Albany Institute Awarded Big Grant For Website

The Albany Institute of History & Art has been selected to receive a 2010 Museums for America grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The grant is specifically designated to help fund a website redevelopment project entitled, Digital Renaissance, which will evaluate, design, and repurpose the museum’s website so that virtual visitors can experience the rich history and cultural heritage of Albany and the Hudson Valley through the museum’s collections, education programs, and exhibits. The IMLS grant award of $147,904 will provide approximately 40 percent of the total estimated project cost of $369,914.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of this grant for our museum right now,” said Christine Miles, executive director of the Albany Institute. “In the Information Age, with electronic communication technologies advancing exponentially every day, websites have become an indispensible tool for nonprofit organizations who need to reach much wider and more diverse audiences. This grant will enable us to make the virtual Albany Institute experience as enjoyable and enriching as the on-site experience of visiting the galleries, classrooms, and shop. It will also enhance efforts already underway to digitize our vast collection.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Museums for America is IMLS’s largest grant program for museums, providing more than $19 million to support the role of museums in sustaining cultural heritage, supporting lifelong learning- and serving as centers of community engagement. Museums for America grants strengthen a museum’s ability to serve the public more effectively by supporting high-priority activities that advance the institution’s mission and strategic goals.

“This year’s MFA grant recipients are truly an exciting and diverse group of museums, representing the remarkable ways that large and small institutions are serving communities,” said Marsha L. Semmel, IMLS’s acting director, in announcing the award. “Funded projects support digitization and collections management plans, enhanced accessibility, environmental literacy, and much more. The work of these institutions will educate and inspire citizens of all ages. IMLS is pleased to support museums as they engage their communities through programming tailored to their specific needs, and this round of MFA grants furthers this work.”

The Albany Institute’s Digital Renaissance project was one of 178 awards chosen from 510 applications to the 2010 Museums for America program. In total, the program awarded $19.5 million. To learn more about IMLS, visit www.imls.gov.

As part of Digital Renaissance’s evaluation process, the Albany Institute has partnered with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Language, Literature, and Communication. RPI Professor Patricia Search is the principal investigator for the research project and, along with RPI student Natt Phenjati, began formative evaluation phase of the project earlier this year. Launch of the Albany Institute’s new website is scheduled for early 2012.

“This research will help the museum create a dynamic, interactive website that will extend and enrich the total museum experience, particularly in the areas of personal engagement and community involvement,” said Search. “Museums have an opportunity to reach a wide audience with creative, engaging websites. With digital technology it is possible to display additional artifacts from the museum collections that add to the overall understanding of special and permanent exhibits. However, in order to create an effective website, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the demographics, interests, and needs of the people who use the website. The research we’ll be doing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will evaluate how diverse groups of people will use the new website design to access information about the Albany Institute, including their collections, exhibitions, and educational programs.”

One of America’s oldest museums, the Albany Institute of History & Art was founded in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington, making it older than the Louvre, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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