The board that advises the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency that supports museums and libraries through grants (which last year totaled $425.7 million ) and Policy Development, receives 11 new members appointed by US President Joseph R Biden. In addition to advising IMLS for five years, members of the National Museum and Library Services Board help select recipients of the annual National Medals.
The White House announcement the new appointees on August 12, and they include several major figures in the field of American museums, including Halona Norton-Westbrook, director of the Honolulu Museum of Art; Cameron Kitchin, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum; Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin; Allison Perkins, executive director of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in North Carolina; and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, recently appointed director of the Parrish Art Museum in New York.
“It’s a huge honor to see that someone actually pays attention to the super hard work that people do who maybe aren’t always in the spotlight,” Ramírez-Montagut said of the nomination. “The IMLS is one of three federal agencies, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, that awards significant sums to museums, so it’s a huge honor, but it’s also a huge responsibility.”
In a statement, Trump-appointed IMLS Director Crosby Kemper said of the new board members, “Collectively, they represent the importance of diversity in the humanities and demonstrate the role value of museums and libraries in American society. I look forward to working with them and receiving their valuable input.”
IMLS’s role as one of the largest sources of federal arts funding in the United States has also made it a popular target for Republican lawmakers seeking to cut spending and fuel the culture wars. Each year of his presidency, Donald Trump called for the elimination of the institute in its federal budget proposals. With the prospect of a Republican takeover of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections in November and a possible rematch of the 2020 presidential election in 2024, IMLS could once again find itself in the political crosshairs. .
But for Ramírez-Montagut, a Mexican native who has held positions at museums in Michigan, Louisiana, California, Connecticut and more, IMLS-funded organizations are key to fostering inclusion and understanding, and to counter the extreme polarization that has gripped American society.
“I came to this country because I believe in the ideal of a diverse and inclusive America and because I know that’s the environment in which I can thrive, and I think it’s very important that we continue to defend this notion of America to make it a reality for many,” Ramírez-Montagut says. “That’s what museums and libraries do, they educate and enlighten us, they reveal things about ourselves as people, but also at the national level on our country, and without this platform, we will not be able to better serve our fellow citizens. This type of self-awareness through research, education, exhibitions, libraries and archives is of paramount importance.
The 11 new members of the National Museum and Library Services Board officially joined on August 10, but will likely be officially sworn in at a ceremony this fall before the next board meeting in early December.