Science Alliance of Tennessee museums to receive more than $1 million in funding from Institute of Museum and Library Services


NASHVILLE, Aug. 18, 2021—Tennessee science and children’s museums are set to receive more than $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), announced the Science Alliance of Tennessee, a consortium of six non-profit science museums across the state.

The IMLS 2021 National Leadership Grants for Museums included $941,787 in funding for a coalition initiative led by the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro to promote and invest in science education in rural communities, entitled the “Tennessee Rural Impact Project.”

In addition, IMLS awarded $250,000 to Chattanooga’s Creative Discovery Museum and $65,090 to Memphis Museum of Science & History under its Museum of America grant program. Cost-share and matching funds for all three programs will total nearly $2 million.

Science Alliance museums will launch the Tennessee Rural Impact Project in September by working with two cohorts of rural school communities (12 total). Its focus is on engaging, learning from, and supporting rural school districts, teachers, families, and communities through relationship building, asset mapping, and the collaborative integration and implementation of museum resources. Additional activities include the production of publications, virtual presentations, and a virtual tool kit. The project will illustrate the ways in which museums can collaborate to support STEM and literacy at the K-2 level, enhance teacher self-efficacy, attitudes and beliefs, and engage family and community, strengthening services for Americans who live in the most rural areas.

“We are grateful to IMLS for this amazing opportunity to better serve communities throughout our state. It represents the largest grant award in our 35-year history – and the largest awarded this year by IMLS in the Leadership category,” said Discovery Center President & CEO Tara MacDougall. “Providing rich, hands-on educational experiences to children of all ages and backgrounds is central to our mission, and that of the other Science Alliance members. This grant will help affect rural areas that are often difficult to reach via traditional on-site programming.”

Creative Discovery Museum’s $250,000 award will fund the fabrication and installation of an immersive natural science exhibit, UnEarthed. The exhibit gallery, which includes a new outdoor component, will give children and their families the opportunity to explore paleontology, fossils, entomology, weather events, volcanology and geology through age-appropriate, cross-disciplinary learning methods. These experiences will inspire curiosity about the natural world and provide foundational knowledge in the natural sciences which will support children’s learning in formal educational settings. The creation of UnEarthed is part of a comprehensive, $12 million renovation project that begins in September 2021.

Memphis Museum of Science & History (MoSH) was awarded a $65,090 Museums for America grant to produce a 2,500-square-foot exhibit accompanying Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, a traveling exhibit produced by the Newseum. MoSH’s exhibit has a working title of LGBTQ Memphis. Along with local LGBTQ history, the exhibit will highlight contemporary opportunities and challenges LGBTQ Memphians face and will connect local history to the national narrative. MoSH curators will work with community stakeholders to determine exhibit content and secure artifact acquisitions and loans to ensure the exhibit tells as complete and inclusive a story as possible. The exhibits will be on display June through August 2022.

“As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities.”

The IMLS National Leadership Grants for Museums support projects that address critical needs of the museum field and that have the potential to advance practice in the profession so that museums can improve services for the American public. The projects will receive funds totaling $6,387,709, and the organizations receiving the awards are matching them with $4,577,282 in non-federal funds. Only 15 projects were chosen from a pool of 74 applicants.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. It advances, supports, and empowers America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Its vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities.

About the Science Alliance of Tennessee
With its six member institutions, the Science Alliance of Tennessee has an annual economic impact of $44 million, engaging more than 1.1 million Tennessee students, teachers and visitors of all ages in hands-on learning opportunities in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Member institutions include:

• Adventure Science Center, Nashville (Steve Hinkley, President & CEO)
• Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga (Henry Schulson, Executive Director)
• Discovery Center, Murfreesboro (Tara MacDougall, President & CEO)
• Hands-On Discovery Center, Johnson City (Andy Marquart, Executive Director)
• The Muse, Knoxville (Allison Comer, Executive Director)
• Museum of Science & History, Memphis (Kevin Thompson, Executive Director)