"I would like to conduct an experiment," said Lee Kimche. "I would like to go down the street and just ask a variety of artists and scientists how they got interested in what they're now doing. I know what the answer will be with the scientists. Seventy-five percent will say they got interested from museums. Whenever I meet scientists, they always say, 'Oh, I spent my formative years in museums.' Museums are motivators."
Some 403 museums nationwide will receive a total of $7.4 million in federal grant money from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Institute of Museum Services, which Kimche directs. The announcement will be made today.
The grant program allows museums to keep "motivating" through educational programs and available galleries, which often get cut back when money becomes tight.
The grants will go to museums ranging from some of the poorest to perhaps the richest in the United States -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The use of the money is totally unrestricted -- the museum simply takes it and runs with it.
"We ask the museums to submit overall budgets," said Kimche, "but we leave it up to the museum to decide what to do with the money. When you tell them what to do, you're imposing the federal government's values. We're not telling museums what kind of programs to pursue. We believe in the integrity of the museum."
The grants fund such basics as utility costs for museums and costs for hiring more security guards.
"The Met has an annual operating budget of $45 million," said Kimche. "But it still ends up cutting back on costs by closing some of its galleries. It doesn't have enough guards. This money will probably enable it to have two guards more and keep one gallery open year round."
The Met will get a $25,000 grant, the largest single-sum grant awarded. Kimche said that incomes for museums have risen 30 percent nationwide, but that expenses have risen 35 percent.
"The larger museums have to have money to continue presenting quality," said Kimche.
Locally, the Corcoran Gallery will receive $25,000 from the Institute. So will the Folger Library and the Octagon House, an architectural museum.
Other District recipients include the Bethune Memorial Museum and National Archive ($20,262), the Dimock Gallery ($11,220) and the Kuumba Learning Center ($25,000).
The two-year institute is one of the fastest-growing in the federal government, Kimche said. The program received $7.8 million in fiscal 1979, and she expects it to receive $10.9 million in fiscal 1980 (which begins this October).