First Amendment Museum Receives a $249,000 Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

First Amendment Museum Receives a $249,000 Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

A rendering of the design for the completed First Amendment Museum in Augusta.

The First Amendment Museum (FAM) was awarded a highly competitive Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the amount of $249,000 to “Complete the Permanent Exhibition Design for the First Amendment Museum.” The FAM is a new non-partisan museum focused on educating and inspiring individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. 

“The FAM is thrilled to receive this federal grant which will move our project forward in important ways,” said Christian Cotz, CEO. “The museum’s exhibitions will demonstrate how Americans have utilized their First Amendment rights as a tool to advance our society and to create that ‘more perfect union’ that is our civic charge. But perhaps more importantly, these dynamic, thought-provoking, and interactive exhibitions will inspire people to live their freedoms and exercise their rights in more intentional and effective ways.”

The First Amendment Museum has embarked on a sitewide restoration project to transform the historic Guy P. Gannett house, located next to the Maine State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, into a 21st-century museum. The exhibition will be created by celebrated designer Helen Reigle of HER Design in Boston, whose portfolio includes the Boston Public Library’s Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s A Whole New Game, and America on The Move at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“This major grant will help us create a visitor experience that is unique, interactive, and relevant,” said Genie Gannett, Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors. “We’re tremendously grateful to the IMLS for their generous support of this effort.” 

The state-of-the-art exhibition will allow visitors to encounter, interact with, and reflect upon their rights by reinforcing the notion that we utilize and engage with our First Amendment freedoms daily, often inside our own homes. Incorporating best practices for exhibition design, each room of the museum will interpret a particular aspect of the First Amendment. For example, a dystopian kitchen will show what life would be like in a society without the First Amendment; the Library of Censorship will highlight books, movies, and music that have been banned throughout the years; a teen bedroom will explore youth speech and social media; and the exercise room will engage kinesthetic learners. 

A dystopian kitchen will show what life would be like in a society without the First Amendment.

The completion of this exhibition will contribute to visitors’ understanding of their First Amendment rights and inspire them to practice and preserve the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

“We are in the beginning stages of this campaign to build an inspiring new museum here in Maine,” said Jamie O’Brien, Chief Development Officer. “The IMLS Grant is an important step, and we hope others will join us in this non-partisan project to inspire and educate on the importance of utilizing our First Amendment rights for the betterment of our society and our country.” 

About the First Amendment Museum

The First Amendment is the cornerstone of democracy; when Americans value our freedoms, democracy thrives. The First Amendment Museum is a non-partisan museum that inspires us to “Live Our Freedoms” by understanding and using our First Amendment rights to advance democracy so that all reap the benefits. Visitors can explore the Museum located in the historic capitol district of Augusta on free guided tours of the temporary exhibition spaces – available from 10 am – 4 pm, Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays until September 4th.

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