Call For Proposals | Cultural Emergency Response Programme | Prince Claus Fund & Whiting Foundation


First aid to documentary heritage under threat


The Prince Claus Fund, through its Cultural Emergency Response programme (CER), and the Whiting Foundation announce a new call for proposals for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to safeguard documentary heritage that is acutely threatened by recent conflict or other disaster, whether natural or man-made.

Manuscripts, rare books, archives, tablets, inscriptions, and other kinds of documentary heritage are living records of the ideas of bygone eras, sometimes the only form in which the past survives. Whether they are housed in libraries or held by families who have passed them down from generation to generation, they are cherished by the people who watch over them as objects of historical importance and deep local meaning. They are also especially fragile vessels, susceptible to fire, insects, and humidity – and sometimes singled out for deliberate destruction by those afraid of their power to express viewpoints and cultivate nuance.

When disaster strikes – an earthquake, a flood, or an armed attack – the threat to these cultural objects is heightened; when it is overlooked or local resources for rescue are lacking, the heritage may be lost forever. CER has a history of helping to prevent or minimize such loss, for example by providing swift funding in Timbuktu, Mali to begin the evacuation, digitisation, and inventorying of hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts to save them from the hands of militants; in Nepal to salvage the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya archives – one of the largest repositories of Nepali-language materials in the world – after severe earthquake damage; and in war-torn Syria for the removal to safety of the Knooz archive of 19th and 20th century journalism.

This new funding collaboration aims to continue this work, helping preserve writing for a new generation, contribute to the appreciation of cultural achievement, diversity, and history, and support the dissemination of forgotten or endangered stories worldwide.


1. Is my project eligible?
·         The project must aim to safeguard documentary heritage (i.e., cultural heritage designed to carry information in writing, such as manuscripts, books, archives, tablets, and carvings or inscriptions).
·         The project must respond to a current or impending, acute disaster to offer relief in an emergency situation.
·         The country where the intervention will take place must be in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and the applying organisation or individual must live and work in one of these regions.
·         The heritage involved must be significant for a specific community, whether local, regional, national, or global; it may also have wider cultural value (artistic, architectural, and/or historical).
·         Local communities and/or local authorities must be involved in the emergency response, and the legal owner must support the proposed measures.
·         The intervention must be able to be carried out within a time frame of twelve months, corresponding to the emergency character of the collaboration.
·         No direct or indirect support will be provided to individuals or organisations currently subject to US sanctions.
·         Previous grantees of the Prince Claus Fund may not apply for a new grant unless the previous funded project is finished and closed before the application submission deadline for this year.

2. What expenses are eligible to be covered?
·         Grants will average about €15,000.
·         Grant funds can only cover project-related expenses, not running (operating) costs for organisations.
·         No support will be provided retroactively (i.e., to projects already implemented).

If your archive is not in acute danger and therefore will not be considered for the Prince Claus Fund’s CER programme, the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme offers a number of grants every year to individual researchers world-wide to locate vulnerable archival collections, to arrange their transfer wherever possible to a suitable local archival home, and to deliver digital copies into the international research domain via the British Library. The next call for preliminary applications will be in September. For more information, please visit their website.


Projects will be evaluated by Prince Claus Fund staff and expert outside reviewers. The selection criteria are:
·         urgency of the need identified – the threat must be pressing
·         soundness and sustainability of the plan for preservation and/or dissemination – the plan must be feasible, realistic, and well thought out to prevent or limit future vulnerability
·         significance of the threatened documentary heritage to local, regional, and/or world communities – the heritage must be of value to an identified group of people

This grant selection aims to ensure that projects are selected in a transparent and fair manner, according to clear criteria, and through a rigorous process giving due consideration to all proposals that meet the eligibility requirements.


Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis until 31 December 2017 at 17:00 Amsterdam time (CET). Applications received after this deadline cannot be considered.

To apply, please send a brief statement of need, with supporting materials (if available), to, in English, French, or Spanish. This should include at least the following:

1.      Information about the applying organisation / individual:
a.       Name
b.      Home country
c.       Type of organization (e.g., private not-for-profit, governmental organization)  

2.      Information about the documentary heritage:
a.       Name
b.      Location
c.       Owner
d.      Individual / organisation responsible for management
e.       Significance of the heritage for the affected community
f.        Wider cultural value of the heritage (e.g., artistic, architectural, historical)

3.      Information about the disaster and the project to safeguard the heritage:
g.       Description of disaster that has damaged or threatens the heritage
h.      Damage to the heritage and risks if immediate action is not taken
i.        Activities proposed for safeguarding the heritage
j.        Expected timeframe for the proposed activities
k.      Estimated budget for the work

4.      Supporting materials (if available), such as:
a.       Photographs of the heritage
b.      Links to online images or information

Applicants will receive an email confirmation once the statement of need has been received. The most promising applicants will be invited within about seven days to submit a more complete application. Given the urgent nature of these projects, it is anticipated that, in most cases, complete applications will receive final decisions within a few weeks. The response time may be longer if additional information is needed from applicants.


The Whiting Foundation supports literature and the humanities. We believe that it is imperative that the collective treasures of history and memory be passed on to the future with as little loss as we can manage. Recognizing that irreplaceable cultural heritage is being destroyed at an alarming rate around the globe, we are committed to supporting the urgent fight to save the fruits of human civilization.


Based on the principle that culture is a basic need, the Prince Claus Fund’s mission is to actively seek cultural collaborations founded on equality and trust, with partners of excellence, in spaces where resources and opportunities for cultural expression, creative production and research are limited and cultural heritage is threatened.

Through its Cultural Emergency Response (CER) programme, the Fund provides rapid and effective emergency relief for cultural heritage affected by man-made or natural disasters. By taking immediate action, CER aims to prevent further damage and implement basic repairs. Launched in 2003 in reaction to the looting and demolition of artworks from the National Museum of Iraq, CER believes that rescuing cultural heritage provides hope and consolation to affected communities and thereby contributes to restoring human dignity, continuity and a sense of identity. Culture is a basic need and cultural emergency relief should therefore be an integral part of humanitarian aid.