IAM Awards

Toot your horn!

Do you have an exhibit, program, or publication that exemplifies best practices? Did your organization reach a milestone this year? Do you have a staff member or volunteer that has made a major contribution to the field? Each year IAM is proud to celebrate the best in Illinois museums. All Illinois Association of Museums Institutional members are eligible to apply.

Institutions may only apply for two awards each year.


Nomination for Anniversary & Service Awards

Nomination for Award of Distinction

Nomination for Award of Best Practices

Award of Distinction: (Competitive Award)

Awards of Distinction recognize achievements and excellence in the museum field. Typically, one institution or individual per category will be honored. However, the IAM Awards Committee reserves the right to grant more than one award in a category. No institution or individual may win the same award more often than once every five years.

Institutional Awards:

Volunteer Institution of the Year: No paid staff.
Small Institution of the Year: Paid staff and budget less than $250,000 per year.
Mid-size Institution of the Year: Paid staff and budget of  $250,001 to $999,999 per year.
Large Institution of the Year: Paid Staff and budget of $1,000,000 to 4,999,999 per year.
Leader Institution of the Year: Paid staff and budget of $5,000,000 or more per year.

Individual Awards:

Volunteer of the Year: Five years of service in Illinois.
Professional of the Year: Ten years professional experience with five years in Illinois, professional involvement outside institution. 
Board Member of the Year: Ten years volunteer trustee service in Illinois.
Policy Maker of the Year: An elected official and  supportive of museums in Illinois.
Museum Studies Graduate Student of the Year: Nominated by the faculty of the museum studies program.


Anniversary and Service Awards:

The Anniversary Awards will be given to member institutions who are celebrating special anniversaries: the Silver Award for twenty-five years in existence, the Gold Award for fifty years, the Platinum Award for seventy-five years, and the Diamond Award for one hundred years.
The Service Awards will be given to recognize volunteers with long years of faithful service at member institutions.  The Silver Award will recognize twenty-five years of service, and the Gold Award honors fifty years of service.
Lifetime Professional Achievement: Twenty-five years of service with a minimum of fifteen years in Illinois.
Lifetime Volunteer Achievement: Twenty-five years of service with a minimum of fifteen years in Illinois.


Award of Best Practices Categories:

If the nomination is ongoing, it can only be nominated in its first two years or after substantial changes are made to it in subsequent years.


Collection Conservation    

Conservation projects of collections of scientific, historic or art materials are entered in this category.  The narrative must include information about how the project was implemented to follow accepted museum standards and how the project relates to the institution’s general conservation plan. A Conservator’s report, if available, should be submitted.

Building and/or Site Preservation

Building and/or site preservation nominations must include a description of the scope of the work done on the building/site, information about phases of the project, evidence to justify the restoration decisions made (photographs, old documents, architectural evidence, etc.), a structural report if one was prepared, and before-and-after photographs. 


The narrative of this nomination must include a description of the planning process for the exhibit and an evaluation of its effectiveness.  Support materials must include photographs of the exhibit in place, sample label copy, drawings showing the layout and size of the exhibit space, and a general description of artifacts if applicable.

Educational Programs

Both formal and informal educational programs used on site or off site are eligible for this category.  The nomination must include planning strategies, educational objectives and goals, and evaluation of its effectiveness. Teacher’s guides and lesson plans, and any supplementary material pertinent to the program should be included if applicable.

Printed Materials

Periodicals-Regularly released publications (annual, quarterly, monthly, etc.) may be nominated. If major changes have been made, before and after examples must be included. A full year of publications must be submitted as well. Periodicals that have previously won an award from IAM must demonstrate a new design or new focus. Indicate if the institution’s annual report is programmatic, financial or both.  Popular Publications- Pictorial books, cookbooks, guide books, coloring books, and some exhibit catalogs are examples. The nomination must include information about planning for the publications, authorship, and design, and the relationship between the publication and the mission of the institution.  Promotional/Informative Materials- Informational brochures, pamphlets, development program publications, annual reports, calendars, posters, policy and procedures manuals, docent training manuals, etc.

Virtual Materials

Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, videos, and other creative uses of the internet to further the institution’s mission may be nominated. Social Media that have previously won an award from IAM must demonstrate a new design or focus.

Special Projects

This category honors all one-time projects that were developed and implemented for a specific reason or to celebrate a specific event.  The nomination must include goals and objectives of the project, how the project relates to the mission of the institution, how the project was planned and implemented, and an evaluation of its effectiveness.

Green Initiatives

Initiatives by your institution to create a culture of environmental responsibility and sustainability either in its building, operations, programming, or within its community. Share your eco-friendly accomplishments. Please include the goals, the outcomes, and how success was measured and achieved. 

Community Partnerships

A partnership, for this award, is a formal arrangement between a learning institution (museum, zoo, nature center, etc.) and another institution such as a school/college/university, government, taxing district, association, private sector organization, or public profit and/or nonprofit institution to provide a program, service or resource that supports and advances the mission of both partners and engages and empowers the chosen community. Examples are partnering on a curriculum to connect students to a museum, partnering with health providers to serve patients with Alzheimer’s, autism, etc., camp programs, workshop series, a community vegetable garden, serving underserve audiences, etc. Please include why the partnership was formed, the goals for each partner, the outcomes and how success was measured and achieved.


Prior Award Winners

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
2008 2007 2006 2005 2014