National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections
The Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) program helps cultural institutions meet the complex challenge of preserving large and diverse holdings of humanities materials for future generations by supporting sustainable conservation measures that mitigate deterioration, prolong the useful life of collections, and support institutional resilience: the ability to anticipate and respond to natural and man-made disasters.
Cultural institutions including libraries, archives, museums, and historical organizations face an enormous challenge: to preserve humanities collections that facilitate research, strengthen teaching, and provide opportunities for life-long learning. To ensure the preservation of books and manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings and moving images, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, art, and historical objects, cultural institutions must implement measures that slow deterioration and prevent catastrophic loss from natural or man-made emergencies. They can accomplish this work most effectively through preventive conservation. Preventive conservation encompasses managing relative humidity, temperature, light, and pollutants in collection spaces; providing protective storage enclosures and systems for collections; and safeguarding collections from theft, fire, floods, and other disasters.
This program helps cultural repositories plan and implement preservation strategies that pragmatically balance effectiveness, cost, and environmental impact. Sustainable approaches to preservation can contribute to an institution’s financial health, reduce its use of fossil fuels, and benefit its green initiatives, while ensuring that collections are well cared for and available for use in humanities programming, education, and research. Sustainable preventive conservation measures may also aim to prepare and plan for, absorb, respond to, recover from, and more successfully protect collections in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
Two types of grants are offered:
- Planning: Planning grants help institutions to develop and assess sustainable preventative conservation strategies, supporting such activities as site visits, risk assessments, planning sessions, monitoring, testing, modeling, project-specific research, and preliminary designs for implementation projects. Planning grants must be informed by an existing preservation or collection management plan and must focus on exploring sustainable preventive conservation strategies. They also must involve an interdisciplinary team appropriate to the goals of the project. The team may consist of consultants and members of the institution’s staff and might include architects, building engineers, conservation scientists, conservators, curators, and facilities managers, among others. A preservation/conservation professional who works with collections must be included on the planning team. All members of the team must be identified in the application, and they should all work collaboratively throughout the planning process.
- Implementation: Implementation grants help institutions to implement a preventative conservation project. Implementation projects must focus on sustainable or resilient preservation strategies. Projects should be based on planning that has been specific to the needs of the institution and its collections within the context of its local environment.
Amount: Planning grants typically range up to $40,000 for up to two years; however, applicants may request an additional $10,000 to carry out one or more recommendations made by the interdisciplinary planning team during the course of the project. Implementation grants range up to $350,000 for up to five years.
Eligibility: U.S. nonprofit organizations; state and local governmental agencies; and federally recognized Native American tribal governments.
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