Five Projects You Can Fund with a NEH Preservation Assistance Grant

Six months. That’s the amount of time you have to think about what a National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grant (PAG) can do for your institution. Designed for small to mid-sized institutions, these awards of up to $6000 are perfect for moving your preservation efforts down the field. They are also awarded at higher rates than other NEH and IMLS preservation grant programs: around 34%. Applications are due May 5, 2015 for projects starting in January 2016. Assemble your team, whether that includes a collection manager, a registrar, a director, or a handful of volunteers, and consider how these projects can transform your collections:

  1. clipboard #5Start with a plan – Your institution may realize that they aren’t sure which preservation priorities to tackle first. The walls are sweating in your archives. There are lots of spider webs in your historic house. Things need boxing. And you can’t locate objects without thumbing through folders of deeds of gifts dating to the 1930s. While managing a membership drive, monthly events, school tours, and board meetings, you might need a preservation consultant to indicate in which order you need to tackle these preservation issues. It’s a great place to start, and creates a systematic foundation upon to base subsequent requests.
  2. Collections environment assessment – You can use a PAG to work with a preservation consultant, engineer, and to purchase environmental monitoring equipment. If you are unsure whether your environment is satisfactory for collections preservation, it is worth having the current operation of HVAC systems analyzed. This is doubly important when your organization is located in a historic structure. Doing so can help you improve conditions and often do so more efficiently. Funds can be used to monitor conditions (and gain training to do so), fine tune existing systems, and develop a plan to acquire new equipment or environmental control methods.
  3. Storage rehousing – Perhaps you had a vulnerable collection identified in an earlier preservation assessment as urgently needing rehousing. Or maybe there is a collection bursting with research potential, but its current storage makes it difficult to access for researchers. PAGs pay for consultation and purchase of materials to rehouse collections. And experience shows that rehousing collections matters. In the National Museum of Iraq, collections that were stored well and appeared inventoried were less looted than those sitting open on shelves. Collections exposed to fire weather better if temergency-management-cyclehey are boxed; amazingly, the box burns, but the object within is often protected to a high degree. Appropriate storage makes leaks or other events less problematic because of the protection good storage provides collections.
  4. Disaster Plan writing – Flooding, fire, pipe burst. Any of these events can overwhelm your institution financially, physically, and psychologically. A disaster threatens the cultural heritage your institution preserves, but can also damage your credibility as an institution. Use a Preservation Assistance Grant to help your institution develop resiliency to weather the duress of an emergency situation.
  5. Learn –Including a training component within your grant project that develops lasting skill in your institution and local community makes a PAG go further. Think about training in making object housing enclosures, integrated pest management, managing collections with new forms of technology, disaster preparedness – the possibilities are endless. A PAG can pay for consultant-led training and fees to attend webinars or workshops.

These grants are excellent next steps after participating in IMLS’s and Heritage Preservation’s Conservation Assessment Program, which, like Step 1 above, also assist institutions in assessing current conditions and developing a prioritized action plan to improve preservation. Visit the PAG website to read the narratives from earlier successful grants, and visualize what you wish you could accomplish in your institution if you had a dedicated chunk of funds. Applications for the next round of grants will become available around February, 2015.

If you want to talk through any of the above ideas for a Preservation Assistance Grant project or need a scrutinizing eye to review your grant narrative, please give me a call at 443.502.0595 or email me at becky@rebeccafifieldpreservation.com. I can help you to train your staff, plan for disasters, determine what types of furniture and housing materials you need to rehouse a variety of collections, or do a general preservation assessment if you aren’t sure where to start. Visit www.rebeccafifieldpreservation.com for more information about my services.

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This post first appeared at www.rebeccafifieldpreservation.com.