New Report Looks at Collections Needs, Challenges of America’s Cultural Heritage Institutions

News Release, Institute of Museum and Library Services

Museums, Libraries, Archives Show 10 Years of Progress Caring for Nation’s 13 Billion Items

Washington, DCThe Institute of Museum and Library Services released a new report today, Protecting America’s Collections: Results from the Heritage Health Information Survey. The findings shed light on the challenges faced by libraries, museums, and archives as they care for their collections, as well as the many strides they have made over a decade.

More than 31,000 of the nation’s collecting institutions—those with non-living, tangible, and digital collections—hold our national heritage in trust. Their collections contain more than 13 billion items, from furniture to photos and sheet music to soil samples, all cataloged, shelved, stored, and protected to varying degrees.

The Heritage Health Information Survey (HHIS), conducted in 2014, assesses the preservation and conservation needs of today’s collecting institutions and provides selected updates from the Heritage Health Index of 2004.

“This report highlights the real need for collections preservation and shines a light on the challenges faced by our cultural heritage institutions—especially smaller organizations,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “We hope this report provides illuminating information for libraries, archives, and museums, and helps grant-making organizations focus their investments and initiatives on core areas of need.”

The following materials and more are available at www.imls.gov/hhis:

Over a ten-year span, our nation’s cultural heritage organizations have:

  • Reduced the incidence of damage from improper storage and light exposure by roughly 30%.
  • Increasingly assigned collections care responsibilities to personnel, with 86% of institutions reporting in 2014, an 8% improvement over 2004 (78%).
  • Conducted more collection assessments: the 45% of organizations that have done so is a 50% increase from 2004.
  • Engaged in more emergency planning: the number of organizations with emergency plans has more than doubled, from 20% to 42%.
  • Placed a greater financial priority on collections preservation, with the percentage of organizations that provided annual funds for these activities more than doubling from 23% to 49%.

To read the full report, please visit the IMLS website at www.imls.gov/hhis.

Acknowledgements
The Heritage Health Information Survey 2014 was initially funded through a cooperative agreement with Heritage Preservation, and IMLS gratefully acknowledges their leadership role in developing and implementing the survey. HHIS was also supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, Getty Foundation, Schloss Family Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. IMLS thanks them for their support.

Collections Stewardship and IMLS
Strengthening the stewardship, conservation, and preservation of America’s collections has been and continues to be a high strategic priority for IMLS. Many grants have been providing specialized collections management support to institutions across the nation for years, such as the Collections Assessment Preservation program and Museum Assessment Program.

Grants awarded under Museums for America, National Leadership Grants for libraries and museums, the Museum Grants for African American History and Culture program, and Native American and Native Hawaiian library and museum services programs support collections stewardship and increased access for their communities. For more information about available grants, please visit the IMLS website at www.imls.gov/grants/grant-programs.

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