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Ross Merrill Award

The Ross Merrill Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections honors institutions in North America that have shown an exemplary and sustained commitment to conservation and collections care through interpretation, research, scholarship, education, and/or public outreach.

Deadline: January 15

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  • Nominee should be a North American not-for-profit organization of any size responsible for cultural property that may include collections, historic sites and structures. Cultural property is defined as material that may be artistic, historic, scientific, religious or social and is an invaluable and irreplaceable legacy that must be preserved for future generations. Collections can include fine arts, library and archival materials, natural history, natural science, musical instruments, textiles, technology, archaeology, ethnography and photography. If a collection is located in a historical building or site, that building or site should be considered part of the collection. If the nominee does not own objects, historic structures or sites, a case may be made regarding how its activities affect cultural property, for instance through funding or advocacy. Organizations that have preservation or conservation as their sole and exclusive purpose are not eligible recipients of this award.
  • Nominators should provide evidence of the nominee’s sustained and exemplary commitment to the preservation and care of its collections through description of its conservation and preservation activities, special programs and involvement of conservation professionals in decision-making processes. Providing evidence of how the organization has broadened its community’s understanding of the goals of conservation and the importance of preserving cultural property through its conservation activities can strengthen a nomination.
  • Nominators can be any individual within or outside the organization, although when the nomination comes from outside it is useful if the nomination package includes a letter from the institution's director. Letters of support are welcome, and are most appropriate when they come from outside the organization and from individuals knowledgeable about conservation.


  • Nominations should show evidence of involvement of senior conservation professionals who are recognized by their peers, such as Fellows or Professional Associates of the American Institute for Conservation. Nominators should demonstrate this by including a brief (one page or less) summary of the professional credentials of key conservation professionals and describe the role they have played at the institution.
  • Nominations should show evidence of a systematic approach to long-term planning for collections care. Nominators can demonstrate this by descriptions of maintenance plans, condition surveys, future treatment priorities, staffing plans, disaster preparedness guidelines, or storage redesign and upgrades.
  • Nominations should show evidence of community impact and involvement. Nominators can demonstrate this by fundraising efforts, volunteer programs, or educational activities with community groups and schools.
  • Nominations should show evidence of outreach in the form of websites, radio and television coverage, or local newspaper articles.
  • Nominations should show evidence of attempts to recruit support from multiple financial and or personnel resources.
  • Nominations should show evidence of exemplary work and achievements. This award seeks to recognize organizations and programs that can be held up as models for others to emulate.

We encourage nominators to include visual documentation (photography or video) and other supporting materials (publications, etc.) in their nomination materials. Many successful applicants submitted for several award cycles. Re-submissions, particularly with updated information, are always welcome.

A member of our staff, board, or Awards Committee presents the award in the organization's hometown, usually in conjunction with an event involving the organization's board, staff, and various other stakeholders.

This award does not come with any monetary compensation.


  • 2022: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
  • 2020: Bell Museum
  • 2019: The Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • 2017: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
  • 2016: Harvard University
  • 2014: Tudor Place
  • 2013: Henry Morrison Flagler Museum; Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • 2012: Alaska State Museum; Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame
  • 2011: Maymont Foundation
  • 2010: The Architect of the Capitol; Friends of the Iolani Palace
  • 2009: Historic Cherry Hill; Shelburne Museum
  • 2008: Arizona State Museum; Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
  • 2007: Cleveland Public Library
  • 2006: Historical Society of Frederick County, Maryland
  • 2004: Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History; The Henry Ford; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • 2003: LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden; Winterthur, An American Country Estate; Canadian Museum of Nature
  • 2002: City of Buffalo Arts Commission; New York Academy of Medicine; Vermont Museum and Gallery Alliance
  • 2001: The Central Park Conservancy; Judson Memorial Church; the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections; the Sculpture Center
  • 2000: Fairmount Park Art Association; the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Bata Shoe Museum
  • 1999: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation