Changes Rumored for IMLS Grants

I recently heard a rumor that the Institute of Museum and Library Services made significant changes to their grant programs for museums on February 13, 2012 including:

  • All grant programs will have the same deadline:  January 15.  This will require organizations to have sufficient capacity to prepare several applications at one time during the busy holiday and year end season.
  • Conservation grants are now part of the broader Museums for America (MFA) grant program.  Organizations can no longer apply for separate conservation and MFA grants–they have to choose one.
  • 21st Century Museum Professionals and National Leadership Grants have been combined.  Applicants (particularly museum associations) will now have to choose one and can’t do both.

It seems the public and museum field had no opportunity to comment on these changes, however, some of the additional issues that have been raised are:

  • With this consolidation, it reduces the number of grants available to the museum field.  It is particularly vexing when different types of grant programs (collections conservation and educational activities) are combined into one.  Museums will now have to choose between improving the care of their collections or better serving the public–they won’t be able to seek funds to do both.
  • With a single annual deadline, it gives the advantage to larger institutions who have more staff to prepare several grant applications at one time.  That was the widespread criticism of the former General Operating Support grant program and now it’s returned in a new guise.

No information about these changes can be found on the IMLS website and despite requests to the IMLS offices of Museum Services and Communications offices for more details on these changes and when they would take effect, I received no response.  I’ve now sent a request to the IMLS director, but in the meantime, does anyone have more information?

If you have concerns or comments, please send them to Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS ( or Claudia French, deputy director for museums (

3 thoughts on “Changes Rumored for IMLS Grants

  1. Allison

    Two staff members from IMLS were at the Small Museum Association Conference this past weekend. They said that the due date for grants has not been finalized yet, but that more information should be available soon. They were very helpful, and gave conference attendees a lot of great information.


  2. Max van Balgooy Post author

    UPDATE: I’ve just received the following response from IMLS:

    Dear Mr. van Balgooy,

    Susan asked me to respond to your inquiry about changes in our grant programs for FY 2013. Many thanks for writing to express your concerns. As you have heard, we do anticipate making changes in our grant programs in 2013.

    As background, these changes are based upon the agency’s new strategic plan as well as analysis of past funding patterns. We believe that these changes will result in less complexity in navigating multiple grant programs while maintaining our capacity to support similar types of projects. We anticipate continuing to support the full range of museum types and sizes and full range of organizations that we have supported in the past.

    In addition we will be streamlining the process with one grant application deadline for all IMLS museum programs (January 15, 2013). Applicants will be able to submit multiple grant applications for each IMLS program.

    Draft grant application guidelines will be available in early May 2012 for public review and comment.

    For more detail please see our “Frequently Asked Questions” posted on the IMLS web site at

    Please feel free to distribute the FAQ and don’t hesitate to contact me with any additional questions.

    Many thanks,

    Mamie Bittner
    Director of Communications and Government Affairs
    Institute of Museum and Library Services


  3. Max van Balgooy Post author

    At Museum Advocacy Training in Washington, DC, today, IMLS director Susan Hildreth mentioned the proposed changes to its grant program, including that the single application date is slated to be January 15, 2013 and that the new guidelines will be released shortly after the AAM annual meeting ends on May 2 and they will allow the field to have 60 days to comment. She fielded three questions from the audience, mentioning that there are no limits on the number of applications an institution can submit; that she’s unsure if IMLS single deadline conflicts with NEH and NEA deadlines; and that she’s unsure if the “Connecting to Collections” program includes living collections.


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