Museums that preserve and share African American history and culture are essential in educating the public and fostering space for dialogue. Yet these institutions frequently struggle to sustain adequate funding, jeopardizing their critical contributions. The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Museum Grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC) program provides targeted capacity-building support for African American museums and collections. This evaluation—the first since AAHC’s inception—was designed to take stock of the grant program’s reach and performance during its 15-year history.
Between 2006 and 2020, the AAHC program awarded 215 grants totaling $22,582,233 to 110 organizations across 31 states. Most recipients are museums whose primary purpose is centered on African American life, history, and culture. The grants have supported activities to advance professional development, build organizational capacity, and increase public access to collections. The evaluation found evidence that the program nurtures, sustains, and expands the reach and capacity of grantees.
The evaluation found that
- 100 percent of nonprofit grantees reported that their AAHC grant helped them improve professional capacity and systems,
- 79 percent of small nonprofit grantees reported deepened audience engagement as a result of grant-funded work,
- 84 percent of small nonprofit grantees reported that the grant improved their organization’s ability to sustain work beyond the grant period,
- 88 percent of grantees used the grant to attract additional funding or plan to do so, and
- 71 percent of grantees would not have been able to complete their project without the AAHC grant.
The experiences and perceptions of surveyed and interviewed stakeholders produced evidence of the AAHC program’s reach and impact and informed recommendations for strengthening its administrative practices, including broadening program goals; rethinking its cost share requirements; growing the funding; and increasing outreach, webinars, and engagement. The report offers six recommendations to support the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ efforts to preserve the grant program’s distinctive legacy, build on its documented successes, expand its reach, and strengthen its performance.