The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) gave its top annual award, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, to eight institutions today (23 May), including four libraries and four museums. The museums honoured by the federally funded agency include art, science and historical institutions located in four states, from Florida’s Atlantic coast to Southern California: the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio; the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum in Buffalo, Wyoming; the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and the Riverside Art Museum in the Los Angeles suburb of Riverside.
“The staff at these inspiring institutions dedicate themselves each day to supporting the health and growth of their communities, serving in their unique individual ways as centres of excellence and passion,” Crosby Kemper, the director of IMLS, said in a statement. Representatives of this year’s honourees—which also include libraries in Arkansas, California, New Jersey and Ohio—will receive their medals this summer in a ceremony in Washington, DC, where IMLS is based.
“This award is a testament to what inspiring transformation can occur when a group of people come together with the goal to uplift and celebrate the human experience through art,” Drew Oberjuerge, the director of the Riverside Art Museum—which also operates the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, home to comedian Cheech Marin’s collection of Chicano art—said in a statement.
The prize, given annually since 1994, recognises institutions that excel in serving their local communities.This year’s eight recipients, who were selected from among 30 finalists, represent a significant uptick from last year’s six honourees (three libraries and three museums).
The IMLS, along with the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, is one of the principle federally-funded agencies supporting art, culture, scholarship and other fields in the humanities in the US. In fiscal year 2022, IMLS awarded grants totalling $244.9m. Like the NEA and NEH, it has regularly been targeted for funding cuts or total defunding by Republican lawmakers and presidents.
“Museums are more necessary than ever before as institutions of learning,” Joseph P. Cox, the president and chief executive of Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science, said in a statement. “Together, we foster understanding and change that leads to a more just and healthy future.”
Last summer, US president Joseph Biden appointed 11 new members to the IMLS board—which, among other things, helps pick the winners of the National Medals—including the leaders of the Honolulu Museum of Art, Parrish Art Museum and Cincinnati Art Museum.