Grand Rapids Public Museum receives $500K grant for archives, accessibility

What’s happening: Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) has received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This grant is part of the NEH's commitment to support 260 humanities projects across the nation. 

Why is it important: The NEH grant is a challenge grant, requiring the GRPM to raise an additional $1.5 million to fully utilize the grant and complete the projects. This underlines the importance of community engagement and support in reaching these goals.

How does it work: The funding will be instrumental in the renovation of the Community Archives and Research Center (CARC), a project encompassing two major components:

Community space development: This includes constructing a two-story community space to improve accessibility, particularly for K-12 schools, postsecondary students, teachers, and researchers. The space will feature a large, open lobby, a state-of-the-art artifact lab, a kitchen to support events, and classrooms capable of accommodating multiple groups simultaneously. A smaller conference room will be available for more intimate meetings and discussions.

Collections Area Improvement: The second component involves adding a new processing room, science lab, and reconfigured storage areas. The processing room will handle functions such as artifact cleaning, repair, photography, 3D scanning, and research. The science lab will offer a versatile space for processing new science collection specimens. Additionally, the reconfiguration of storage space will include new units and art racks, enhancing visibility for tours and researchers while ensuring artifact protection.

What’s the next step: This grant is a significant step towards realizing the GRPM's vision of a 21st century archives that balances the preservation of collections with increased access for learning, tours, professional development, and community programming. The Community Access to Collections project is an important part of the GRPM's ongoing campaign to raise $50 million for an expansion that will double the number of students the museum can serve and transform it into a dynamic regional educational center.

What to know: With over 250,000 artifacts, of which only a fraction are currently displayed, the museum will use this renovation to revolutionize access to its archives, shifting from an appointment-only model to a more inclusive walk-in approach, enhancing access and increasing capacity for educational activities.

What they are saying: "The Grand Rapids Public Museum is thrilled to receive this Infrastructure Challenge Grant from the NEH for our Community Access to Collections project,” says Alex Forist, GRPM's chief curator. “The two-story space, adjacent to both the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School and the Community Archives and Research Center, will feature an artifact lab, classroom, and meeting spaces where visitors of all ages can engage in research and hands-on learning with artifacts and specimens from the GRPM collections.”

Learn more about the Grand Rapids Public Museum and its NEH-funded projects at
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