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Deadline: December 14, 2018

Institute of Museum and Library Services: Museums for America

The Museums for America (MFA) program supports projects that strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public. Projects may be structured at any of several stages of maturity: exploratory, piloting, scaling, or mainstreaming. A proposed project’s activities may be brand new to the institution, or they may implement learnings, perspectives, or competencies acquired during a previous project. A project may be an effort to intensify the impact of an approach that has been tested and found to be effective, or it may be structured as an opportunity to expand a function or activity that has been deemed successful.

MFA has three project categories:

1. Learning Experiences: Supports the unique ability of museums to encourage exploration, analysis, and questioning for people of all ages and backgrounds and to foster discovery, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. Applications for projects that position museums as unique teaching and inquiry-focused institutions within today’s formal and informal learning ecosystem are welcomed. Successful projects will provide high-quality, inclusive educational opportunities that address particular audience needs. Projects are encouraged that support cross-disciplinary and inquiry-based methodologies and utilize current research in cognitive and behavioral science as well as best practices developed in museums and other informal learning environments.

2. Community Anchors and Catalysts: Promotes the role of museums as essential partners in addressing the needs of their communities by leveraging their expertise, knowledge, physical space, technology, and other resources to identify and implement solutions. Applications for projects that empower museums to transform their roles in their communities from being community resources to being community anchors or catalysts are encouraged. This category welcomes applications that strengthen a museum’s capacity for improving social well-being such as through civic engagement and contributing to the creation of livable, sustainable communities. Successful projects will develop and implement new approaches to community collaboration to tackle local challenges. We encourage professional development opportunities for museum staff to understand and apply current practices in community collaboration and asset-based community development.

3. Collections Stewardship and Public Access: Supports the role of museums of all types and sizes as trusted stewards of museum collections as the natural, cultural, artistic, historical, and scientific foundations of our shared heritage and knowledge. Applications are welcome for projects designed to maximize the long-term preservation of collections as well as those that seek to strengthen a museum’s ability to manage and shape its collections through curatorial proficiency, the development of well-grounded policies, and project-based technical training for museum staff, volunteers, and interns. This category encourages museums to contribute to shared, sustainable systems and networks to make their collections and associated resources more accessible, to facilitate discovery of collections and related information, and to deepen engagement with those collections.

Amount: A total of $19,900,000 is available to make approximately 120 awards that range from $5,000-$250,000 and average $170,000. The project period is up to three years. For applications requesting more than $25,000, applicants must provide funds from non-federal sources in an amount that is equal to or greater than the amount of the request.

Eligibility: Organizations must meet all three of the following criteria:

1. Be either a unit of state or local government or be a private, nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status;

2. Be located in one of the 50 states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and

3. Qualify as one of the following: (a) A museum that, using a professional staff, is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates; or (b) A public or private nonprofit agency that is responsible for the operation of a museum that meets the eligibility criteria in 1, 2, and 3(a), applying on behalf of the museum.


  • The term “museums” include, but are not limited to, aquariums, arboretums, art museums, botanical gardens, children’s/youth museums, general museums (those having two or more significant disciplines), historic houses/sites, history museums, natural history/anthropology museums, nature centers, planetariums, science/technology centers, specialized museums (limited to a single distinct subject), and zoological parks.
  • An institution uses a professional staff if it employs at least one staff member, or the full-time equivalent, whether paid or unpaid, primarily engaged in the acquisition, care, or exhibition to the public of objects owned or used by the institution.
  • An institution exhibits objects to the general public if such exhibition is a primary purpose of the institution. An institution that exhibits objects to the general public for at least 120 days a year is deemed to exhibit objects to the general public on a regular basis. An institution which does not have the exhibition of objects as a primary purpose and/or does not exhibit objects to the public for at least 120 days a year may be determined to be eligible as a museum under certain circumstances (see solicitation for more details).

Link: https://www.imls.gov/grants/available/museums-america

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