National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) program seeks to help 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 disasters resulting from natural or human activity.
As museums, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions strive to be effective stewards of humanities collections, they must find ways to implement preventive conservation measures that are sustainable. 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 plan for, respond to, recover from, and more successfully protect collections in the event of emergencies resulting from natural or human activity.
Effective and sustainable preservation strategies must be informed by the nature of an institution and its collections. Applicants should have completed the process of basic preservation planning and environmental monitoring, which might include a general preservation plan, collection inventory, emergency plan, and/or basic assessments of building and storage environments. Using priorities established through this basic planning process, applicants should consider how to address long-term collection care needs. Sustainable preservation strategies can take many forms, depending on collection materials, the building envelope, and the local climate. However, interdisciplinary collaboration during planning and implementation of these strategies is essential. In SCHC projects, such teams typically consist of consultants and members of the institution’s staff and can include architects, building engineers, conservation scientists, conservators, curators, archivists, and facilities managers, among others.
Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections offers two levels of funding:
- Planning Grants – Planning Grants help institutions develop and assess sustainable preventive conservation strategies. Planning Grants support activities such as on-site consultation, risk assessments, planning sessions, ongoing environmental monitoring programs, testing, modeling, project-specific research, and preliminary designs for implementation projects.
- Implementation Grants – Implementation Grants help institutions implement preventive conservation projects. Implementation Grants to preserve humanities collections might be used to manage interior relative humidity and temperature by passive methods; upgrade a building automation system to enable more active management of a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system; recommission or install heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems; reorganize collections by material type, locating more vulnerable collections in spaces that are more naturally stable; install storage systems and rehouse collections to reduce risk; improve security and the protection of collections from fire, floods, and other disasters; or upgrade lighting systems and controls, to achieve energy efficiency and levels suitable for collections.
Amount: Approximately $1,800,000 is available to make up to 15 awards. Award amounts are dependent upon project type, as follows:
- Up to $50,000 for Planning grants for a period of up to two years
- Up to $350,000 for Implementation grants for a period of up to five years
Eligibility: U.S. nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, accredited institutions of higher education, state and local governmental agencies, and federally recognized Native American tribal governments.
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