Moton Museum receives $162,000 federal grant to help boost visitor engagement

The Robert Russa Moton Museum was recently awarded a $162,000 federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support the museum’s efforts to engage young visitors, especially schoolchildren.

“The Moton story teaches visitors about the capacity of everyday, local people to use their constitutional rights to create lasting social change,” said Moton Museum Director Cameron Patterson ’10. “Through the new resources and inquiry-based activities that will be created as part of this project, Moton will be able to engage visitors more deeply in the content that we share and also meet the learning needs of various age groups.”

Specifically, Moton will use the grant funds to

  • Develop a new education section for the museum’s website.
  • Create grade-appropriate lesson plans and online content that is aligned with Virginia’s newly revised K-8 Standards of Learning (SOL).
  • Develop new inquiry-based, engaging programs and activities for people who visit the museum—both physically and virtually.
  • Create formal professional development opportunities for teachers.

The Moton project was selected as one of 131 projects to receive funding out of 472 grant applications for the 2018 Museums for America award. Longwood’s Office of Sponsored Programs and Research assisted with the application for the grant.

“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information and new ideas in the arts, sciences and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “IMLS is proud to support their work through our grantmaking as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”

To achieve the goals outlined in the grant application, Moton Director of Education and Public Programs Cainan Townsend ’15 and museum staff will work with curriculum experts in Longwood’s education department, as well as members of the Moton Council and K-12 curriculum experts from across the commonwealth. They will develop educational materials and field trip experiences aimed at engaging young visitors, especially children who study Virginia history in elementary school.

“Now that the Moton story is part of the Virginia SOLs, this grant will help the museum more effectively reach a broader audience that is hungry for educational materials,” said Longwood Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson, who is also a resident historian at the Moton Museum. “I am pleased that Longwood faculty will work with Moton staff members and area teachers and curriculum specialists to develop these materials. It’s an example of how the partnership between the university and museum can enhance the museum’s educational outreach to schoolchildren throughout the commonwealth.”

The news of the grant award comes on the heels of Moton’s inclusion in a new initiative that connects African American museums around the country—a joint project of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the American Association for State and Local History. Moton was selected through a competitive process to be one of seven African American history organizations in the inaugural cohort. Through the program, Moton will receive guidance in management, mission and governance and take part in an assessment program where the museum staff will review policies and practices, and benchmark Moton against national museum standards.

The other museums selected for the cohort are: the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Michigan; the Evansville African American Museum in Indiana; the Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community in Bridgeport, Connecticut; the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio; and the Northwest African American Museum and the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, both located in Seattle.

“Both the IMLS grant and the selection for the National African American Museums cohort are great opportunities for the museum and represent our continued momentum,” said Moton Council Chair Dorothy Holcomb, a student when Prince Edward County schools were closed from 1959-1964. “The museum has a powerful story to tell and both opportunities will help to do that.”

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