Monday, April 18, 2011

Federal Funding for Museums = "Budget Dust"?

Here's a "Tax Day" Question: Do you know what folks on Capitol Hill call funding programs that may only deal with millions of dollars, instead of billions, or even trillions?  Answer: Budget dust!

So, apparently, federal funding for ALL museum-related projects is merely "budget dust."

With the notion of "budget dust" pinging around my brain, I've tried to set out determining exactly (or at least approximately) how much money was actually awarded to museums via the Federal government in the 2010 budget cycle.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy.

I naturally assumed that AAM (American Association of Museums) could provide that number, but no go.  So, moving on, I've been contacting the "big four" Federal agencies that seem to provide most of the museum-related funding: IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services); NSF (National Science Foundation); NEA (National Endowment for the Arts); and NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities.)  So far, I've gotten some initial numbers from NEH and IMLS, and I hope to get some comparable information from both NSF and NEA soon.

Once I gather and parse all the numbers, I'll offer the documentation and figures here on ExhibiTricks, so stay tuned!

Why am I interested in the museum funding numbers?  Mainly to spur museum colleagues to action, and to provide a fact-based response to the demagoguery spinning around the current budget process in Washington.

Why are "budget dust" projects that serve a wide range of people (like museums!) being targeted for cut-backs while the real "budget boulders" like Defense, Entitlements, and tax cuts for the very richest Americans, are being spared, or even increased?

If you work with museums and care about their future, please contact your representatives in Washington to let them know how important museum funding is --- not just for museums themselves, but their local communities.

Don't let our "budget dust" turn into "budget nanoparticles"!

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