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Deadline: December 14, 2018

Institute of Museum and Library Services: National Leadership Grants for Museums

National Leadership Grants for Museums support projects that address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public. This work may be achieved through projects at various stages of maturity (exploring, piloting, scaling, or mainstreaming). Proposed projects must align with one of the following five project categories:

1. Collections care and public access: The Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) supports the efforts of museums of all types and sizes to care for, conserve, and manage collections that represent the cultural, artistic, historical, natural, and scientific foundations of our shared heritage. IMLS welcomes applications for projects that help the museum field address state-of-the-art collections care and collections-information management, curation, preventive conservation, conservation treatments as well as provide broad access to and use of museum collections. It welcomes projects that demonstrate cross-sector and cross-disciplinary collaboration with libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions.

2. Data, analysis, and assessment: IMLS supports the collection of cross-sector data that can be analyzed to lead to new understandings about the museum field and its impacts on individuals, communities, and society. IMLS encourages data collection that can be used to demonstrate current and future trends, to identify gaps and opportunities, to contribute toward improved practices, and to better understand the landscape of museum programs and services. It welcomes projects that use qualitative and quantitative approaches to shed new light on museum services to the public.

3. Digital platforms and applications: Recognizing the dynamic nature of digital technology and its far-reaching benefits for the museum sector, IMLS welcomes applications that fully explore, understand, and optimize the use of digital technology in the museum field. IMLS encourages innovative approaches that use technology to further lifelong learning, community collaboration, and public access to collections. This may include seeking models and approaches from outside the museum sector.

4. Diversity and inclusion: IMLS supports the work of museums in engaging with communities and providing inclusive services to people of diverse geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and to individuals with disabilities. IMLS encourages museums to deeply understand the current status and future trends in the demographics of their communities and to address it in their programs and services. IMLS seeks innovative and replicable projects that help museums work with community members and community-based organizations as equal partners to broaden opportunity and access.

5. Professional development: IMLS supports the recruitment, training, and development of museum staff, leadership, volunteers, and interns, to grow a skilled, professional, diverse and inclusive workforce and strengthen museums’ capacity to serve their audiences. IMLS encourages museum professionals and institutions to share and adopt best practices and innovations by creating skill-building and capacity-expanding programs that are applicable across all levels of museum staff to ensure the highest standards in all aspects of museum practices and operations. These aspects broadly include: strategy development and execution; organizational skills such as performance management, planning, budgeting, and assessment; sustainability, external relationship building, and partnerships; human resources including staff, leadership, volunteers, and interns; organizational structure, governance, and design; systems and infrastructure; and culture.

Amount: A total of $6,500,000 is available to fund approximately 11 awards, ranging from $5,000-$1,000,000. Funding levels are:

  • Non-research grant, $50,000-$1,000,000 (1:1 cost share required): Projects of one to three years that address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public. These may test scalability or expand and enhance existing products or initiatives.
  • Research grant, $50,000-$1,000,000 (no cost share required): Applicants are encouraged to adopt a “research in service of practice” framework. Research projects of one to three years that investigate key questions important to museum practice and that have the potential to advance the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public.
  • Rapid prototyping grant, $5,000-$50,000 (no cost share required): Projects of up to one year that perform exploratory activities that rapidly prototype, pilot, and evaluate specific innovations in the ways museums operate and the services they provide. Project results, both successful and unsuccessful, should offer valuable information to the museum field and the potential for improvement in the ways museums serve their communities.

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

  • Be either a unit of state or local government or be a private, nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status;
  • 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
  • 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/national-leadership-grants-museums

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