DOTHAN, Alabama — August 25, 2020 — The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) a grant totaling $9,987 through its Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions program. WMA is one of five institutions in Alabama, and the only museum, to receive NEH funding from its latest round of grants and fellowships.
The funds will support the purchase of preservation supplies and environmental monitoring equipment, including storage supplies and equipment for collecting data and monitoring light levels, temperature, and humidity. The new supplies and equipment will help WMA better safeguard and maintain its permanent and education collections, which include more than 1,100 objects, as well as works under the museum’s care during the run of temporary exhibitions.
The collection consists primarily of works on paper, including pieces by Robert Indiana, Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, and the largest public collection of Frank Stella prints in Alabama. WMA’s collection also includes works by acclaimed Alabama artists, including Dale Kennington, John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Beverly Erdreich, Gary Chapman, Carolyn Sherer, and Scott Stephens, among others. WMA’s permanent collection influences the museum’s exhibition schedule, connecting residents of the Wiregrass to art and artists that tell the stories of the South. The works also serve as inspiration for artists to develop new work and special projects.
“WMA’s permanent collection inspires so much of our work throughout the year including themes for exhibitions, educational programming, and more. It’s critical to be able to provide an environment that is safe for the collection, and that allows WMA to preserve these important works for future generations,” said Dana-Marie Lemmer, WMA’s executive director and curator.
WMA has been taking steps to ensure its commitment to collections care since 2013 when the Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded funding to the museum for assistance to inventory all objects in the collection and to digitize records. Through a grant from the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in 2015, WMA underwent a collections-based risk assessment that helped establish emergency policies and disaster preparedness procedures.
The project funded by the NEH is a direct result of these previous initiatives in collections care, including a 2018 assessment, part of the Collections Assessment for Preservation (CAP) program, which is a joint effort of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation. The program was developed to help small and mid-sized museums better care for their collections.
The preservation and monitoring equipment that will be purchased with the NEH grant is based on the findings and recommendations of the CAP assessment team. The assessors also provided insights into short- and long-term impacts related to the museum’s building; long term needs have proven to be challenging or impossible due to the age and historic status of the facility. WMA’s board and staff continue to prioritize collections care and are considering future plans to include an item-by-item conservation survey.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
The Wiregrass Museum of Art inspires a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs that engage diverse audiences through the collection and exhibition of quality works. Since its founding in 1988, WMA has offered educational programs, nationally acclaimed art exhibitions and community events throughout the year. Its Board of Trustees guides the long-term vision and strategic goals, while its membership, City and County support, and grant funding provide the resources needed to fulfill its mission.
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.