The Alliance closely tracks several legislative and policy issues affecting museums—including funding for grant-making federal agencies, tax incentives for charitable giving and education policy. See the Issue Briefs (PDFs) and related information below for a detailed look at these priorities and how policymakers can advance them.
Policy Issues at a Glance
Museums play a key role in education, job creation, tourism, economic development, historic preservation, environmental conservation, and advancing scientific literacy and global competitiveness. The museum community—which includes aquariums, art museums, children’s museums, historic sites, history museums, maritime museums, military museums, natural history museums, planetariums, presidential libraries, public gardens, science centers, and zoos—has worked together to develop this federal policy agenda.
Issue: Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Office of Museum Services Funding
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary federal agency responsible for helping museums connect people to information and ideas. Its Office of Museum Services (OMS) awards grants to museums to support educating students, preserving and digitizing collections, and engaging communities. Grants are awarded in every state, but current funding has allowed the agency to fund only a small fraction of the highly-rated grant applications it receives. IMLS has been regularly reauthorized by Congress with broad support, most recently in 2010 with a funding authorization of $38.6 million for the Office of Museum Services. IMLS received $231 million in FY 2017 appropriations, of which just $31.7 million went to the Office of Museum Services.
- We support funding of $38.6 million in FY 2019 for the IMLS Office of Museum Services and urge members of Congress to sign the Gillibrand and Tonko/Lance/Slaughter/McKinley letters in support of robust funding for OMS.
Issue: Institute of Museum and Library Services Reauthorization
IMLS has been regularly reauthorized by Congress with broad support. In September 2016, Senators Reed (D-RI), Cochran (R-MS), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Collins (R-ME) introduced S. 3391, The Museum and Library Services Act of 2016. The legislation contained a number of provisions specifically supported by the museum field: bolstering the agency’s research and data collection, maintaining an emphasis on state and regional collaboration, expanding interagency partnerships, and highlighting the importance of access to high-quality museum services for every American. It also authorized a 21st Century Museum Professional Program, for the training of museum professionals, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.
- We urge Congress to enact legislation reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services, similar to S. 3391, introduced during the 114th Congress.
Issue: Charitable Giving
Museums depend on charitable gifts for more than one-third of their operating funds. We support efforts to extend and expand incentives for charitable giving. Limitations on these incentives could have a chilling effect on the ability of museums to attract donations needed to serve their communities and protect their collections.
- We oppose proposals that would limit the scope or value of the tax deduction for charitable donations, as well as any proposal to restrict the deductibility of gifts of property, which are critical to a museum’s ability to develop its collections. Any comprehensive tax reform legislation should encourage more charitable giving by more Americans. We support allowing artists to deduct the fair market value of donated works, as specified in the Artist-Museum Partnership Act.
Issue: Economy and Jobs
Each year, museums directly contribute $21 billion to the national economy, employ more than 400,000 Americans, and bolster a large tourism industry in local communities. Museums and other cultural organizations return over five times more in tax revenue than they receive in government funding. Unfortunately, in 2009, Congress excluded zoos and aquariums from competing for any funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and only narrowly avoided excluding all museums and other cultural institutions as well. In 2013, the federal government shutdown forced federally operated museums to close their doors for 16 days. These actions by Congress ignore the economic impact of museums in communities nationwide.
- We urge Congress to amend the Anti-Deficiency Act to allow for the continuity of public access to our nation’s public lands and federally operated museums in the event of a funding gap.
- We oppose any effort to restrict the ability of zoos, aquariums or any other type of museum to compete for federal funding.
- We urge Congress to enact the CREATE Act (S. 661 and H.R. 1649) to support artists and entrepreneurs while bolstering the creative economy.
Issue: Elementary and Secondary Education
Museums are key education providers, educating students, providing professional development to teachers, and helping teach the local curriculum. The recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the “Every Student Succeeds Act”) provides states with significantly more flexibility in setting and meeting performance targets, which could make it easier for schools to work with museums.
- We support efforts to promote school-museum partnerships (including museum schools), require greater collaboration between the US Department of Education and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, support funding for federal education programs in which museums participate, and fully implement the “well-rounded education” provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which include the many subject areas in which museums help teach the curriculum.
Issue: National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) provides direct grants to museums, universities, archives, and libraries in support of research, education, and preservation. Due to high demand and extremely limited funding, NEH was only able to fund 16 percent of the proposals it received in 2016. It also provides annual grants to state humanities councils in every state and U.S. territory. NEH received $149.8 million in FY 2017 appropriations.
- We urge Congress to provide at least $155 million for NEH in FY 2019.
Issue: National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) works to bring the arts to every community in America, including rural areas, military bases, and urban centers. It provides grants to all types of arts organizations—including museums—to exhibit, preserve, and interpret visual materials. The agency’s federal role is uniquely valuable: no other funder—public or private—funds the arts in every state and the US territories. NEA also distributes roughly forty percent of its grant funds to state arts agencies for re-granting. NEA received $149.8 million in FY 2017 appropriations.
- We urge Congress to provide at least $155 million for NEA in FY 2019.
Issue: Higher Education
Issue: STEM Education
Millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) each year by visiting museums, science centers, public gardens, zoos, and aquariums. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports these efforts through numerous grants and directorates, including the Directorate for Education and Human Resources’ Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. AISL supports research, development, infrastructure, and capacity building for STEM learning outside formal school settings. Programs at other science-related agencies—including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH)—are also critical to helping museums attract, inspire, and educate the current and future STEM workforce. The FY 2017 appropriations legislation provided $62.5 million for AISL and continued funding for the NOAA and NIH programs in which museums participate, but did not explicitly include funding for NASA’s Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums, and NASA Visitor Centers (CP4SMPVC).
- We urge Congress to fully restore funding for the AISL program to $65 million—the FY 2010 funding level—and to continue to support informal STEM programs at NASA, NOAA, and NIH.
Issue: Historic Preservation
In addition to preserving and protecting more than 1 billion objects, many museums are historic themselves, and their collections are critical to telling our collective national story. Historic sites and historic preservation efforts not only protect our national heritage, they are also economic engines and job creators in the thousands of communities they serve. Minimal government funding helps to leverage significant private support, often through the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. The FY 2017 appropriations provided $47.9 million to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), $10.5 million to Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs), and $500,000 for grants to underserved communities—all through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). It also provided an additional $13 million from the HPF to document, interpret, and preserve the stories and sites associated with the Civil Rights movement. Save America’s Treasures (SAT) received $5 million in FY 2017 through the HPF, the first funding it has received since FY 2010. Preserve America has not been funded since FY 2010.
- We urge Congress to support FY 2019 funding of at least $55 million for SHPOs, $15 million for THPOs, $25 million for civil rights sites, to restore funding of $30 million for Save America’s Treasures and $4.6 million for Preserve America, and to continue to support the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit.
Issue: Public Diplomacy and the Protection of Cultural Property
As welcoming and trusted community anchors, museums are perfectly positioned to help build cross-cultural relationships, which are enhanced by collections that span the world across centuries. In recent years, irreplaceable cultural property has been lost in places like Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Mali, and Afghanistan. Protecting this property is a vital part of United States diplomacy, showing the respect of the United States for other cultures and the common heritage of humanity. American museums and the conservation professionals who work with them are some of the world’s best at protecting and caring for cultural property.
- We urge Congress to pursue measures that protect cultural property around the world and to consider museums and conservation professionals as part of the solution to these issues.
Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion
Ethics and Best Practices for Museums
There are several other issues that AAM cares deeply about. Learn more about some of these additional issues.