Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections

Division of Preservation and Access

Grant Snapshot

Maximum award amount

Planning: $50,000
Implementation: $350,000

Open to


Expected output

Preservation Supplies/Equipment;
Reports on Preventive Conservation

Period of performance

Up to two years for planning projects; up to five years for implementation projects

Application available

Optional Draft due

Application due

Expected notification date

Project start date

The Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections (SCHC) program helps cultural institutions meet the complex challenge of preserving large and diverse holdings of humanities materials for future generations by supporting sustainable conservation measures that mitigate deterioration, prolong the useful life of collections, and support institutional resilience: the ability to anticipate and respond to disasters resulting from natural or human activity.

Cultural institutions, including libraries, archives, museums, and historical organizations, face an enormous challenge: to preserve humanities collections that facilitate research, strengthen teaching, and provide opportunities for life-long learning. To ensure the preservation of books and manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings and moving images, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, art, and historical objects, cultural institutions must implement measures that slow deterioration and prevent catastrophic loss from emergencies resulting from natural or human activity. They can accomplish this work most effectively through preventive conservation. Preventive conservation encompasses managing relative humidity, temperature, light, and pollutants in collection spaces; providing protective storage enclosures and systems for collections; and safeguarding collections from theft, fire, floods, and other disasters.

As museums, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions strive to be effective stewards of humanities collections, they must find ways to implement preventive conservation measures that are sustainable. This program therefore helps cultural repositories plan and implement preservation strategies that pragmatically balance effectiveness, cost, and environmental impact. Sustainable approaches to preservation can contribute to an institution’s financial health, reduce its use of fossil fuels, and benefit its green initiatives, while ensuring that collections are well cared for and available for use in humanities programming, education, and research. Sustainable preventive conservation measures may also aim to prepare and plan for, absorb, respond to, recover from, and more successfully protect collections in the event of emergencies resulting from natural or human activity.

Effective and sustainable preservation strategies must be informed by the nature of an institution and its collections. Applicants should have completed the process of basic preservation planning and environmental monitoring, which might include a general preservation plan, collection inventory, emergency plan, and/or basic assessments of building and storage environments. Using priorities established through this basic planning process, applicants to SCHC should consider how to address long-term collection care needs. Sustainable preservation strategies can take many forms, depending on collection materials, the building envelope, and the local climate. However, interdisciplinary collaboration during planning and implementation of these strategies is essential. In SCHC projects, such teams typically consist of consultants and members of the institution’s staff and can include architects, building engineers, conservation scientists, conservators, curators, archivists, and facilities managers, among others.


Review your application package

As soon as you know you're ready to apply for this grant, make sure you register for a SAM number/DUNS number, and for a account as this is vital to the grants process. If you already have registered for these items, make sure they are up to date.

Begin by reading the full grant guidelines and studying the application. The files are linked below. You want to ensure you understand all the expectations and restrictions for projects delivered under this grant and are prepared to write the most effective application. 

Download Application Materials

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Guidelines (PDF)

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Guidelines (DOC)

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections application package

Budget Resources

Budget Instructions, October 2018 (PDF)

Sample Budget, October 2018 (PDF)

Budget Form, October 2018 (MS Excel)

Program Resources

Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Frequently Asked Questions, 2019 (PDF)

Certification Regarding Lobbying (PDF)

Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (PDF)

List of Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grants, 2016-2018

DUNS Number Requirement

Sample Application Narratives

American Precision Museum, Improving Environmental Conditions for Historical Collections

City of Ontario, Developing a Master Preservation Plan for Collections at the Museum of History and Art

Folger Shakespeare Library, Sustainable Preservation Environment Project

Genesee Country Village and Museum, Creating a Sustainable and Energy-Efficient Storage Space for Art and Artifacts

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Preserving Collections in the 1871 Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Litchfield Historical Society, Improving Environmental Conditions to Preserve Collections

Monhegan Historical and Cultural Museum Association, Planning for a Sustainable Preservation Environment

National Society of the Colonial Dames, Plan for an Energy Efficient Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning System

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Furnishing Sustainable Photography Storage

State of Georgia, Sustaining Georgia's Historical Records

Winterthur Museum, Sustainable Preservation Environment Project

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    Program Statistics

    In the last five competitions this program received an average of
    per year
    This grant has a
    Funding Ratio
    NEH made an average of
    per year

    Examples of Projects Funded by this Grant Program