The Maryland Museums Association is a volunteer-managed alliance of institutions that collect, hold, interpret, and protect the material and cultural heritage of the Free State. We advocate for state museum funding, equity in the profession, and authentic interpretation of our shared histories in service of increased cultural understanding.
Museum Assistance Program:
The Maryland Museums Association (MMA) is coordinating a statewide advocacy initiative to reinstate the Museum Assistance Program (MAP) to provide operating grants to Maryland museums when we need it most. We are advocating for the inclusion of the $5M in operating funds in the State of Maryland’s FY 2024 Supplemental Budget to reactivate this critically needed grant program at the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT). If reactivated, the Museum Assistance Program (Annotated Code of Maryland, 5A-349) would provide a lifeline to Maryland’s network of underfunded yet vitally important history museums.
MAP served the state’s nearly 300 historical and cultural museums by providing grants, technical assistance, and networking opportunities from 1999 until 2011 – when the funding stopped. Over the years, MAP also enabled Maryland’s history museums to provide educational services to more than 600,000 Maryland schoolchildren both in museums and through classroom programs.
In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly required a report by the Maryland Historical Trust regarding museum and preservation funding. The primary recommendation of that report was to bring back MAP which is still in statute at MHT despite receiving no funding for 12 years.
The return of the Museum Assistance Program to the Maryland Historical Trust is the simplest solution to the challenge of providing support for the state’s history museums. This approach would require the creation of no new legislative or implementation mechanisms but would allow for new eligibility and funding priorities to be set.
The State of Maryland is a national leader in supporting our fragile environmental resources and dynamic fine arts museums and communities, but our lack of operating support for historical museums and collections makes us an outlier in our region. In FY 2022, the New Jersey Historical Commission provided $4,067,000 operating support grants to history museums. This year, the State of Pennsylvania is setting aside $15M in ARPA funding to provide operating grants to cultural museums.
As we approach the 250th anniversary of the founding of our nation in 2026, now is the time to support our myriad historical museums working to develop an inclusive commemoration that engages Marylanders in the unique and nationally important history of our state.
MMA suggests that $5M for “Statewide Museum Assistance Grants” be allocated to the Maryland Historical Trust to administer the “Museum Assistance Program” (Annotated Code of Maryland, 5A-349) with no more than 10% administration costs – resulting in $4.5M becoming available for management and capacity-building grants to historic and cultural museums based on relevant and equitable merit- and need-based criteria. As stated in the 2016 report, “If funding for the Museum Assistance Program is restored, MHT stands ready to address the museum community’s needs…”
Museum Assistance Program Fast Facts:
The state legislature created the Museum Assistance Program in 1990 to provide funding and technical assistance to museums; it remains in statute.
Between 1991 and 2011 the Maryland Museum Assistance Program supported 125 museums with grants with awards ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
From 2001 to 2004, MAP provided general operating support for 35 museums, allowing them to address important administrative needs. In its last year of funding, 2013, the Program offered technical assistance to 35 museums.
The Museum Assistance Program was always overwhelmingly popular, with demand holding steady at two to four times the available funds.
The majority of Maryland’s museums are small non-profits, and some are unstaffed or staffed only by volunteers. Mid- and long-range planning will help a museum of any size set priorities and develop new capacity for education, equity, and the upcoming America 250 in 2026.
The return of the Museum Assistance Program to the Maryland Historical Trust is the simplest solution to the challenge of providing support for the state’s history museums. Always a lean and efficient program, this approach would require the creation of no new legislative or implementation mechanisms.
There are nearly 300 museums in Maryland including in every county.
The Museum Assistance Program, alone among State funding programs, can support planning and staff salaries. Disaster planning for sites and collections is also difficult to fund through other project-focused grant channels
The program appropriation fluctuated annually. Museum Assistance Program grant funding peaked in FY2007 and FY2008: in those two years together, over $3.5 million was made available for more than 80 projects.
Maryland currently has no program funding or staff dedicated to supporting the important work of the state’s historical and cultural museums.
The Museum Assistance Program has enabled Maryland’s history museums to provide educational services to more than 600,000 Maryland schoolchildren both in museums and through classroom programs.
History museums are ineligible for most Maryland State Arts Council grant programs – including their operating grants – as their work is outside of its core mission.
Museum Funding Reports:
Preservation, Survey, and Museum Funding Needs (Joint Chairman's Report (JCR), 2016)
For many years, Maryland was a national leader in providing support for the preservation and interpretation of our irreplaceable heritage. Historic preservation and history museum assistance programs were supported by the Maryland Historical Trust Grant Fund, a continuing, non-lapsing special fund. Despite demonstrated demand for these programs, appropriations to the MHT Grant Fund were suspended beginning in fiscal year 2012.
At the close of the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly, the Chairmen of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee directed MHT to work with partners to evaluate the state of its historic preservation and museum grant programs. The following report addresses specific issues identified by legislators including need and demand for this type of State support, funding options, staff capacity to administer these programs, and the experience of other states.
As this report demonstrates, the unmet needs of the state’s historic preservation and history museum community are substantial. Threats to our tangible and intangible cultural heritage continue to grow. State and federal sources of funding for cultural resource preservation have all but disappeared, leaving our local government and private sector partners with few options.
PreserveMaryland: The Role of Museums and the Museum Assistance Program (2014)
The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) Museum Assistance Program served the state’s historical and cultural museums by providing grants, technical assistance and networking opportunities from 1999 to 2011, with the cessation of grant funding.
In September 2013, MHT launched a formal needs assessment. This paper is the culmination of the needs assessment process, which opened with a statewide survey. Focus groups brought together museum representatives to review the survey’s findings and to offer perspectives on future programming.