On Thursday, March 16, 2017, President Trump sent an outline of his proposed FY 2018 budget to Congress, to be followed by a more detailed proposal in the spring. The budget, known as “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” proposes a $54 billion increase in defense and public safety spending that is offset by equivalent cuts in discretionary non-defense programs. Included in those cuts are reductions in, or the total elimination of, funding for federal agencies with a history of supporting cultural heritage organizations and projects.
The proposed budget eliminates funding for the following agencies with a history of supporting archival and other cultural heritage projects:
- Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
- National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
The proposed budgets for other agencies with archives-related programs have not yet been released. These include:
- National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
- National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)
- Library of Congress
- Smithsonian Institution
Although this budget originating from the Oval Office is only a proposal, with Congress ultimately controlling appropriations, this proposal serves as a reminder to cultural heritage professionals in archives, libraries, and museums that it is always important to advocate for our institutions and those sources of funding that are so crucial to the work that we do.
During the lengthy appropriations process to come in the House and Senate, we should focus our advocacy efforts on the appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the programs that affect SAA members and the institutions that employ them. By sharing examples of the positive impact of federal funding for the arts and humanities with representatives in both the House and Senate, we as a profession can hope to affect the decisions made regarding these federal funding agencies.
As archivists, librarians, and museum professionals, we know how our collections, institutions, and local communities have benefited from grant funding from these federal agencies. We collect statistics about the work we accomplish under these grants, but we also know that the impact goes far beyond numbers alone.
Consider: Did your federal grant-funded project empower K–12 educators to teach with primary sources, connect family members through genealogical records, or inspire a community art project? Did a federal grant enable your institution to create jobs, contract with an external vendor, or carry out a project that had a fiscal impact on your institution? It is these stories of direct impact, whether personal or fiscal, and at all levels–within your institution, your local community, or even on a national scale–that speak to the true value of federal grant funding for the arts and humanities.
Personal impact is powerful. Please share the details of your federally funded project and the story of its impact. Access the online submission form at the following link:
Submitted stories will be published online by the SAA Committee on Public Awareness, and promoted by the Society of American Archivists through their website and social media channels. We hope to gather stories representing all types of archival repositories, and in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, so please consider sharing your story–no impact is too small when it comes to advocating for federal support for the arts and humanities! Please check back regularly to ArchivesAWARE and the main landing page for the Federal Funding Impact Story initiative on the SAA website to read and share stories of impact.
Header image courtesy of the Library of Congress.