Release Date: 
August 21, 2012

Four Balboa Park institutions are pleased to announce grant awards from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support exciting new projects that will increase access to the arts for seniors, create participatory experiences for visitors, and increase online access to collections information. 

"I’d like to recognize these organizations for their efforts to engage the community in everything the arts has to offer," said Rep. Susan Davis. "This funding will help address the special needs of some of the museum’s visitors to enhance their experience of the visual arts and maybe even inspire guests to express themselves through this diverse medium."

The four recipients are the Museum of Photographic Arts, The Japanese Friendship Garden, The San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

The Museum of Photographic Arts: Increasing Access for Seniors in San Diego

The Museum of Photographic Arts received $149,506 over 3 years  to support Accessibility Through Seniors, a comprehensive approach to providing increased access and comfort to all museum visitors by directly serving the needs of seniors.

"The funding from the IMLS Museums for America grant allows us to expand our arts programs for senior citizens and serve more of their needs,” said Joaquin Ortiz,Interim Director of Education. “It will also make MOPA a more accessible space for people of all ages, and allow us to share what we learn with museums throughout the nation."

The Accesibilty Through Seniors project will provide creative and social engagement for senior citizens living in San Diego, improve the Museum’s facilities to better accommodate seniorand culminate in a series of trainings, a manual and a website to share project findings and to assist other museums in improving the visitor experience.

The Japanese Friendship Garden: Creating Participatory Experiences

The Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego was awarded $83,150 to implement a collaborative project called the Zen of Multi-Touch with five other Japanese gardens across the country. The project has a particular emphasis on improving visitors’ knowledge of Japanese language, culture, and horticulture through participatory audio and visual tours, while also strengthening the connections between the gardens. 

The San Diego Natural History Museum: Integrating Information

The San Diego Society of Natural History received a $141,829 award that will allow the Department of Herpetology to create a website for the Herpetology Atlas of Peninsula California that will deliver collections information in an integrated format centered on geospatial data. The award fits with the San Diego Natural History Museum’s emphasis on the use of collections-based research to better understand the complex biodiversity of southern California and the Baja peninsula, with a project that will integrate over 76,000 specimens from over 19,000 locations.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum: Sharing the Collection

The San Diego Air & Space Museum’s Library & Archives received $124,500 that will fund the continued development of online access to its extensive collection over the course of two years. By partnering with the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, the project will harness the power of advanced technology to share photographs, films and rare books with a digital audience.

Thanks to an initial grant from the Legler Benbough Foundation, the Museum has already uploaded over 135,000 digitized images to, as well as over 400 rare films to YouTube. The Museum’s page has received over seven million views in just over two years. In addition to increasing collection visibility, the platform has both allowed and encouraged the online community to identify images and to add information to the catalog system. The Museum’s online image and film collection is thought to be the largest of its type in the world, and is growing, but it represents only a small part of the Museum’s total collection, likely less than five percent. Both the IMLS and Goodrich Aerostructures grants will support the continuation of that effort, which the Museum has titled Great Explorations: Increasing Online Access.



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 123,000 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. Learn more at

About the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego:

The Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego is dedicated to providing educational programs and workshops that encourage wellness, art, and an understanding and appreciation of Japanese heritage among people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Learn more at

About the Museum of Photographic Arts:

MOPA is a center for visual learning, passionately dedicated to sharing and exploring the universal language of photography. To learn more, visit

About the San Diego Air & Space Museum:

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is California's official air and space museum and education center. The Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it was the first aero-themed Museum to be accredited by the American Association of Museums.

About the San Diego Natural History Museum:

The San Diego Natural History Museum is the second oldest scientific institution in California and the third oldest west of the Mississippi. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum’s mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico; and to inspire in all people respect for the environment. To learn more, visit