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Program Overview

The Smithsonian's unparalleled collections, scholarship, and exhibitions document the world in all of its beauty, diversity, and complexity. The mission of Smithsonian Affiliations is to share these resources with Americans in their own communities by developing collaborative partnerships with museums, cultural and educational organizations. Together, we bring the Smithsonian, in all of its breadth and scope, to local communities and create lasting experiences that broaden perspectives on science, history, world cultures and the arts.

Smithsonian Affiliations offers broader opportunities than those found in standard museum loan programs. In addition to artifact loans, Smithsonian Affiliations helps member organizations identify appropriate resources within the Smithsonian to accompany exhibit loans: education and performing arts programs, expert speakers, teacher workshops, and technical assistance. These may also serve as stand alone activities developed specifically for Affiliate members. Smithsonian Affiliations also offers career development workshops for museum professions, stipended internships for Affiliate-based students, and stipended research opportunities for Affiliate-based visiting professionals. A Smithsonian Affiliate may use the tag line, "In Association with the Smithsonian Institution."

Any 501(c)(3) nonprofit or publicly-operated museum, arts/culture/science center, or educational organization, interested in obtaining Smithsonian collections on a long-term basis can apply to become a Smithsonian Affiliate. The Smithsonian considers proposals from institutions whose missions are parallel to the Smithsonian's and who demonstrate a strong commitment to serving their communities.

Cultural or educational organizations interested in participating in the program need to submit a proposal to the Smithsonian Affiliations office. The proposal should include documentation verifying the organization's nonprofit status, a mission statement, organization chart, collections management policy and a facilities report that follows the American Alliance of Museums format.

After the proposal is reviewed and approved, the Smithsonian drafts a Letter of Intent (LOI) which is signed by the Director of Smithsonian Affiliations and the authorized representative of the affiliating organization. The affiliating organization may then refer to itself as a "Smithsonian Affiliate" and may use the Smithsonian Affiliations logo and tag line according to established guidelines.

Smithsonian Affiliations will assign a staff Coordinator to work directly with the new affiliating organization. The staff coordinator will assist in linking the Affiliate to appropriate individuals and offices within the Smithsonian in order to expedite the process of identifying artifacts or programmatic resources. The Coordinator, in conjunction with other staff at the Smithsonian, will work with the Affiliate to determine the scope and feasibility of each request. The Affiliate is responsible for paying direct costs associated with borrowing artifacts. These typically include conservation treatment, packing, shipping, insurance, and if necessary, staff travel for installation and deinstallation of exhibits.

The Affiliation agreement is intended to establish a long-term partnership between the Smithsonian and the affiliating organization. There is no time limitation on the partnership; it can last as long as both parties find it mutually beneficial. As long as the partnership is in place, the affiliating organization agrees to pay an annual fee of $3,000 in order to cover administrative costs associated with the program. The affiliation can be terminated at any given time with the consent of both parties. The Smithsonian also retains the right to suspend an affiliation if the Affiliate fails to fulfill its obligations as stipulated in the Affiliations Policy or the Letter of Intent.

Smithsonian Affiliates enjoy a broad range of benefits including special opportunities offered by the Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Journeys, and Smithsonian Business Ventures. An annual conference brings the entire Smithsonian Affiliate community to Washington D.C. each year, where attendees are given unique behind the scenes tours of the Smithsonian, and engage directly with Smithsonian curators, educators, and other resource specialists. Networks within the Smithsonian Affiliate community provide new and unforeseen avenues for regional, cultural, topical and audience-oriented types of support and collaboration.

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