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published on 07/30/2008

Tennessee Aquarium Awarded Prestigious Grant

Communications Manager Tennessee Aquarium & IMAX Theater

Following the path of a single drop of rain as it travels from the mountains of east Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico has always been the central theme at the Tennessee Aquarium. It is a wonderful, yet complex story of how fresh water impacts people, plants and animals. The challenge has always been to tell this story in a fun and lively way. “Our visitors enjoy the rich experience of being surrounded by our living collection of animals and plants. But we also need eye-catching interpretive panels and interactive opportunities to explain the complex web of life and our need to protect it,” said Charlie Arant, Tennessee Aquarium president and CEO. “If the information catches the eye, it can capture the mind.”

Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Tennessee Aquarium will be updating and installing 28 graphic panels and creating four new interactive learning stations along the “Watershed Learning Path” inside the River Journey building. “Design work on the interpretive panels will begin almost immediately and we hope to have all of the panels installed by next August,” said Heather DeGaetano, the Aquarium’s director of development. The four hands-on learning stations will focus on conservation issues related to the Southeast, bringing them to life through a variety of interactive technologies.

The Museums for America grant process is extremely competitive. Last year only two Aquariums in the United States were awarded funding through Museums for America. The Tennessee Aquarium has been successful in securing funding through other IMLS grants recently. In 2005, the Aquarium received $500,000 for a three year National Leadership Grant – the Magnifying the Museums project - which partnered the Aquarium with six other local museums and two local magnet schools. “Museums for America grants support projects and ongoing activities that build museums’ capacities and help these institutions serve their diverse constituencies to the best of their abilities,” said Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The Tennessee Aquarium is the only aquarium or zoo in the United States certified as a Supplementary Education School after completing a multi-phased accreditation process performed by AdvancED. “We work very hard as educators to reach the students who come to the Aquarium through their schools, but we are also teaching all of our guests every day. These improvements will help us achieve our educational goals on a daily basis,” said Tim Baker, the Aquarium’s director of education.

About the 2008 Museums for America Grants:
Number of applications received: 371
Number of awards made: 154
Total amount awarded: $16.9 million
Total recipient match: $32.3 million

Program Statement
Museums for America is the Institute’s largest grant program for museums, providing more than $17 million in grants to support the role of museums in American society to sustain cultural heritage, to support lifelong learning; and to be centers of community engagement. Museums for America grants strengthen a museum’s ability to serve the public more effectively by supporting high-priority activities that advance the institution’s mission and strategic goals.

Museums for America funding will support projects and activities, designed by the institution, that strengthen museums as active resources for lifelong learning and key players in the establishment of livable communities. Museums for America grants are designed to be flexible. They can be used for ongoing museum activities, research and other behind-the-scenes activities, planning activities, new programs or activities, purchase of equipment or services, or other activities that will support the efforts of museums to upgrade and integrate new technologies into their overall institutional effectiveness.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

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