Federal–State Partnership for Museums Coalition

Beginning in 2004 AASLH spearheaded a movement advocating for a new federal program within the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Office of Museum Studies to provide grants to states to facilitate statewide support for museums, with funds granted to states, where states would then re-grant funds to museums depending upon each state’s needs. When the movement began, legislation did not allow the museum side of IMLS to grant state grants for museums, although the library side of IMLS has been doing so for many years.

AASLH organized a Coalition of over 60 museum service organizations to work on new legislation in concert with IMLS’s reauthorization in 2009. For many months, AASLH worked in cooperation with representatives from national, regional, and state organizations, first within the museum field to reach a field-wide consensus on the proposal, then with numerous offices on Capitol Hill toward passage of a bill.

On December 22, 2010, the President signed into law the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010. The bill reauthorizes the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the next five years.

The bill includes these victories for museums, as targeted by AASLH and the other organizations working as members of the Coalition:

  • Language allowing federal-state partnerships.
  • Authorization for state needs assessments and the development of state plans to improve and maximize museum services throughout the state, after IMLS funding reaches a certain funding level—the first step for the process of federal-state grants.
  • Reauthorization at the same level IMLS was currently authorized ($38,600,000) for FY 2011, but with a “and such sums as may be necessary” clause for FY 2012–2016, which opens the door for funding over the $38,600,000 level.
  • Language instructing the Director of IMLS to take into consideration the equitable distribution of grants to museums of various types and sizes and to different geographic areas of the United States.

Although the law now authorizes a federal-state partnership on behalf of museums, funding for the program has not yet been appropriated.