Tag Archives: Institute of Museum and Library Services

What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for IMLS?

IMLS LogoPresident-elect Trump continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t plan to govern like his predecessors, having recently nominated department heads who are at odds with the mission of their departments.  What does that mean for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), whose Director and its National Museum and Library Services Board are appointed by the President and whose authorization and funding are approved by the President?  Most house museums and historic sites know IMLS for its grant programs (e.g., Museums for America) but they also conduct research on the state of the museum field (e.g., museum database); tackle national issues that are important to museums (e.g, preservation of collection, digital platforms); and fund the Museum Assessment Program (managed by the American Alliance of Museums) and Collections Assessment for Preservation Program (managed by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works).

Obama-Trump-at-911-Museum.jpg

September 11 Memorial Museum visits by President Obama in 2014 and Presidential candidate Trump in 2016. Note the differences in how the groups are moving through the museum.

At this point, it seems President Trump will have little interest in museums or libraries, which could be good or bad, depending on Continue reading

New Deputy Director for Museum Services Appointed at IMLS

Paula Gangopadhyay, deputy director of museum services, IMLS

Paula Gangopadhyay, deputy director of museum services, IMLS

At Museums Advocacy Day, Kathryn Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, introduced the new deputy director for museum services, Paula Gangopadhyay.

I didn’t get a chance to meet her but she’s familiar with the challenges and opportunities that are faced by history museums and historic sites on a daily basis.  She was appointed last month and according to the IMLS web site:

She has worked in small, medium and large museums and cultural organizations, as well as government, business and education sectors, where she led systemic change and positive community impact at local, state and national levels. Ms. Gangopadhyay is a respected thought-leader on innovation in education and has been the recipient of several state and national awards and recognitions. Ms. Gangopadhyay has held a variety of positions including, serving as the Chief Learning Officer at The Henry Ford museums from 2008 to 2015; Executive Director of the Plymouth Community Arts Council from 2006 to 2008; Curator of Education, Public Programs, Visitor Services and Volunteers at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids from 2002 to 2006; and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Center for Education, Research and Practice from 2000 to 2001. She was Executive Director of the Commission for Lansing Schools Success (CLASS) from 1998 to 2000 and Executive Director of Meridian Historical Village from 1995 to 1998.  As an independent evaluation consultant for over seven years, she has led formative and summative evaluation directed at producing measurable outcomes. Gangopadhyay received her B.A. and M.A. in history from Indore University (India), her post-graduate certification in archival, museum, and editing studies from Duquesne University, Pittsburg, PA, and an education policy fellowship from the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL).

She’ll probably be visiting national and regional museum conferences this year, so be sure to welcome her!

A Wet but Successful Museums Advocacy Day

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Washington DC was cold and grim yesterday as hundreds of museum advocates visited the offices of senators and congressmen to encourage their support for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the charitable tax deduction.  I had a short but very productive meeting with the staff in Congressman Van Hollen’s office, who has been a long-standing supporter of museums, libraries, and historic preservation, so despite the wet weather, my day felt great. I was also reminded how many other people are also promoting their causes and how easy it is for the value of museums and historic sites to get drowned out by others.

On Monday, we prepared for our visits with several solid briefings on IMLS and education policy, hearing some good news (the American Institute for Conservation will manage the Conservation Assessment Program, following the dissolution of Heritage Preservation) and some frustrating news (the recently adopted Every Student Succeeds Act restores history and civics to the curriculum but President Obama’s recently submitted budget eliminated the funding).  Of course, it was really fun seeing colleagues from around the country and hearing about the interesting work they’re doing (l discovered Building Public Will for Arts and Culture, which is surprisingly similar to the History Relevance Campaign).

Thanks to the American Alliance of Museums for coordinating this event!

Free DIY Assessment for Your Collections

Rembrant's personal museum at Rembrant Huis, Amsterdam.

Rembrant’s personal study collection at Rembrant Huis, Amsterdam.

Historic sites have incredibly complex collections that range from furniture and photos to buildings and landscapes. Figuring out priorities for collections care can be daunting but thankfully, the University of Illinois Libraries with the help of IMLS funding, recently created a Preservation Self-Assessment Program (PSAP). It’s a free online tool that helps collection managers evaluate the condition of materials, storage and exhibit environments, and institutional policies for books, paper documents, photographs, recordings, films, and architectural prints in historic sites, museums, archives, and libraries. In addition, there’s a Format ID Guide, which includes identification cheatsheets in case you can’t tell a blue print from a Diazo print.

Staff and volunteers at any level of experience can use the PSAP. The program asks questions about your the materials in your collection, storage and exhibition environments, and collections policies to develop a unique profile for your organization and potential priorities for collections care. It includes additional help to explain concepts and principles, showing examples along the way. The application runs in your web browser; no software installation is necessary. No limit is placed on the amount of items or collections you assess; all data is securely stored on University of Illinois servers. The Illinois Heritage Association has a lengthy overview with more details.

Even though PSAP doesn’t cover everything you’ll encounter in your collections, it’ll help you with a significant part. Now someone needs to get to work on a Museum Self-Preservation Program in Illinois.

Is it Time for a Membership Program Tune-up?

Museum Membership Pyramid QuestionOne of the basic ways to raise funds for museums and historic sites is through membership. It’s particularly valuable because those funds are unrestricted and pay for utilities, insurance, office supplies, maintenance, and yes, even salaries–those essential expenses that usually don’t excite donors.  We hope that most members will renew, thus increasing revenue while maintaining expenses, and a few will become more engaged and eventually become donors who contribute the funds that really make a difference.

On the other hand, membership programs are a continual management challenge for non-profit organizations.  The expense of maintaining a basic membership rarely covers the cost of administration (the printing and mailing of member newsletters, membership cards, and renewal notices).   Complicating matters is that it doesn’t seem that people want to be “joiners” any longer–membership  in all types of organizations, including unions, service clubs, professional associations, political parties, churches, and even bowling leagues has fallen.  If the membership piece of the pyramid is getting smaller, that means the number of donors will fall as well.

Museums and museum associations are rethinking membership to overcome these challenges by exploring some new directions and possibilities, including:

1.  Enlarging the pool of potential members (and other supporters).  Begin with a preliminary step of gathering contact information for as many potential supporters as possible.  Some may become members who pay annual dues, others will pay admission to attend events, and some will support a cause with money, time, or talent.  The Dallas Museum of Art went so far as to Continue reading

IMLS’ Count of Museums in the US May Be Exaggerated

LIMLS Museum Distribution by Type 2014q3ooking for museums in your county or state?  Want to know how you compare to other museums across the nation? You’ll find them in the Museum Universe Data File recently produced by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  It’s a free database of museums in the US that includes names, addresses, contact information, total revenue and expenses, and GIS data.

IMLS held a webinar today to explain the datafile and answer questions.  They constructed the list from several sources, including the Internal Revenue Service and Foundation Center,  which were then reconciled to remove duplicates. Data will be updated every six months based on continuing research and community feedback. IMLS will be using the datafile to conduct sampling surveys for future research projects, such as collections care, to inform their programs and share results with the field and Congress, however, you are encouraged to use it as well.

The big news is that of the 35,144 total museums in the US, most are related to Continue reading

Top Ten Ideas to Build Effective Museum Experiences

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A couple weeks ago, I was part of a workshop on building effective museum experiences on June 3, 2013 at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland.  Thanks to a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, they’ve partnered with the Maryland Historical Trust to present a series of workshops for museums and historic sites in the region.

For this workshop, they assembled an outstanding team of speakers:

In the afternoon, we broke into several groups.   I led a discussion with Tom Mayes on creating tours using techniques from narrative non-fiction, giving participants a chance to try Continue reading

WebWise Conference Coming Up in Early March

WebWise 2012: Project demonstrations

WebWise 2012: Project demonstrations

WebWise, the annual conference hosted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will be held in Baltimore on March 6-8, 2013. This year’s conference is co-sponsored by the Roy Rosensweig Center for History and the New Media and is being organized and presented in a very different manner.  In advance, participants (anyone, actually) voted on the proposed workshop topics and then the conference organizers recruit speakers to fill the slots. For the project demonstrations, the participants will be divided into three groups and then rotate through three different sets of presentations. In addition, there will be a series of three-minute lightning talks over lunch, facilitated project/partnership incubator groups, and one-on-one speed consulting sessions. Indeed, there’s only one plenary session scheduled for the entire conference–Audrey Watters of Hack Education–as a keynote on the last day.

I’ve attended as many WebWise Conferences as possible because the content has been outstanding and I often come away with new approaches and strategies, even from the sessions that are far outside my field. This year’s reformatting seems intriguing, but much of the content remains a mystery so Continue reading

Historic Sites Garner A Dozen+ Grants from IMLS

The Institute for Museum and Library Services recently announced the awards for the latest round of Museums for America grants, which include projects at more than a dozen historic places.  It’s always a quick way to see what’s happening around the country to get ideas as well as identify what projects are attractive to funders.  Congratulations to the recipients, especially our colleagues who are working with historic sites, including:

Kodiak Historical Society – Kodiak, AK
Award Amount: $52,706; Matching Amount: $52,810
Contact: Ms. Anjuli Grantham, Curator of Collections
(907) 486-5920; anjuli@baranovmuseum.org

The Kodiak Historical Society will complete design development for 2,800 square feet of exhibits at the Baranov Museum, located within the National Historic Landmark building known as the Russian-American Magazin. The project will foster the planning and design of Continue reading

IMLS Moves Deadline in Response to Comments from Museums

In a surprising move, the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be changing the application deadline for Museums for America and National Leadership Grants from January 15, although it won’t happen until 2014 at the earliest and the new deadline hasn’t been announced.  The 2013 deadline remains January 15.  According to Claudia French, Deputy Director for Museums, “We wholeheartedly support this suggestion and will change the deadline for FY2014. The time required for final approval of new grant guidelines through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will not allow us to alter the date for FY2013.”

This was a result of more than 100 comments received from the field as a result of a major restructuring of their grant programs.  IMLS did not reveal what other changes are under consideration or what concerns were reflected in the comments, however, they did affirm that, “In 2013, there will be no restrictions on the number of applications a museum may submit to MFA or NLG-Museums. . . .Museums submitting applications in more than one project category will compete with other museums in each category, not with themselves.”

Thanks to everyone who submitted comments on the proposed IMLS grant guidelines.  This has been one of the most controversial topics in the museum field that I encountered this year, so I’m happy to hear that museums and historic sites had some influence and that the IMLS was willing to accept public comments and provided an initial response so quickly.  A complete statement from IMLS is available on their blog.