March 16, 2017
Dear Senators Crapo and Risch and Congressman Labrador,
This morning I learned that President Trump’s budget blueprint does not provide for continued funding of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, or the National Endowment for the Arts. I am deeply concerned about the long-term impacts that such cuts would have on museums like the one I lead here in Idaho. The work undertaken by our country’s museums is essential to the cultivation of our national heritage and civic culture. At the Latah County Historical Society, grants from these agencies are investments in our vision of building good citizens, strong communities, and satisfying lives.
Just two months ago our small historical society was able to bring a traveling exhibit, curated by the Smithsonian Institution, to Latah County because of financial support from NEH administered through the Idaho Humanities Council. Several thousand people had a chance to learn through the exhibit, and for many it was their first interaction with the Smithsonian. In 2016 we were also the co-recipients of a $10,000 grant, along with the University of Idaho Library, which allowed us to purchase equipment and software. With that new technology we are traveling throughout Latah County to assist local residents in digitizing and preserving their prized family photos and documents.
These awards are quite small in terms of dollars spent, and yet their impact is incredible. According to a 2012 study by Americans for the Arts, museums and cultural institutions return $5 in tax revenue for every $1 received in funding from all levels of federal government. Museums are also an important part of our economy. More than 400,000 people are employed in museums, and the sector contributes $21 billion to the economy each year.
Thank you, Senators Crapo and Risch, for your support of these organizations. When the IMLS came up for reauthorization in 2010, you and your colleagues passed the bill with unanimous consent. I hope that you will consider the dramatic and detrimental effects that defunding these federal agencies would have on the museums which serve your constituents in Idaho. As you pursue prudent public spending policies through your work on the Senate Committee on the Budget, know that investments in the humanities and arts are good for the economy, good for communities, and good for the future of our country.
Latah County Historical Society