Finding the money for everything from digitization to rain barrels

Collections managers need a special set of skills to access the finite pool of money available to manage and preserve their charges.

Composite photo of items from Smithsonian collections

As every museum professional knows, there is never enough money to fund everything that needs to be done. We may have joined the Smithsonian because of our love of art and history or dedication to preservation and discovery, but the ability to write a successful grant proposal is a skill that everyone involved in collections management should have.

Woman at podium in front of projection screen

Amelia Kile, Collections Program Specialist at NCP, organized the event. Here, she welcomes the attendees and the panelists to the discussion. (Photo by Samantha Snell)

Earlier this year, the National Collections Program and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee hosted an event aimed at helping attendees receive grants from the Collections Care and Preservation Fund, which provides funding to collections management-related projects throughout the Smithsonian “Writing a Successful CCPF Proposal” provided information on and advice for writing a successful proposal.

The 45 workshop attendees represented collections staff from 16 museums or collecting units. The first half of the event was a panel  discussion with members  of members of SCAC, including Josh Gorman and Bob Horton from the National Museum of American History; Gail Joice from the National Museum of the American Indian; Ann Shumard from the National Portrait Gallery; and Karen Otiji from the Office of Sponsored Projects. Bill Tompkins, Director of NCP, moderated the discussion. The panelists offered advice on why proposals are or are not successful, how to approach the proposal-writing process, and how to successfully implement a proposal. Attendees then had the opportunity to ask the panel specific questions that were not covered in the discussion.

Panel at table below projection screen

Panelists Bob Horton, Josh Gorman, Karen Otiji, Gail Joice, and Ann Shumard (seated, left to right) and moderator Bill Tompkins (standing) discuss characteristics of unsuccessful proposals during the “Writing a Successful CCPF Proposal” event. (Photo by Samantha Snell)

A roundtable workshop followed where attendees and panelists separated into smaller groups to discuss specific areas of interest, including assessment, inventory and digitization; storage equipment and materials; stabilization, treatment and single-object proposals; and pan-Institutional projects. The roundtable discussions allowed attendees to focus on questions specific to their unit or potential projects and proposals, while connecting staff with similar interests or needs and fostering collaboration.

Breakout discussion groups at several tables

Attendees of the NCP- and SCAC-sponsored event discuss specific questions at a roundtable workshop following the discussion. (Photo by Samantha Snell)

CCPF has granted awards to Smithsonian collecting units since 2006, allocating over $25 million to 216 projects across the Institution. Many projects involve the replacement of outdated or unsuitable storage equipment and containers such as cabinetry, and the rehousing of collections into more suitable spaces and containers. This can include the digitization of collections as well, and the digital reformatting of audio and video files.  Past projects have ranged from the assessment of the current state of collections spaces and containers in order to determine what next steps must be taken to the implementation of a rainwater harvesting system to promote the healthy growth of the Orchid Collection.

Most proposals come from a single collecting unit, with each individual unit allowed up to five projects in one fiscal year. Proposals involving a collaboration of several units are encouraged, however, and these do not count towards any unit’s five proposal limit. Vist NCP’s CCPF SharePoint site for more information about the event, including a forthcoming video and notes, as well as more information about CCPF and how to apply.

Juliana Jackson is an intern with the National Collections Program and a recent graduate of Princeton University.  When she isn’t reminiscing about Italy (and Italian food), she can be found playing the harp and memorizing the order of the British monarchs.

Posted: 27 November 2017
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.