Originally published in Points West magazine
Chiller Thriller and Boiler Spoiler: NEH Infrastructure Challenge Grant Required 3-to-1 Match
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only January 2020 when the Buffalo Bill Center of the West celebrated receiving a $500,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This was great news! With this grant, we would be able to complete a five-year series of high-priority projects to make us more energy efficient, ensure an ideal environment to protect and preserve priceless collections, and vastly improve both security and access throughout the Center.
But (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there?) … it’s called a challenge grant for a reason. The challenge requires a three-to-one match. That means that, by the end of July 2023, we need to raise $1.5 million. The good news (there’s always “good news” too, isn’t there?) … the generosity of donors exceeded what we needed to raise by the end of July 2020, making more than $158,000 in NEH funds available to help pay for the security and access upgrades that have now been completed, and for the upcoming installation of a new chiller and cooling tower.
“We’re off to a very good start with this multi-year project,” Mike Brown, Director of Operations and project director, says. “It hasn’t been without a few glitches and frustrations, but our maintenance and IT crew has managed very well, working with our vendors and contractors.”
Next on the list and planned for 2021 are installing a new chiller and cooling tower, removing an aging steam boiler, and retrofitting air handlers and humidifiers.
“Maintaining a consistent temperature and humidity level in our entire building is critical for the objects in our collection, as well as for the comfort of visitors and staff,” Phil Anthony, Operating Engineer, says. “Our current equipment is beyond its expected life and is getting more and more difficult to maintain. New equipment will be much more energy-efficient as well.”
Now our challenge is to raise $300,000 and certify those gifts before the end of July 2021; $425,000 by the end of July 2022; and another $300,000 by the end of July 2023. A different kind of challenge is the 2020 decline in earned revenues – lower admissions and sales – caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the consequent need for increased support from donors to help cover this shortfall in 2020 and into 2021.
“So far, generosity has not flagged, especially when it comes to keeping our doors open to the public, preserving jobs, and protecting our collections,” Amy Sullivan, Director of Development, says. “We will be asking for additional support for this challenge in a variety of ways in the coming months. We’re confident our donors and members will continue to be generous.”
The Environmental Controls and Security Upgrades to Protect the Collection project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
To make an online donation specifically to this project, visit our “Make a Donation” page and select “NEH Challenge Grant.”