 6th graders, the new digital curriculum will transform lesson plans and museum content into a free resource that teachers across the country can use in their classrooms. The project will increase student understanding of democracy, how it works, and how to make a change in a democracy, and it will build a network of teachers across the country committed to teaching about democracy.

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

  • The South Carolina Aquarium will partner with Savannah State University to implement a paid internship program designed to promote educational and career advancement for underrepresented groups in the aquarium field. Project activities include formalizing the partnership with Savannah State University, training for all staff who supervise interns, recruiting new intern applicants, implementing a new internship program and developing an informal peer support system. The project provides an opportunity to evaluate the program design, interview and selection techniques, and evaluation instruments to ensure they are culturally appropriate and relevant to intended outcomes of the internship program. The new internship program will establish a pipeline for underrepresented groups to advance careers in the aquarium field.

  • The National Museum of Mexican Art will increase access and build inclusive design and accessibility capacity across the museum for blind or low-vision visitors. Project activities include engaging an accessibility consultant who will conduct a series of 12 staff workshops, convene an inclusive design advisory group and an inclusive design working group, and develop an inclusive design road map for the museum. The project will continue the organization's work to make the museum accessible to all and result in a method that enables blind and low-vision visitors to engage with Mexican art and culture in the museum.

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 77 recipients focus on lifelong learning experiences, institutional capacity building, and collections stewardship and access. Examples include:

  • The Gold Nugget Museum will conduct staff training and develop museum operational manuals to help the museum rebuild after losing its original location, nearly its entire collection, and all records to California’s 2018 Camp Fire wildfire. Project activities include professional training for museum staff, including workshops, classes, and webinars to build internal institutional capacity. Once the training is complete, staff will create four policy and procedures manuals including a Collections Management Manual, Exhibit Development and Installation Manual, Emergency Plan, and a Visitor Services/Docent Manual. The project will guide the professional operation of the museum and support the development of effective and engaging exhibits and programming for museum visitors.

  • The Antique Boat Museum will increase staff capacity to digitize two of its collections pertaining to the history of the Matthews Boat Owners Association and the Richardson Boat Owners Association. The Matthews Boat Owners Association collection contains approximately 30,000 documents and the Richardson Boat Owners Association contains approximately 5,000 documents, photographs, and works on paper. Project staff will catalog materials from these collections and make the collections digitally accessible online with a searchable collections database for the benefit of maritime historians and the public.

“The recipients of this year’s Museums for America grants are diverse in size, location, and discipline,” said IMLS Deputy Director Laura Huerta Migus. “However, all 218 of them demonstrate a commitment to service and excellence. I am excited to see the outcomes of their projects.”

The FY 2024 Notices of Funding Opportunity for these three programs will be posted later this month. The anticipated application deadline is November 15, 2023. 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. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Museums for America
Museums Empowered
Inspire! Grants for Small Museums