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IMLS Announces First Recipients of New Museum Grants for African American History and Culture

September 2006

Eileen Maxwell -
Mamie Bittner

Washington, DC—Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) today announced the first-ever awards for the agency’s newest grant program, Museums Grants for African American History and Culture. Eight grants, totaling $803,230 will provide opportunities for the staff of African American museums across the country to gain knowledge and abilities in the areas of management, operations, programming, collections care and other museum skills. For a contact list of the recipients with descriptions of the grant projects, please see the attached pages.

“I am pleased to announce the inaugural Museum Grants for African American History and Culture,” said Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Today’s grants will benefit African American museums nationwide and close to 100 staff members, from interns to museum directors, who will gain expertise in audience and exhibition development, educational programming, adopting technology, management and marketing, and more.”

In 2003, the National Museum of African American History and Culture Act authorized IMLS, in consultation with the Council and Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAHHC), to create a new grant program to strengthen African American museum services. “We are so pleased by the quality and creativity of this group of awardees,” said Lonnie G. Bunch, III, founding director of the NMAAHC. “This is a significant opportunity for not only these institutions, but for the museum field writ large. The NMAAHC is delighted to be a partner with IMLS in this important opportunity for the field.”

Museum Grants for African American History and Culture are intended to build professional capacity in the African American museum community. They provide opportunities for African American museums to design projects that will enhance institutional capacity and sustainability through professional training, networking and mentoring opportunities, technical assistance, outside expertise, and other tools. The agency received 44 applications requesting over $3.9 million. African American museums continue to be eligible for other IMLS grant programs and the agency encourages applications.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a “Nation of Learners” because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation. To learn more about the Institute, please visit:

September 2006 Museum Grants for African American History and Culture

Grant Announcement

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Birmingham, AL
Award Amount: $131,799
Match Amount: $133,710
Contact: Ms. Priscilla Cooper
Vice President of Institutional Programs
(866) 328-9696x233;

Project Title: "Heritage Keepers: A Leadership Initiative for African American Museums"
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) will partner with the Association of African American Museums (AAAM) to develop and present “Heritage Keepers: A Leadership Initiative for African American Museums.” BCRI will host a management training program targeted to 15 African American museums throughout the nation. The 18-month project will involve two-member teams pairing mid- to upper-level managers and promising junior staff members from each museum in activities designed to build institutional capacity in strategic planning, budget management, audience development and collaboration, and grant writing. Participants will develop implementation plans for their institutions and will be supported by on-site consultancies and electronic networking. The results will be shared with other museums at the 2007 and 2008 conferences of the AAAM.

John Gilmore Riley Center and Museum for African American History - Tallahassee, FL
Award Amount: $150,000
Match Amount: $150,000
Contact: Mr. Augustus Mitchell
Project and Programs Coordinator
(850) 681-7881;

Project Title: "Florida African American Museums Exchange Project (FAME)"
The John Gilmore Riley Center will coordinate the “Florida African American Museums Exchange Project (FAME),” an initiative designed to build the institutional capacity and sustainability of African American museums throughout the state of Florida. Five museum directors, strategically selected to represent the geographic regions within the state of Florida, will be the core target participants. Funding will support a series of intensive training sessions on topics including museum management, strategic planning, revenue building, preservation, and exhibit presentations. Following the training, the five directors will identify and mentor directors of other African American museums in their area, sharing new skills and knowledge. The FAME project is intended to build a stronger and more effective network of African American museums throughout the state of Florida.

New York
Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History ,Weeksville Heritage Center - Brooklyn, NY
Award Amount: $39,675
Match Amount: $41,310
Contact: Ms. Robin Cloud
Director of Preservation
(718) 756-5250;

Project Title: "Collections Assessment and Planning Project"
The Weeksville Heritage Center will strengthen its institutional capacity by professionalizing its collections practices. As the only museum interpreting African American history in the 19th and 20th century in the Northeast, Weeksville Heritage Center seeks to preserve its collections, while identifying ways to use them more effectively in exhibits and programs. Funding will support the creation of a part-time position of Collections Manager, who will be responsible for evaluating the 450 artifacts in the center’s collections, developing and implementing a collections management policy, overseeing the initiation of an environmental monitoring system, and collaborating with program staff to utilize collections more effectively in public programming. The environmental monitoring system will utilize specialized equipment to monitor temperature and humidity in the historic structures since it is impossible to install modern HVAC units in these buildings.

Association of African American Museums, Inc. - Wilberforce, OH
Award Amount: $113,760
Match Amount: $113,760
Contact: Mr. William Billingsley
Executive Director
(937) 376-4944 ext. 123;

Project Title: "AAAM 2008 National Profile of African American Museums"
The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) will produce a “National Profile of African American Museums,” based on a comprehensive survey and analysis project. Since the emergence of the African American museum movement in the 1950s and 1960s, numerous new museums have been established to preserve the heritage of the Black experience and to ensure its proper interpretation in American history. The AAAM project will identify these institutions, document their existing programs and services, and develop a plan to more effectively address their needs through professional training and development activities. Funding will support the design, testing, and implementation of the survey, in addition to the publication of a directory of African American museums, the creation of a customized membership management database for AAAM to organize and manage the survey data, and enhanced online services for member organizations.

August Wilson Center for African American Culture - Pittsburgh, PA
Award Amount: $58,164
Match Amount: $58,164
Contact: Mr. Neil Barclay
President & CEO
(412) 258-2700;

Project Title: "Director of Programs - August Wilson Center for African American Culture"
The August Wilson Center for African American Culture will create the position of Director of Programs as it makes plans to move into its new state-of-the-art facility in 2008. During the next 24 months, the exhibitions and performance programs of the Center will triple in number. The Director of Programs will be responsible for overseeing and managing all aspects of the Programs Department, enabling the August Wilson Center to maximize its vision as a distinctive, interdisciplinary African American museum that focuses on the visual and performing arts to help diversified audiences understand and celebrate African American culture. Funding will support hiring and establishing an office for the Director of Programs. Matching funds of $58,164 will be provided by The Heinz Endowments.

South Carolina
Penn Center, Inc. - St. Helena Island, SC
Award Amount: $120,595
Match Amount: $120,595
Contact: Ms. Rosalyn Browne
Director of History and Culture
(843) 838-2474;

Project Title: "York W. Bailey Museum Staff Development Program"
Penn Center will enhance the organizational stability of the York W. Bailey Museum by hiring a Curator of Collections and Interpretation and a Volunteer Coordinator, and providing professional development opportunities for the staff. Museum staff members will participate in a training program at Drayton Hall, a National Heritage Trust site, to increase their knowledge and skills in the areas of public and school programming, volunteer management, and exhibit development. Project funding will provide support for institutional capacity-building for Penn Center, a 50-acre campus of 20 historic structures that provides a tangible link with Gullah culture and the first generation of slaves freed 144 years ago. The project will lay the groundwork for developing a series of instructional and captivating programs and exhibits to interpret the site for growing audiences.

Hampton University Museum - Hampton, VA
Award Amount: $83,161
Match Amount: $90,462
Contact: Ms. Juliette Harris
(757) 727-5142;

Project Title: "Strengthening the Three C's: Collecting, Conservation and Collaboration"

Hampton University Museum will provide specialized training and create an informative publication to improve curatorial and conservation operations for African American museums. The three-part project will include the presentation of a web seminar, the publication of a special issue of the International Review of African American Art (IRAAA), and technical training workshops for museum professionals. The 90-minute interactive online training seminar and conservation workshops will increase the knowledge and skills of African American museum professionals in the ongoing care and preservation of artifacts and documents. The contents of the special issue of IRAAA will be the first published comprehensive volume on the history and functioning of African American museums, with an emphasis on the care and conservation of collections. Funding for this project will help African American museum professionals preserve the unique collections that have been entrusted to their care.

Legacy Project, Inc., Legacy Museum of African American History - Lynchburg, VA
Award Amount: $106,076
Match Amount: $118,185
Contact: Ms. Carolyn Bell
Member, Board of Directors
(434) 847-5339;

Project Title: "Network of Central Virginia Museums of African American History and Culture"

The Legacy Museum, in partnership with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), will create a network of African American museums in central Virginia with the goal of building institutional capacities through professional development workshops and scheduled group meetings. The project design is intended to reduce the isolation facing many small and emerging African American museums that are striving to fulfill their missions without the benefit of advice from museums with similar interests. VFH will help the Legacy Museum organize and facilitate the two-year project. Funding will support network meetings and hands-on professional development seminars for staff members and board representatives from six African American museums in Virginia. Each of the museums will be encouraged to identify and invite community partners to participate in project activities. The central Virginia network will provide the basic structure for a permanent network of all of Virginia’s African American museums.

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