Who Funds Museum Digital Projects?

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

April 06, 2022
A common misconception among museum colleagues is that museum granting foundations and agencies are only interested in funding the “bright and shiny”.

There is, of course, a desire from the funders to support an important and incredibly interesting aspect of museum work. And yes, there are some funders that can’t see their way past funding anything that’s not an in-person exhibit. However, over the last few years (and especially since the COVID-19 global pandemic) we’ve observed a steady shift in funder interest toward proposals with a digital engagement or digital infrastructure as the focus. Plainly put, there *are* grants out there that will fund your search and procurement of a Collections Management System (CMS), your cataloging project for “X” collection, or the digitization of a “X” amount of “X” items. To demonstrate this shift in funding priorities, this post will outline the major players in the United States and Canada, who are interested in funding your next digital project.

For more information on how COVID-19 has impacted museum digital projects, please see our previous post on Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog: How COVID Has Changed Museum Digital Projects Forever.

United States: State Grants

Each state will vary in what they offer, but there are two funding opportunities that are available in every state:

  1. Federal funding provided at the state level for one or more grants and is administered by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Funding priorities for SHPO have and will evolve in order to help meet state needs as identified by the serving officers. SHPO has a natural focus on preservation (as it’s in the name), and digitization is one of the tools available to us to aid in that goal.

Resource: To find your SHPO representative for your state (or territory), please visit the SHPO directory.

  1. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) fund is also federal funding and is typically administered at the state-level by the State Library. The LSTA fund is guided by a strategic plan created by the library. Funding priorities can be determined per state, but they will always include a technology aspect and can include several different digital project types. For most states there’s a specific call for helping organizations upgrade their digital infrastructure; i.e. procuring, implementing, and migrating to a CMS or Digital Asset Management System (DAMS).

Resource: To learn more about the LSTA funding offered at the state-level, please visit their website.

United States: National Grants

There are several federal funders available for museums to consider: 

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services: Accelerating Promising Practices
  • National Endowment for the Humanities:
  • Digital Projects for the Public
  • Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
  • Infrastructure and Capacity
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission

These federal agencies each have multiple grant opportunities they oversee. While many opportunities remain mostly the same year after year, they are periodically updated to reflect an area of focus or meet a critical need (e.g. pandemic relief funding). There’s also funding partnerships that can form to put out a special funding opportunity that’s only open for a specific period of time.

Tip: A great way to stay updated regarding each of these agencies—and the funding opportunities they offer—is to sign up for their e-newsletter.

National and Regional Grants via National Trust for Canada

The National Trust for Canada has a pretty impressive database of granting opportunities on their Regeneration Works resources and toolkits website. This database includes entries from corporate, foundation, and government agencies. Additionally, the database includes opportunities at the national, provincial/territorial, and regional level. Its’ a great one-stop shop for you to get to know the grant landscape; especially if you’re inclined to pursue a regional opportunity versus a national one.

National Grants via Government of Canada

If you’re primarily interested in a federal opportunity, then the Government of Canada’s funding page for “culture, history, and sport” is where you can view all 43 current offerings. Some limited sorting is available as well as a keyword search.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a few avenues of funding to explore for your digital project. And, if you’re newer to grant acquisition, then I recommend starting with the more local-to-you grants. These are typically easier applications to assemble and you’ll gain more experience as you go. Either way, you’ve got options!

Additional Reading Available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “How to Fund Your Next Museum Digital Project” on April 27 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And remember to check out Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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