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Big News for Small Museums!

August 30, 2018

By Reagan Moore, Mark Feitl, and Jill Connors-Joyner

You spoke, and we listened! Inspired by feedback from applicants, grantees, peer reviewers, museum support organizations, and other stakeholders, IMLS is pleased to announce a new funding opportunity specifically for small museums, Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.

This grant opportunity invites small museums to apply for funding to implement projects addressed in their strategic plans. The grant is a special initiative of the Museums for America program.

When Can I Apply?
The application deadline is November 1, 2018. IMLS encourages you to start working on your application early, and to check and registrations to ensure that they are accurate, current, and active.

Is My Museum A Good Fit for Inspire! Grants for Small Museums?
Creating a concrete definition of a small museum, and applying it to the wide variety of museum disciplines and geographic locations where museums are located across the country, is no easy task. Therefore, IMLS invites applicants to consider whether their organization is a good fit for this special initiative, and to make that justification clearly within the application narrative. Applicants should think about a range of attributes that describe their organization, including, but not limited to:

  • size of the staff and volunteer corps;
  • operating budget and sources of revenue;
  • number and types of objects in the collection;
  • size of facility and property;
  • types and numbers of audiences served; and
  • size relative to other organizations of the same discipline or within the same geographic region.

To be eligible for funding, organizations must fulfill the IMLS eligibility criteria for museums.

Does My Project Idea Meet the Goals of this Special Initiative?
Inspire! Grants for Small Museums has three project categories: Lifelong Learning, Community Anchors and Catalysts, and Collections Stewardship and Public Access.

Projects in these categories may include:

  • interpretive and educational programs, product development, and delivery;
  • exhibition development, design, and fabrication (non-construction);
  • digital learning resource development, design, and delivery;
  • building new partnerships to strengthen community connections through exhibitions, programs, and events;
  • conducting community-focused planning activities;
  • planning for the management, care, and conservation of collections;
  • cataloging, inventorying, documenting, and registration of collections;
  • rehousing collections; and
  • conducting conservation treatments.

What Else Do I Need to Know?
Inspire! grants may be one to two years in duration, and the funding requests range between $5,000 and $50,000. Cost sharing is encouraged but not required, and it will not be considered in the review process.

How Can I Learn More?
Applicants can find helpful resources, including a directory of awarded grants and pre-recorded webinars about selecting the correct funding opportunity and completing required IMLS application forms, on the IMLS website.  A specific Inspire! Grants for Small Museums applicant webinar will be held on September 6, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. EST.

If this special initiative is a good fit for your organization, read the Notice of Funding Opportunity and submit an application. If this opportunity is appropriate for a museum in your area, please share it.

If you have questions, reach out to the program staff below. They are available to talk about your project idea and how it might match the goals of Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.

Lifelong Learning

Community Anchors and Catalysts

Collections Stewardship and Public Access

Reagan Moore
Museum Program Officer

Jill Connors-Joyner
Museum Program Officer

Mark Feitl
Museum Program Officer


Inspire! Grants for Small Museums