What Can Be Funded

Be sure your project is eligible.

Eligible projects fall into three project categories: history projects, historic preservation projects, and structured grants. Keep in mind that these are guidelines, not a catalog of all possible projects. In addition, some projects might appear to fit under more than one category. If your planned project does not appear to fit into one of these categories, or if you are unsure which category should be applied to your project, call, e-mail, or write the Grants Office before submitting an application. Final product(s) must be held by a Minnesota-based organization or institution with access to the public.

HISTORY PROJECTS

Grants in this category are intended to assist with recording, transcribing, and preserving oral history interviews—focused conversations between a trained interviewer and one or more narrators, capturing information about historical events that can be preserved and made broadly accessible.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Outreach to recent immigrants
  • Military experiences of community members
  • Local controversies
  • Business developments
  • Natural disasters
  • Community life
  • Civic accomplishments
  • Work for the public good
  • Language preservation

Grants in this category provide funding to conduct the research necessary for historical discovery and interpretation. Solid research is the basis for communicating history accurately, fairly, and honestly to the public. A number of grant project categories require the research to be completed before the implementation phase of the project. Interpretive Programs and Public Education, Heritage Tourism, Publications, and Historic Preservation pre-development and development projects need research to be substantially completed and vetted before applying for the implementation phase. For Historic Preservation projects, see guidelines for HP research and writing. 

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Gathering research materials to lay the groundwork for solid history
  • Drafting text for exhibits, books, websites, scripts for films, and more
  • Editing to improve writing for greater accessibility
  • Graphic design and layout

Interpretation and public education grants make Minnesota history accessible through a variety of mediums, including technology. They are the cornerstones in building awareness and documenting Minnesota history for the benefit of future generations. Interpretive Programs & Public Education projects often have two phases—research and implementation. Research projects should begin in the Research category.

Interpretation is the meaningful communication of a story that adds context to historical chronologies and objects. It is distinguished from research in that research attempts to gather all relevant information, and interpretation is a public representation of a portion of the results of research. This is necessary to ensure that what is communicated to the public is fair, honest, accurate, and accessible. By dividing an interpretive initiative into two phases—research and implementation—the project can be evaluated by independent-but-knowledgeable reviewers. For additional information, consult the Research category.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

Exhibits:

  • Interpretive exhibits telling compelling stories from the community
  • Vignettes (e.g., a historical family room)
  • Local collections (local art, dolls, etc.)

Films:

  • Writing and editing the script
  • Production and post-production
  • Distribution

Historical markers:

  • Single markers or marker systems in a variety of materials. More than simple labels, markers must communicate a story

Public Education:

  • Hosting or planning a new Minnesota history–based conference, program, or workshop
  • Public education kit/curriculum for a community, school, or organization

A/V Projects:

  • Video or audio podcasts that include Minnesota history topics, historic tours, and oral histories

Web Development:

  • Website and/or web capabilities to enhance Minnesota history
  • Online indexes/databases of government records, city directories, cemetery records, etc.
  • Mobile/web apps

Interactive Technology:

  • Kiosks/touch screens
  • Augmented reality technology
  • Game-based learning development

Heritage Tourism:

  • Heritage Tourism plans
  • Wayfinding for historic resources
  • Signage program for a historic district
  • Walking and mobile tours, docent training, and related podcast
  • Geocaching

Alternate formats:

  • Make your existing interpretive programs ADA compliant by providing content through multiple sensory channels 

Publication of research increases accessibility to the information and makes accessible the information uncovered by research. Grants in this category are intended to assist the publication of research in books, articles, guides, and related forms. Web-based publications, as well as certain types of presentations of findings, also fall into this category.

For all projects where history will be communicated to the public, applications must provide two reassurances to reviewers. First, all applications for publications must include an assurance that the publication will carry the standard disclaimer:

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

Second, the application must provide two thoughtful analyses of the historical quality of the proposed work. These critical reviews are not letters of support that merely endorse publication, but rather statements evaluating (not simply asserting) the interpretation contained in the work for fairness, honesty, and accuracy. The responsibility for having draft manuscripts evaluated rests on the applicant and publication proposals lacking two reviews will be considered incomplete.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

Traditional publications such as:

  • books
  • articles
  • general histories
  • historic site guides

Nontraditional publications (talk to the Grants Office about what form that might take)

This category supports projects that develop, store, and/or preserve objects for public access in museum and historic house collections. Many historical organizations also preserve and interpret state and local history through the collection of archival and library materials, such as manuscripts, government records, moving images, photographs, and sound recordings; those projects fall under this category as well. Eligible organizations pursuing history projects that organize, develop, and conserve objects, archives, and related materials should look at this category.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

Archives:

  • Establishing an archives
  • Archives collection development, including: documentation strategies, surveys of archival materials not currently in repositories, appraisal projects, reappraisal, documentation of groups or subject areas underrepresented in your collection, fieldwork and other collecting activities
  • Processing collections
  • Creating MARC records
  • Creating EAD finding aids
  • Developing a records management program
  • Archives policy development
  • Purchase and/or installation of Collections Management Software or Archives
    Management Software
  • Purchase and/or installation of Digital Asset Management Software relating to
    collections Migration of collections data
  • Projects addressing new and evolving media such as born-digital records and
    photographs, databases, and social media

Collections Inventory

Registration (Cataloging)

Collections Storage/Rehousing

Conservation Treatment

Infestation Control

Projects addressing new and evolving media such as born-digital records and photographs, databases, and social media

Purchase and/or installation of Collections Management Software or Archives Management Software

Purchase and/or installation of Digital Asset Management Software relating to collections Migration of collections data
 

The purpose of this project is to conduct a general survey of your collections, assess your repository’s interior environment, assess all policies and procedures related to the care and use of collections, and produce a long-range preservation plan.

This plan will incorporate both conservation and curatorial perspectives in establishing prioritized short-, medium- and long-term goals for the preservation of the collections. The plan will also identify specific activities and actions to address the recommendations.

One of the basic functions of museums, libraries, and archives is to protect and preserve collections held in public trust. However, dealing with conservation problems and concerns can be an expensive undertaking requiring careful planning. Often, funding for collections care from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and many corporate and private foundations is dependent on an institution-wide long-range preservation plan. You will need such a plan, based on a general assessment of your repository, collections, and policies to be successful in obtaining grants for the preservation of the collections.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

StEPs (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations) is an assessment program for small- and medium-sized history museums, historic houses, historic sites and history organizations. It was created by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to encourage awareness and achievement of national standards.

Like all organizations, museums and other historical entities can benefit from assessment, long-range planning, and the application of national standards. However, many smaller organizations have neither the time nor the staff expertise to undertake such projects.

Completion of the standards program will give your organization increased credibility with funders and stakeholders, enable you to better serve your community, and provide a solid foundation for future grant requests for projects identified during your assessment.

This program uses assessment questions and performance indicators to rate performance in six areas, moving your organization along a continuum from basic to good to better. The sections are:

  1. Mission, Vision, and Governance
  2. Audience
  3. Interpretation
  4. Stewardship of Collections
  5. Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes
  6. Management

Using the StEPs program workbook purchased through AASLH, you will assess your operations, policies, and procedures in each section; identify areas for improvement; and develop a plan to track your progress and achieve your goals. AASLH allows you to take as much time as necessary to work through the entire program but, with the help of a qualified consultant, you should be able to complete the StEPs program within a period of months.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

Museum and archives environments include all the physical conditions that affect the long-term preservation of and access to collections. This includes heating and cooling systems; lighting; security; and ADA compliant accessibility for entrances, exits, and different floors. Grants in this category preserve history through proper control of museum environments.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Monitoring and installing temperature and humidity controls
  • Particulates (dust) control
  • Installing lighting controls and new fixtures (requires redesign evaluation and planning)
  • Improving preservation lighting through filter improvements or proximity sensors (may not require redesign planning)
  • Installing security systems and protocols
  • Physical accessibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including ramps, elevators, lifts, power-assisted doors, compliant furniture, and other access improvements
  • Training to accommodate disabilities
  • Pest control and integrated pest management (IPM)
  • Construction documents for HVAC upgrade (requires HVAC evaluation and recommendations). At all National Register listed buildings, construction documents must be completed by a qualified Historical Architect
  • HVAC installation using construction documents for HVAC upgrade (see HVAC Upgrade Requirements)

This structured grant provides funding to conduct an evaluation of the building’s mechanical system (also called the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system or HVAC system) to determine what changes and improvements would be feasible and necessary to improve the environmental conditions in the building. A qualified HVAC engineer, preferably with knowledge of the requirements of and experience with museum climates, will be hired to inspect and evaluate the existing equipment. Keeping in mind the needs of the collections and any limitations imposed by the building envelope, the engineer will develop specific recommendations together with an estimated budget for implementing improvements. A second objective of the evaluation is to determine if improvements in equipment could also improve the energy efficiency of the equipment resulting in a reduction in the amount of energy consumed annually.

One of the basic functions of museums, libraries, and archives is to protect and preserve the collections for which they are the permanent stewards. A physical environment that provides a relatively stable temperature and humidity is necessary for the long-term preservation of artifacts, books, documents, and electronic media. Temperature in the range of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity (RH) in the range of 35-55% are generally accepted ranges for the preservation of collections.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

The purpose of this structured grant is to develop plans and specifications to update lighting in a museum so that collections and interpretive labels are readily visible and attractive; wayfinding, artifact workspaces, and storage have sufficient light; and damage to collections is minimized. A secondary goal is to make the system energy efficient, thereby reducing energy consumption and cost.

One of the basic functions of museums is to protect and preserve the collections for which they are the permanent stewards. A physical environment that minimizes physical deterioration is necessary for the long-term preservation of artifacts, books, documents and archives collections. Excessive exposure to light is arguably the single largest cause of damage and deterioration to collections in many, if not most, museum collections, including those in historic buildings. The outcome of the project will be the design of a durable, practical, cost-effective and easily-maintainable system to upgrade lighting to current museum conservation standards, with a secondary benefit of increased energy efficiency.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

This structured grant is meant to encourage small organizations to prepare disaster plans for their collections and museums so they will be equipped to respond in an organized and efficient manner in the event of an emergency or disaster. 

In recent history, various communities throughout Minnesota have experienced floods, tornadoes, heavy snow, freezing rain/ice, high winds or other disasters that were severe enough to receive federal declaration. In 2005, Heritage Preservation, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), reported that 190 million artifacts in America’s collecting institutions were at risk of being damaged or destroyed. One of the priority actions recommended in their report: Every institution should develop a disaster plan to preserve, protect and reduce risk to their collections. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has made disaster plans one of their five core documents.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

The majority of state and local historical resources are in their original forms. Organizations planning to reformat some part of their collections and/or records into a digital form or microfilm for reasons of access, research, interpretive re-purposing, migration or preservation should apply to this category.  Some of these projects require additional planning worksheets as noted below.

"Reprographic" is the collective term for all processes – mechanical, photographic, or electronic – used to copy, reproduce, or make facsimiles of photographic items, documents, books, or other paper-based materials.

This structured option will assist organizations with collections development to meet patron needs by acquiring microfilm copies of historically valuable records such as newspapers or manuscripts for use in the local community.

Many one-of-a-kind, historically valuable records pertaining to Minnesota localities (e.g., the federal and state census, post office records, local newspapers, church records, and manuscript collections) are held by repositories in Saint Paul, MN; Washington, D.C.; Elk Grove, IL; and Salt Lake City, UT. Travel to these repositories is not always possible. Fortunately, many of the records have been microfilmed to make them more broadly accessible. Having such resources available locally will make your collections more useful to patrons, volunteers, and staff.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

Digital microfilm reader/scanners lack the capacity to create archival quality scans and are inefficient at doing mass scanning of microfilmed documents. These machines will not satisfy digitization standards for digitization of negatives, slides or microfilmed collections for digital archives.

Many libraries, schools, and historical and genealogical organizations maintain and make publicly available microfilm containing local newspapers, naturalization records, local church records, census records and other primary historic documents. Although microfilm readers enable access to these records, it is only partial access. Therefore, small research libraries through this grant must acquire machines capable of creating copies, either through printing on paper or to digital file, or both.

The public expects greater digital access to primary historic documents. A digital reader/scanner will ensure easier access to historical information using a method more compatible with how people conduct research today. Microfilm is a proven long-term medium for storing information. Increasing access to microfilm digitally will ensure that the organization's records will be available for the future.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

The Minnesota Museum Bookshelf, based on the organization of the StEPs program, assembles the basic tools needed to help organizations operate museums that represent their communities fairly, honestly, and accurately.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

This structured grant provides a scholarship for an organization to grow capacity by sending its employees, board members, and volunteers to a national conference, seminar, forum, or symposium that is hosted in the state of Minnesota.

National conferences hosted in the state of Minnesota give a rare opportunity for representatives of an organization to learn best practices, network with colleagues from other states, and share innovative, groundbreaking, and highly professional work happening within Minnesota. In the past decade, history and historic preservation enterprises have used the power of history to improve, shape, and nurture their communities. In order to maintain currency with national best practices, it is important that employees, board members, and volunteers of applicant organizations seek continuing education from national conferences hosted in the state of Minnesota.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

Eligible organizations apply to conduct an archaeological collections assessment for better
understanding the present state of their archaeological collections and to suggest what proper
conditions, storage, and continued care should be. Organizations do this to evaluate, display,
research, and promote their existing and future archaeological collections. This assessment is
for organizations who find that their archaeological collections need separate attention from
their standard collections. A qualified archaeologist or curator will be hired to complete the
assessment and advise staff. Keeping in mind the needs of their existing collections and any
limitations imposed by the historical society, the archaeologist or curator will develop specific
recommendations for immediate as well as long term stabilization, curation, documentation,
and storage care; collection research potential; analytical lab tests which may enhance
collection understanding; and estimated budgets for said projects. It is not the intent of this
grant to create an extensive catalog of existing collections, but rather a document that can assist
in future planning.

One of the basic functions of museums, libraries, and archives is to protect and preserve the
collections for which they are the stewards. Often, archaeological collections, especially Native
American ones, are not readily understood by staff. Understanding the unique requirements
for stabilization, storage, and potential display of archaeological items is a necessary step in this
process.

Museums and archives are responsible for safeguarding and preserving their collections. They
have the additional responsibility of protecting their visitors, employees, volunteers and
vendors as well as the organization’s facilities and assets.

A security survey is a critical on-site examination of an organization’s present security status to
identify deficiencies or excesses, to determine protection needed, and to make
recommendations to improve overall security. A survey is the basis for recommendations for
future action.

This structured grant provides funding to conduct a security survey of the organization to
determine what changes and improvements would be feasible and necessary to improve
physical, personnel, and electronic security measures.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION PROJECTS

This structured application provides funding to conduct an evaluation of a property for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.

National Register properties enrich our understanding of local, state and national history by representing significant events and developments, the contributions of notable people, and important types of buildings and architectural styles. Although the listing is primarily honorary, it can increase resource recognition and preservation, aid in future community planning, and provide limited protection for historic resources. Listing may also provide access to additional funding sources for the rehabilitation or restoration of a property.

NOTE: This structured grant option should only be used if the project’s scope can be accomplished within the grant program’s $10,000 funding limit. If your project exceeds this scope and funding limit, you should follow the Survey, Inventory, and Evaluation guidelines and use the standard Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant application.

STRUCTURED MN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE GRANTS: This project can be applied for as a structured option for small grants ($10,000 or less). The structured option provides a simplified, short form application for projects tailored to common needs of historical organizations. 

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of properties deemed worthy of preservation. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register of Historic Places establishes a uniform standard for evaluating and documenting historic places.  Historic properties listed in the National Register must have historic significance and integrity. Before you can apply for a grant to complete a National Register nomination, the property must have been previously evaluated to determine if it meets the established National Register criteria.

Local government may establish a historic preservation commission that carries out a comprehensive preservation program, including recommending individual properties and areas for designation. Local designations apply to individual buildings, structures, sites, areas, or objects that the commission studies and judges to have historical, architectural, archaeological, or cultural value. While these properties may also be listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, local designations are made solely by the local government.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • National Register nomination form for an individual property or landscape
  • National Register nomination form for a historic district or boundary expansion
  • Multiple Property Documentation Form
  • National Register nomination form for an archaeological site or district, working from evaluation studies or other previous documentation
  • Research and preparation of a Local Designation Report (for communities with a Historic Preservation Commission whose ordinance allows for local designation)

Preservation planning helps decision-makers set priorities that will lead to the protection of historic and cultural resources. Guidance for planning can be found in the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Planning, the SHPO Manual for Archaeological Projects in Minnesota (July 2005), and the Minnesota SHPO's Guidelines for History/Architecture Projects in Minnesota (October 2010). Persons hired in the Historic Preservation Planning category must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Developing a context study through analysis of the community's history
  • Preparing a preservation plan for an archaeological historic district
  • Developing design guidelines for a locally designated or National Register–listed historic district
  • Creating or revising a local preservation ordinance
  • Developing a preservation plan for a community or writing a historic preservation chapter for a city’s comprehensive plan

Surveys of historic properties serve to identify important resources in order that they may be preserved and protected. Surveys also generate information that affords unique insights into a community's past and underpins sound community planning. Many historic properties have not yet been identified through survey. Many historic properties have been identified and documented in surveys but have not been evaluated for their eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places or for local designation through the local Heritage Preservation Commission. Evaluation activities apply established historic contexts and specific evaluation criteria to inventoried historic properties to determine and rank their integrity and level of significance.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

  • Reconnaissance Survey (Phase I) for historic and architectural properties
  • Phase I survey of an archaeological site
  • Resurvey of areas where most recent survey or evaluation reports are more than 10 years old or where additional information warrants resurvey
  • Intensive Survey/Phase II for the evaluation of individual properties, historic districts, archaeological sites, or landscapes for listing in the National Register

Projects in this category plan for and/or stabilize, restore, preserve, reconstruct and/or make accessible buildings, structures or sites that are significant to national, state, or local history and that are open or highly visible to the public.

Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grants received for work performed on a Historic Preservation Tax Incentives project may or may not be considered a qualified rehabilitation expense (QRE) depending on whether or not the grant is considered taxable. The Grants Office recommends applicants consult with a tax attorney to determine the tax implications of comingling financial incentives from multiple programs.

Eligible projects include but are not limited to:

Predevelopment: Research Phase

  • Includes research work for National Register–listed and National Register–eligible historic buildings that conforms to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties:
  • Preparation of a Historic Building Conditions Assessment and treatment recommendations
  • Preparation of a Historic Structure Report (HSR) that will assist the property owner in making appropriate and informed decisions about restoration and maintenance efforts. HSRs must follow the guidance set forth by the National Park Service in Preservation Brief #43: The Preparation and Use of Historic Structure Reports
  • Preparation of a Historic Building Reuse Feasibility Study for a threatened or vacant building
  • Preparation of a Cultural Landscape Report
  • Preparation of a comprehensive Cultural Resource Management Plan
  • Damage assessment of erosion at a National Register–listed archaeological site (see “Historic Preservation Survey, Identification, and Evaluation” section for more information about archaeological studies.)

Predevelopment: Working Drawings/Architectural Plans and Specifications

  • Includes preparing drawings and specifications for a National Register–listed historic building/structure that conforms to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and is eligible under the grant guidelines for construction:
  • Construction documents and specifications for a project that plans for stabilization, restoration, preservation, or ADA accessibility routes or restrooms
  • Construction Documents should illustrate construction work to stabilize, restore, rehabilitate, preserve, or to achieve ADA accessibility at a National Register listed property.

Note: Construction administration fees are not eligible during the predevelopment phase.

Development: Construction Work

  • Includes construction work for a National Register–listed historic building/structure or National Register–listed archaeological site that conforms to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Work must be completed following prevailing wage laws (see Appendix J):
  • Exterior building preservation work (roof, masonry, siding, windows, doors, soffit, porch, foundation, steps)
  • Interior systems work (updating electrical, plumbing, or climate control systems; installing a fire protection or security system)
  • Work to make a building meet ADA accessibility standards (installing a ramp, elevator, lift, or accessible restroom)
  • Restoration of a historic landscape on a National Register–listed property or landscape
  • Conservation and/or stabilization for a compromised or damaged structure
  • Landscaping/site work that:
  • involves the preservation or restoration of a historic landscape
  • is an integral part of an archaeological investigation
  • returns a site to pre-construction condition (note: an archaeologist should be consulted before excavation on a historic site)
  • is an integral part of moisture remediation construction work to achieve positive drainage
  • Construction administration fees (eligible during construction phase only)
  • Acquisition of a National Register–listed historic property threatened by imminent loss or destruction (see Acquisition of Real Property under General Information)