StoryCorps Interview: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Each year, select museums and libraries with outstanding records of community service receive the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. Beginning with the 2009 awardees, personal stories demonstrating the ongoing impact of these award-winning institutions are being documented through a cooperative agreement between IMLS and StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

2014 National Medal Winner North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Ann Smith and Karen Linehan

Ann Smith and Karen Linehan

“I knew I was different from other girls my age, and I knew that I was different from you.”

Ann Smith and her daughter, Karen Linehan, reminisce about Karen’s childhood, her love of nature from a young age, and how Ann fostered that love. Karen is a now naturalist with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and an elementary school teacher in Wilmington, NC. Ann served on the board of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Listen to their story here:

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Posted in Environment and Energy, National Medal for Museum and Library Service, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), StoryCorps | Leave a comment

The Museum Universe Data File: A New Release and Update on Progress

By Carlos Manjarrez, Director of Planning, Research and Evaluation, IMLS

In April 2014, the Institute of Museum and Library Services released the Museum Universe Data File. It was an important step for the agency, signaling the first time we provided data about the universe of museum entities in the United States.

IMLS plans to update the Museum Universe Data File twice annually, and we have now released an updated version. The file has benefited from input from across the museum sector. More than 450 people sent feedback to correct their records, and associations provided new lists of organizations to include in the database.

In addition to incorporating feedback from the field, we have taken other steps to improve the file. Since the first release, we have employed over a dozen coders to manually review it and identify duplicate records, look up Employer Identification Numbers, and fill in missing or incorrect address, phone and website information. Although the current release has about the same number of records as the first release, it provides updated information for 13,125 records. We will continue the process of manual review and will complete a full pass through the file before our next data release.

The Museum Universe Data File was created with data drawn from IMLS administrative records (2009 – present) and with data from the Department of Treasury, which collects financial information for all active nonprofit organizations on an annual basis. IMLS used two different types of records (IRS Form 990 and IRS Form 990-N) to identify nonprofit museums that filed from 2009 through 2013. This source provided 77 percent of the entries in the original file. In addition, IMLS drew information from third party commercial vendors.

The estimated number of museums used for many years before the Museum Universe Date File had a very different methodology as its source. It was based primarily on information from state museum associations and their membership records.

We’ve learned a lot since we first released the file. Importantly, we learned that the debate over what exactly constitutes a museum continues. A careful examination of the file will show that it includes many organizations that some may not consider museums. Our approach was to cast a very broad net, include data from many different sources, and keep the records open to the public so the issues can be explored and discussed.

Although we are still in the early release stages of the Museum Universe Data File, people are beginning to use the data in interesting ways. In an earlier blog post, Patrick Murray-John talked about his US Museums Explorer tool that establishes a connection between the Museum Universe Data File and structured organizational data found on Wikipedia. Programmers and hackers have converted the file to Neo4J graphic formats so that it could be easily incorporated into GraphGist educational and training materials and mobile applications. IMLS has used the data file to map museum organizations across the country and to contrast the locations of these entities in relation to a variety of social indicators and community based resources such as Head Start Centers and early childhood service organizations.

IMLS is committed to continuing the long-term process of cleaning, enhancing, and updating the data file to make it a robust resource for research and analysis on the museum sector. We will continue to consult with experts and museum service organizations across the museum sector. In the spring of 2015, we will convene representatives of museum service organizations, museum studies faculty, and museum professionals to discuss next steps in the development of the Museum Universe Data File; review analysis plans for the Public Needs for Library and Museum Services Survey (household survey; discuss goals and objectives for the Museums Count institutional survey; and receive recommendations for future IMLS museum research.

Posted in Research | Leave a comment

Good News from Washington, D.C.

Photo of Susan HildrethBy Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

The past two weeks have been busy ones for IMLS. We have been following three new developments in Washington, D.C. that will impact the work of U.S. libraries and museums for months and years to come.

On December 10, President Obama convened educators, advocates, policymakers, corporate supporters, and prominent early education leaders for the White House Summit on Early Education. Not only did the event elevate this issue to the highest level in Washington, it made a call for all sectors—government at all levels, private organizations, and philanthropies—to work together to improve the quality of early education for America’s youngest learners. At the summit, commitments of more than $220 million in new actions from private organizations and philanthropies were made. Together with federal awards from the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, this collective investment tops $1 billion. At the event, the President announced the launch of Invest in US, an effort by the nonprofit First Five Years Fund to connect communities and states that want to expand their early learning programs to 10 leading partners that will provide resources, planning grants, technical assistance, and other support.

It is thrilling to see the groundswell of support for an issue that has been a strategic priority for IMLS. The Institute’s latest early learning initiative is also a public-private effort. Our partnership with the BUILD initiative will better integrate museums and libraries into statewide early childhood systems, and teams are already forming in five pilot states. IMLS has worked intensively with partners, like the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and has provided grants of over $8.3 million in the last three years, to support and promote the vital early learning work of libraries and museums.

On December 11, our attention turned from the White House to the Federal Communications Commission. At an Open Commission Meeting, the agency announced a dramatic expansion of the E-rate program. This is the first expansion of the program that, for 18 years, has provided funding to schools and libraries for broadband connectivity. The FCC’s historic E-Rate Modernization Order will provide schools and libraries additional flexibility and options for purchasing broadband services and an additional $1.5 billion in funding starting in 2015.

This is a major win for the library community and has been years in the making. Two summers ago, we discussed E-rate at the Aspen Institute Dialogue on the Future of Libraries. Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt described the importance of that meeting in his Aspen Institute blog about the E-Rate Modernization Order. IMLS held its first public hearing on the need for high-speed broadband in America’s libraries in Washington, D.C., in April 2014. At our “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact” hearing, we establish a public record about the importance of high-speed broadband at libraries with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and high-level philanthropic leaders, policy experts, researchers, and elected officials.

The final news from Washington this week concerns the federal budget. On Tuesday night, President Obama signed into law the trillion-dollar spending bill to fund most federal agencies through fiscal year 2015. The budget for IMLS is $227,860,000. It includes $180,909,000 for library services (through the Library Services and Technology Act) and $30,131,000 for museum services (through the Museum Services Act and the African American History and Culture Act). This funding is an increase from last year of one million dollars to assist the agency with a planned office move in 2015.

During these busy times, IMLS is working especially hard to connect with other federal agencies, with lawmakers on the Hill, with foundations, nonprofits, and service organizations. Through these networks and collaborations, we are amplifying the message of your work and the essential role of museums and libraries in American society.

Posted in Broadband, Director's Messages, Early Learning | 2 Comments