Collections Matter

By Connie Bodner, IMLS Senior Program Officer

Last month I was thrilled to have the chance to represent IMLS in Albuquerque at the 40th annual meeting of in the AIC Exhibit Hall. This year’s theme was “Connecting to Conservation: Outreach and Advocacy,” and conservation professionals from around the world gathered to explore how they connect with allied professionals, the press, clients, and the general public.

IMLS recognizes the tremendous value that comes from museums and communities connecting to each other, and we know that it’s a museum’s collections that are at the very center of these special relationships. I had particularly looked forward to the AIC meeting since we had just announced this year’s slate of 31 grantees in our Conservation Project Support program, and it was delightful to connect with not only the grantees but also many of the conservation professionals who served as peer reviewers in the CPS program this year.

I also got to talk with people about how conservation fits into the new IMLS strategic plan—it’s fundamental to one of our three programmatic strategic goals—and how it’s informing the structure of our future funding programs.

We know there are few federal sources of support for collections care and conservation; none but CPS includes all types of museums and collections. In our efforts to streamline our museum grant programs, we made sure collections care and conservation will be emphasized in both Museums for America,and National Leadership Grants for Museums. While I was at AIC, the draft guidelines for both these programs were posted on our website, so if you and I didn’t get a chance to talk at AIC—or even if we did—please take a look at them and let us know what you think by sending an e-mail to We’d love to hear from you. The public comment period extends through Friday, July 6, 2012.

With this emphasis on collections care and conservation in our funding programs for FY2013, we look forward to fund even more projects like those just awarded Conservation Project Support Grants. The 31 projects funded this year exemplify well-written proposals that do an excellent job of defining a need, crafting a work plan to address it, and articulating the measurable impact the work will have on the collections and the communities served by each museum. Grantees range from quite small to very large organizations distributed across the country, and the collections whose care will benefit are richly varied. Here are just a few examples:

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will clean, stabilize, and attach new backing supports and hanging systems to four 16th-century Flemish tapestries to ensure their long-term preservation. When finished, the tapestries will be hung in the museum’s Tapestry Room, which is being reinstalled according to archival photographs from 1915. 

“A Messenger from Harpagos Brings Cyrus a Letter Concealed in a Hare”

This 16th-century Flemish tapestry is one of four that will be cleaned, stabilized, and provided with a new hanging system through an IMLS CPS grant to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.













The National Aquarium in Baltimore will upgrade the life support system in its 30-year-old Wings in the Waterexhibit. New equipment will provide a natural and stable aquatic environment, resulting in a better viewing experience for visitors and a healthier environment for the animals that live there.

Rough Tail Stingray

This stingray in the National Aquarium in Baltimore Wings in the Water exhibit is one of the beneficiaries of the aquarium’s IMLS grant to upgrade the life support system.

The Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden will conserve 46 of the house’s windows to preserve the fabric of the building and to protect the 18th- and 19th-century furnishings, paintings, and wall coverings exhibited within it. The public will engage with the project through the museum’s website as well as special signage and banners, and the museum will host high school students for workshops and site visits. Local residents will learn how to do this kind of work through workshops on window conservation and restoration. 

Moffatt-Ladd House

The Moffatt-Ladd House, built in 1763, will have its windows conserved as the result of a grant made to the National Colonial Dames.









In each of these 31 projects, in the IMLS strategic plan, and in our funding programs, collections clearly matter. Watch this space for more news as these projects get underway. We look forward to hearing from you. Collections, collections care, conservation, connecting—it’s all good.

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