UMMA, Matthaei-Nichols receive grants from Institute of Museum and Library Services

September 17, 2015
Carrie Throm, 734-763-6467, or Joe Mooney, 734-647-9679,

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Museum of Art and the U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum have received grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support projects that enhance experiences for the community.

In the highly competitive federal grant program, the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA) received $150,000 to support its Engaged Learning Collections Access Project, an effort to create and enhance data for 5,000 works of art in the museum’s permanent collection. Matthaei-Nichols received a $76,900 grant to digitally map and document the condition of its historic landscape collection at the arboretum.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the grants this week for 217 projects totaling more than $25 million. Institutions receiving the awards are matching them with nonfederal funds.
“This grant from IMLS is key in helping UMMA achieve its goal to reach beyond our walls to build a stronger, broader community,” said UMMA director Joseph Rosa. “Along with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative, this IMLS grant will enable the development of virtual strategies that will seamlessly integrate the onsite and offsite experience for our visitors.”

The Engaged Learning Collections Access Project will enhance core knowledge about the museum’s artworks and improve the ability to search records in the museum’s collections management system.

UMMA will bring together a team of curators, graduate students and collections staff to document and improve data—including applying established keywords to improve searchability—for objects that have been identified as user priorities. UMMA will make focused and rapid progress on increasing core knowledge about these key objects—a major advance in its ability to deliver information to K-12 and university teachers, their students, youth and adult online audiences.

The one-year project will begin Nov. 1 and coincide both with an expansion in museum curatorial staff (from two curators to four) and the development of a transformative set of technology projects including a new website, collections management system and the UMMA Exchange—an interactive, digital platform for museum-based teaching and learning. After the grant period, UMMA will update more collections records annually, improving 1,200 objects a year with the expanded curatorial staff and graduate student support.

At Matthaei-Nichols, staff will be hired to digitally map and document the condition of its historic landscape collection at the arboretum. Consistent, uniform and online-accessible baseline assessment data and standardized maps are needed to prioritize and customize conservation planning.

Matthaei-Nichols will integrate the documents with its geospatial database and plant records system to inform long-term collection-conservation, rejuvenation and management planning for university and public needs. Data will be accessible as web-based printable maps and data sets.

“One of our long-desired goals at Matthaei-Nichols is the geospatial mapping of the important trees and collections in the arboretum,” said curator David Michener. “With this grant we can now digitally unlock those collections for students and faculty seeking to conduct research on our living treasures.”

This one-year project, a cornerstone of Matthaei-Nichols’ new strategic plan, will benefit three groups: management teams engaged in the collection rejuvenation; university partners needing digital maps and related data for teaching, creative works and research; and arboretum visitors.

“With this federal support, museums all over the country will be better equipped to care for their collections, create exhibitions and learning experiences for visitors and contribute to a better quality of life for their communities,” said Maura Marx, IMLS acting director.


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