We offer grants to support increased public access to collections that illuminate the unique culture, history and heritage of the Chicago region or the Lowcountry of South Carolina. We have particular interest in at-risk collections, creative interpretation of collections, and helping organizations expand support for digitization efforts.
Regionally-focused collections – including documents, books, maps, photographs and artifacts – help us understand who we are and how the places where we live came to be. The information gleaned from collections can be important, too, for guiding future decisions about culture and place. Having easy and engaging access to collections of art, artifacts, letters, photographs, manuscripts and maps is vital for historians, artists and the general public alike.
Before applying for a grant, first review our strategy and the eligibility requirements below. Next, please call us to discuss your project. We can provide guidance as to the potential fit with the Foundation’s guidelines, and answer any questions you may have before sending you a link to our online application form
We focus our collections grants in three distinct project areas:
1) At-risk Collections:
The Foundation offers project grants to organizations to preserve at-risk collections. At-risk collections include orphan collections (those being deaccessioned with no identified future home); those in private hands (proverbial ones in basements, attics and forgotten storerooms) that are transitioning to the care of organizations or include a public access strategy; collections held by organizations with limited capacities; and occasionally collections within larger institutions.
For at-risk collections, the Foundation supports a range of projects from stabilization to restoration to archival processing.
Grants for at-risk collections vary in size, depending on several factors.
2) Creative Interpretation:
The Foundation offers project planning grants for institutions to work with artists, curators, historians and other creatives to engage audiences in new, dynamic ways; that push the envelope of presentation and interpretation; that go beyond the typical array of exhibits and exhibitions in drawing attention to collections of exceptional regional significance.
Institutions that receive planning grants may be eligible in the future for partial funding support to implement projects of exceptional promise.
Planning grants may be up to $25,000.
The Foundation offers challenge grants for digitization projects of the highest value, regionally-focused collections. A higher priority will be placed on those digitized collections that can be made available through one of the regional digital portals: Lowcountry Digital Library (College of Charleston), EXPLORE Chicago Collections (Chicago Collections Consortium) or the Community Collections Portal (Chicago Cultural Alliance.)
The purpose of challenge grants, beyond supporting expanded public accessibility, is to help institutions build a stronger base of support for stewarding its collections long-term.
Organizations may apply for a maximum of three challenge grants, provided they demonstrate progress toward building and sustaining long-term support.
Grants for digitizing collections vary in size, depending on several factors.
As noted previously, all projects must be regionally focused and lead toward increased public access. Additional criteria we consider in making our grant decisions include:
To be eligible for a grant:
The following are not eligible:
Your complete proposal must be submitted online by 11:59pm Central Time on
It takes about four months from grant application deadline through board decision. After the board meeting, you’ll hear from us within a couple weeks.
Looking for more information about reporting, PRIs, technical assistance, and other tools? Check out the Current Grantees page.
If you have questions about Chicago Region Collections grants, contact please contact Ellen Placey Wadey, Senior Program Officer, at 312.977.2700.
If you have questions about Lowcountry Collections grants, contact the Lowcountry office at 843.277.2041.