The Impact of Federal Funding on JMM

Posted on February 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: February 2016

The JMM relies on many different funding streams to support our exhibitions, educational programs, public programs and ongoing operational needs. As our exhibits tend to be our most costly initiatives, we typically develop a multi-year fundraising strategy for each project that targets a mix of private and public prospects from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies. We have been especially fortunate over the past few years to have received significant federal support for our exhibits that have provided vital funds for such activities as planning, exhibit design and fabrication and have helped us leverage additional funding from private sources. Total government support in the FY 16 budget (including both federal grants and state funds through the Maryland State Department of Education SAI program and Maryland State Arts Council) was $493,000.

Happy 50th!

Happy 50th NEH!

Our two principal federal funders are the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Through its Public Humanities Project initiative, NEH funds exhibitions that are grounded in the humanities and offers support for both project planning and implementation. The application process is rigorous and requires an intensive amount of staff time for researching humanities connections as well as writing detailed responses to each question of the narrative and preparing budgets and other supporting documentation in the form of letters of support, bibliographies, staff resumes and other relevant material. Applications are subjected to several rounds of review by both NEH program staff as well as a peer review process that involves museum colleagues from museums around the country. The JMM has a long history of successful applications including our most recent award of an implementation grant in the amount of $300,000  for Beyond Chicken Soup. We have recently submitted a planning grant application for our new core exhibit, Belongings and are hopeful that it, too, will be awarded. The NEH stamp of approval is a powerful tool for fundraising and also serves as a mark of distinction among the museum community.



Likewise, we have frequently been awarded grants from IMLS. Our most recent submission, through the Museums for America initiative, was awarded $150,000 in support of Scrap Yard: Innovations of Recycling. As with NEH, the grant application process is challenging and requires many hours of staff time to complete. The review process is also similar and involves several rounds of evaluation by program staff and peer reviewers. Having participated in panel reviews of other institutions’ applications, which requires many hours of reading applications and then debating their merits over the course of two days of meetings with colleagues from other museums, I can attest to the rigorous vetting process in which applications are subjected before a determination is made of whether or not to award funding. This makes our track record of success especially rewarding.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Because both NEH and IMLS are federal agencies, their budgets are authorized annually by Congress. In recent weeks there has been talk about defunding NEH and IMLS funding prospects are unsure as well. Clearly cuts to these agencies would be detrimental not only to the JMM but to the larger community of museums and historic sites that serve as vital communal educational resources. We are actively engaged in several advocacy efforts to make our voices heard in this debate.  The Greater Baltimore History Alliance (GBHA), a consortium of forty local history museums, is developing a statement of support on behalf of the NEH. We will be represented at the American Alliance of Museums’ Advocacy Day, at the end of February, by JMM consultant and docent extraordinaire, Robyn Hughes. During the two days of meetings with congressional delegations, museum professionals and volunteers from around the country will convey the important message urging our representatives to maintain level funding of all federal arts and humanities agencies.

We encourage citizens who share the belief that history and heritage matter to let their voices be heard by their representatives on this important topic.

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

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A Day on the Hill

Posted on March 19th, 2011 by

At the beginning of this month I participated in the American Association of Museums (AAM) Museums Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. This year is the third time that AAM organized and implemented Museums Advocacy Day and it was my first time participating in the effort. Over two days I had a chance to meet with other museum professionals around the county, learn about important issues effecting museums and their ability to be positively impact the community, and advocate for certain key issues to Members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Images of the Capitol of Museums Advocacy Day

This year I had the honor of not only representing The Jewish Museum of Maryland, but also representing the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM). Because the CAJM conference overlapped with Museums Advocacy Day, the CAJM staff was not able to be in two places at once. It was decided a few months ago that I should be the JMM and CAJM representative because this falls under my responsibilities as Community Outreach Coordinator and I live in Capitol Hill in DC where the advocating takes place. I do have to say, there was something really wonderful about being able to walk five minutes to work on the day I advocated on the Hill. Don’t worry though – I’m not leaving my position at the JMM to become a lobbyist on the Hill anytime soon.

AAM’s Advocacy Day was very organized and prepared me well for speaking informatively and confidently to Congressman and their staffers. I fully admit that although I am passionate about museums and my work at the JMM, I was not prepared to speak intelligently about major issues currently affecting the museum field. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. As soon as I began the training, however, I realized that there was no reason to feel this way. AAM’s philosophy in regards to Advocacy Day is that it is important that all museum representatives stand together and focus on a few key issues. The main issues that we focused on include: funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Office of Museum Services and promoting stronger museum/school partnerships in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). To read more about these issues, visit AAM’s Speak Up for Museums website. In addition to learning about key issues AAM was smart and gave participants time to meet with other representatives from their so that each state group could strategize about their message and delivery when speaking to Congressman. I joined the Maryland delegation and together we decided who should share what stories and who should deliver our message.

Waiting outside of Senator Cardin’s office.


Day two was spent entirely on Capitol Hill.  I found the experience of meeting with Congressman and their staff to be exciting and exhilarating. In the morning I met with Senator Cardin’s staff from Maryland and then I ran across the Capitol Campus to make it to a meeting with Representative Cantor’s staff from Virginia. I learned my lesson that day. Do not wear heels when meeting with several Members of Congress within a short period of time because you most likely will have to literally run from one meeting to another and chances are those meetings will not be located near each other. In the afternoon I met with Representative Cummings’ staff from Baltimore. Despite the large size of the Maryland group I had a chance to speak in each meeting about my IMLS funded job as Community Outreach Coordinator.

At the end of the two days I was tired, but enthused about my time spent advocating for museums on the Hill. Now that I have this experience under my belt I hope to be a better museum advocate throughout the year rather than limiting myself to Museums Advocacy Day. I invite anyone who is interested in learning more about advocating for museums and cultural institutions to contact me or visit AAM’s advocacy website at

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