Museums for America Grants from IMLS: An Overview of the Program


Starting in 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ grant program Museums for America (MFA) will provide support for collections care projects that were once previously funded under the Conservation Project Support grant program. Connie Bodner, an IMLS supervisory grants management specialist, reviewed the new MFA grant guidelines and application process. Following her presentation, Connie provided answers to numerous questions from the audience regarding the program.
Additional resources from the event:

Recorded: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Duration: Approximately 62 minutes

Guest Experts: Connie Bodner, Supervisory Grants Management Specialist, IMLS

Host: Jenny Wiley, Coordinator of Communications and Online Learning, Heritage Preservation

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During this webinar we received some fantastic questions. Unfortunately, we were unable to get to them all within the hour. Answers to these questions follow:

1. We are a university research collection that exhibits through the university museum and outreach events. The museum is administered separately. Are we eligible to apply or do we need to partner with the museum? Can the museum also apply in the same year for a different project?

  • To be eligible for MFA funding, an organizations must be a museum (see guidelines for further details) or a public or private nonprofit agency that is responsible for the operation of a museum. A non-eligible organization may partner with an eligible one in an application. Regarding multiple applications, this year there is no limit on the number of applications that a museum may submit to MFA.

2. We are planning to apply to implement a digital assets management system. We originally thought that fell under the Collections Stewardship category, but should we apply under Community Anchors (technology enhancement)?

  • If the digital assets management system has collections management as its focus, then the fit is probably strongest with the Collections Stewardship category. Technology enhancement projects in the Community Anchors category are likely to be of broader, capacity-building nature.

3. We are resubmitting a proposal that includes a new database component. We do not have dedicated IT staff, which makes it difficult to explain the technical side of things. If we consult with IT people to help us explain our project in the narrative portion of the grant application, should we include them as consultants?

  • If the IT people are going to be part of the project and either be paid from grant funds or contribute time and services as part of your cost share, then they should be listed as consultants. If their involvement is limited to advising you on the preparation of your application, then you do not need to include them as consultants. You might wish, however, to consider including a letter of support from them for the project.

4. Our parent organization has an off-campus indirect cost rate that we are required to use. Would IMLS accept this?

  • Yes, as long as (1) your parent organization has a current negotiated indirect cost rate agreement with the federal government in place, (2) the terms of the agreement are appropriate for your project, (3) your parent organization serves as the legal applicant, and (4) you submit a copy of this agreement with your application. Please see for more about indirect costs, and call us if you have any further questions.

5. Do institutions tend to be successful when they resubmit a grant after being turned down the first time?

  • We find that applicants that take the comments of reviewers into consideration in preparing their resubmissions often fare better.

6. Can you make changes to your application once it is submitted?

  • Generally, no. The exception is if IMLS contacts an applicant to discuss errors in budgets, unallowable costs, or partial funding.

7. What are the pros and cons of applying as a single unit or as part of a larger parent organization?

  • If the single unit is eligible to apply on its own (i.e. it is able to independently fulfill all the eligibility requirements listed in the guidelines; it functions as a discrete unit within the parent organization; it has its own fully segregated and itemized operating budget; and it has the authority to make the application on its own), then doing so would most likely be the most direct and efficient choice. If the single unit cannot meet any one of the last three of these, then it may apply only through its parent organization. If you would like to talk more about your particular situation, please call us.

8. For conservation treatment, must the collection in need belong to the submitting museum? Our project would be a joint venture between the museum and campus science center. Currently, the collection is actively used as study material. Is this an issue?

  • The objects should belong to the applicant organization. This requirement might be satisfied if the museum and science center are both affiliated with the same parent organization. If you would like to talk more about your particular situation, please call us.