Historical Reminiscents EP 26: The Grant Writing Learning Curve

Mason jar with lights in it. Right side reads "Episode 26: The Grant Writing Learning Curve."

If you work in the heritage field or for a non-profit there is a good chance you’ve been involved in grants in some way shape or form. Despite the prevalence of grant writing in public history not all public history students are trained in how to apply for grants. In this episode I discuss what you need to know about grant guidelines, writing style, and crafting a grant application for the first time.

I would love to hear about your experience writing grants, leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter.

This podcast was inspired by a listener suggestion! Are there other topics you think I should cover? Please let me know.

Other Resources:
-Katie Linder, Research in Action Podcast on Grant Writing Basics

Download or listen now.

Outreach, Fundraising and Donor Relationships

OutreachLast Friday the Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC) hosted and webcast an “Outreach, Fundraising and Donor Relationships” roundtable.  It was a really interesting discussion and I’d recommend anyone interested in outreach and donor relationships watch the recording of the roundtable.  The discussion focused on the outreach experiences of the participating archivists, how to build successful outreach programs, the challenges of fundraising, and building “Friends of the Archives” partnerships.

It was interesting to hear about the wide range of outreach programs that have focused on digital outreach including: building social media presences which play on an organizations strength and accept an organization’s staffing limitations; using digitization as the basis to encourage community building; using social media to stay relevant and in the minds of the local community; and using digital initiatives to highlight the capacity of archives to care for donations.

The discussion also touched on the role of education of as a form of outreach.  I found the example of UBC’s integration of archival literacy instruction into first year courses particularly interesting.  I think there is a definite need for instruction to be integrated into history programs at earlier points and getting students into the archives early can be beneficial to the archives and provide valuable skills which students can use throughout their university career.

In contrast the roundtable also included a discussion of outreach activities aimed at children and the general public.  I think a lot of great points were made about thinking creatively, bringing archival collections into public spaces, and the need to make archives interesting.  So in the case of children providing tactile learning opportunities or working with visual examples can be a stepping stone to introduce the idea of archives.

Over the past couple of years I’ve really enjoyed working with elementary and high school students and coming up with creative ways to present archival material in an accessible way.  As an example as part of Grade 11 days I created an activity which used reproductions of site photographs of the Shingwauk Residential School/Algoma University.  The activity had students arrange the photographs from oldest to newest and taught about the changing landscape and usage of the site.  It was a short but fun activity that allowed for a glimpse into the archives.  I’ve re-purposed this exercise a few times for visiting classes and it has served as a stepping stone for larger historical conversations.

Commodifying Archives

The July/August issue of Muse contains an article by Toni Lin on “The Role of Commodification in Archival Institutions.”  Lin does an excellent job of outlining the perceived pros and cons of commidification and the impact it can have on public access, archival funding, and preservation.

The article concludes that some level of commodification may be necessary for many institutions and can serve as a way to bolster shrinking revenues. Research services, reproduction of archival materials and legal sale of deaccessioned materials can be viable funding supplementation options.

Lin notes that there must be an balance been the need to provide free open access to archives and charging for research or reproduction fees.  She suggests that archival institutions should benefit financially from doing research instead of the money going private researchers.  This isn’t a bad idea — but for many archives adding in-depth research services simply isn’t possible.  Staffing constraints, particularly in smaller institutions, often make offering full research services impossible. 

Digital reproduction and user fees are another way in which archives can recoup or raise funding.  Many institutions have opted to allow users to obtain personal use or research copies of materials free of charge.  This is then balanced by charging for high resolution images, commercial uses, and publication quality prints. At times navigating copyright and privacy legislation can make this reproduction and user fee service more challenging.  And these fees often don’t make a huge amount of money but they do help offset costs.

Overall, Lin’s piece highlights the changing financial landscape facing archives and other heritage organizations.  It is becoming increasingly necessary for organizations to look to new funding sources and ideas.  Commodification and using collections to raise funds isn’t a new idea, but it is one that might gain more prominence as budgets continue to shrink. 

Five Years Later: Looking Back at the Residential School Apology

June 11th marked the fifth anniversary of the Canadian Government’s formal Residential School apology.  This apology took place in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008 and included a number of commitments toward healing and reconciliation and redressing the historical wrongs of Residential Schools.  The full text of the apology can be seen here.

What progress has been made since 2008? The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that began in 2007 has played out across Canada.  Deadlines for the Common Experience Payment and Independent Assessment Process have passed and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is nearing the deadline of it’s mandate.  Despite these deadlines having passed or approaching the TRC is still struggling to gather all relevant information relating to Residential Schools, there are a number of Residential School Survivors did not participate in the CEP or IAP processes, and students who attended day schools have yet to been formally addressed by the Canadian government.

Since 2008, funding to numerous Aboriginal organizations have been cut.  Organizations that were impacted by these cuts include: the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, National Aboriginal Health Organization, the Aboriginal Portal, the health budget of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), health funding to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and many other organizations.

On June 3rd Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada announced a new slate of funding changes and cuts to 43 Aboriginal organizations. These new cuts impacts the AFN, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis National Council and ITK.

The loss of funding to health programs and continued under funding of educational programs in remote communities is a stark contrast to the promises made in the 2008 Apology.  Promises of building relationships and supporting communities are good in theory, but actions speak louder that words. Added to the historic wrongs of Residential Schools, a history of colonialism and broken promises, the recent actions of the government have the potential to have impacts of ongoing efforts of healing and reconciliation.

Active, Digital, Public History

Friday morning at NCPH I presented as part of the “Reaching the Public through the Web: The Practice of Digital Active History” panel with Ian Milligan, Devon Elliott, Tom Peace, and Nathan Smith as the facilitator.  I won’t rehash our panel as a lot has already been written to summarize our presentations.  Prior to the conference Ian wrote a great high level summary of our panel.  Following the session Clarissa Ceglio posted her rapid fire notes of the session in google docs and Jim Clifford provided a summary of the Active History panels at NCPH.

 Following our panel I sat in on the “Working Group: Teaching Digital History and New Media” session.  Despite this being a working group session the audience and the working group participants were both involved in the discussion of digital history.  The session participants were broken into three smaller groups for discussion and then reunited for discussion as a larger group.

I felt the session format was interesting but I would have been just as happy hearing some of the working group participants speak about their experiences.  The working group format is ideal for discussions being developed over longer periods of time with sessions being fruits of that discussion–by involving the audience some of that background conversation might have been missed.  That being said, the twitter back channel during this session was full of useful comments about digital history as public history and the teaching of digital history.

My Friday session attendance concluded with the “After the Cuts: The Future of History in Canada” roundtable.  The roundtable featured representatives from prominent Canadian heritage organizations including: Lyle Dick (CHA), Ellen Judd (Canadian Anthropological Society), William Ross (Canadian Archaeological Association), and Loryl MacDonald (Association of Canadian Archivists).  The session was packed and was standing room only.

The participants focused on the impact of recent cuts to government funding and problems communicating with national heritage organizations.  This panel highlighted the widespread concerns professional organizations have with Canadian heritage cuts, the loss of programing, and impending sense of doom surrounding many recent government decisions.  The session was recorded by Sean Graham of History Slam Podcast fame and should be available in some format in the near future.

Canadian Heritage Cutbacks

This week has been filled with announcements of program cancellations, staff reductions, and budget restrictions.  Many of these announcements have been related to Canada’s heritage field and have the potential to drastically impact heritage sites, archives, and history preservation across the country.

The major announcements include:

  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has announced a 20% reduction in staff.  This means that you will no longer be able to visit the archive without an appointment, as reference service staff is being significantly reduced.  There are also rumors about the entire Inter-library Loans department being scrapped at LAC.  This would be a huge blow to researchers and institutions throughout Canada who rely on loans to access material. 
  • Parks Canada has been hit hard by the recent public service cuts.  Parks staff have been told that 638 positions will be eliminated in the upcoming year.  The impact on individual historic sites will vary, but a number of parks will be greatly impacted.  
    • For example, it was announced that the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia will be letting go of ten staff members and reducing the hours of at least 110 employees.  As a result of this staffing cut and funding reductions the parks hours and services will be reduced. 
  • The National Archival Development Program (NADP) has been cut. The NADP was a grant program that funded archives projects across Canada.  Many archival programs, archival staff, and community resources will be eliminated with this decision.
  • The Canadian Council of Archives office has been closed. More information on this decision is to be announced in the near future.  On April 30, 2012 Lara Wilson, Chair of CCA announced that “with the exception of the minor capacity needed to administer Young Canada Works (YCW) and the National Archival Appraisal Board (NAAB), the current CCA staff will no longer be in place and our office will be closing.”  Currently it seems as though this level of national support will no longer be available to archives.

I wouldn’t change my decision to delve into the world of public history.  However, these recent trends provide mountains for new and experienced professionals to overcome.  Employment opportunities, professional support, and funding avenues seem to be on the decline on multiple fronts.  

These cuts will also have a significant impact on the heritage field’s ability to communicate Canada’s past to the general public.  Staffing and budget cuts result in less acquisitions, reduced level of care, and less community outreach and programming.  I think the general public, educators, and the government need a reminder of the value of history and heritage.

Government Endorsement of Open Source Alternatives

Open source is finally gaining some governmental approval. From January 20th to February 19th 2009, Public Works and Government Services Canada is accepting submissions of “no-charge licensed software”, also known as open source software. Some open source advocates are hoping this new found acceptance of open source software, is a sign of a movement towards a more universal acceptance of open source resources.

Despite some resistance to open source software, apparently the Canadian government already makes use of some open source software. One of the obvious reasons for using open source software is the financial benefits. If the Canadian government, which is one of the best financed institutions in Canada is using open source software, smaller underfunded institutions (such as many museums) should be readily accepting open source alternatives. However, despite the growing use of open source popularity in some fields, many businesses are still wary of using something free, as they fear the quality will be inferior quality. In fact sometimes an open source version is just as good or better than a costly one. Maybe the more publicized use of open source products will encourage more organizations to try some open source software…it is free to try after all.