July 26, 2023
Contact: Judith Cebula
317.916.7327 |


Lilly Endowment seeks to improve public understanding of religion with grant opportunity for museums and other cultural organizations


INDIANAPOLIS – Lilly Endowment Inc. is inviting museums, historical sites and other cultural organizations through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative to consider how they could develop exhibitions, educational programs or other activities to provide fair, accurate and balanced portrayals of the role religion has played and continues to play in the United States and around the world.

The primary aim of the initiative is to improve the public understanding of religion and thus foster greater knowledge of and respect for people of diverse religious traditions.

Through this open and competitive round of the initiative, the Endowment is making available up to $78 million in grants. Eligible organizations can participate by submitting concept papers that detail their ideas about activities focused on religion that align with their missions. Selected organizations will receive planning grants of up to $100,000 and be invited to submit implementation proposals for grants of up to $2.5 million.

“The United States is widely considered to be one of the most religiously diverse nations today,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Religious beliefs and practices play critical roles in the lives of many individuals and families and influence aspects of public life. With this initiative, we are encouraging museums and cultural organizations to imagine and undertake projects that help their visitors gain understanding about and appreciation for the diverse religious beliefs, practices and perspectives of their neighbors and others in communities around the world.”

Through the initiative, the Endowment seeks to help organizations engage in efforts that inform individuals and families about the beliefs and practices of particular religious traditions, provide insights into the religious dimensions of historic and contemporary events, and  explore a wide variety of religious topics and themes relevant to their contexts and missions.

Learn more about the request for concept papers here.

“Today, museums and other cultural organizations are among the most trusted institutions in the United States. As such, they play an essential role in informing visitors about the world,” Coble said. “We are eager to support efforts that can assist these important organizations in strengthening their abilities to incorporate religion more fully into their interpretive activities.”

This grant opportunity builds on earlier Endowment-funded efforts to enhance public understanding of religion, including grants to support religion projects at more than three dozen organizations made through invitational rounds of the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative and other related grants. Examples of these organizations and their Endowment-funded projects include:

  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which is mounting Sacred Places, an immersive exhibition that invites children and families to learn about the beliefs and practices of five religious traditions by exploring places that these traditions consider sacred.
  • The Heard Museum in Phoenix, which created Substance of the Stars, a permanent exhibition that explores the origin stories and spiritual practices of four indigenous communities.
  • The International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C. , which opened this summer and has incorporated African American religious traditions and practices into its exhibitions, programs and community collaborations.
  • MFA Boston in Boston, which established an endowment for an assistant curator of Islamic art.
  • The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, which incorporated religious themes into its exhibitions and hired a curator to focus on faith and religion.
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, which established the Center for the Public Understanding of Religion in American History and is creating a new gallery on religion in American history.
  • The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, which is renovating its exhibitions to improve understanding of Judaism and its varied traditions in the United States.

Learn more about these and other Endowment-supported projects here.

About Lilly Endowment
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community developmenteducation and religion.  Although the Endowment maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana, it also funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion.  While the primary aim of its religion grantmaking focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States, the Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and diverse religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.