Frequently Asked Questions

An Affiliate conference attendee picks up resource material from the exhibitor table of two Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access staff members.

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term partnerships with museums and other cultural and educational organizations. Through the Affiliate network, the Smithsonian shares content, resources, and expertise including educational programs, exhibitions, and other activities. Affiliate organizations work in collaboration with the Smithsonian to catalyze critical conversations in their communities, introduce issues of historic and contemporary importance, and help their audiences to better understand the world around them.

  • A Dedicated Team—The Smithsonian is a big organization; Smithsonian Affiliations helps you navigate it. Affiliations staff connects partner organizations with resources and opportunities tailored to their needs.
  • National Promotion—Affiliates have exclusive co-branding opportunities. Only Affiliates may use the Smithsonian Affiliate logo and tagline: “in association with the Smithsonian Institution.” Affiliates and their collaborations are promoted online, through printed publications, and social media.
  • Membership Benefits—Affiliates have the unique opportunity to add an immediate value to the partnership by offering discounted Smithsonian membership to their members. This “two-memberships-in-one” benefit is offered exclusively to Affiliates. Affiliate Reciprocal Membership Benefits are also available, connecting members at participating Affiliates to the broader Affiliate network.
  • Smithsonian Programs and Exhibitions— Affiliations staff works to find unique exhibition opportunities for Affiliates and connects Affiliates to Smithsonian scholars, scientists, educators, and authors to lead lectures, workshops, distance learning programs, professional development, and more in Affiliate communities. Affiliates also have exclusive access to screen—at no charge—select films produced by the Smithsonian Channel.
  • Collaborative Funding— Affiliates have periodic opportunities to participate in grant-funded partnerships for research and education programs. The Affiliations office actively seeks out grant funding that enables us to award modest financial support to Affiliates to work with the Smithsonian on specific education programs, typically connected to pan-Institutional priorities. In the past year, we have awarded more than $250,000 to 40+ Affiliates to conduct or participate in programs in collaboration with Smithsonian colleagues on diverse topics such as astrophotography, woman suffrage, climate change, the Puerto Rican diaspora, paleontology and evolution, and creating digital access to collections.
  • Professional Development— Affiliates enjoy robust professional development opportunities. The annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference offers networking, inspiring sessions, and access to Smithsonian and Affiliate colleagues. The Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals program is offered periodically and offers selected candidates a stipend to develop their professional skills during an immersive, hands-on experience at the Smithsonian.
  • Object Loan Assistance—Please note that Affiliation does not guarantee preference in borrowing objects; each Smithsonian museum makes its own decisions on loans based on their specific policies. While Affiliations staff can help to navigate the loan process, decisions about loans lie exclusively with the lending museum.
  • Special Access—Affiliates may request consultation to facilitate sharing expertise, exhibits, and more. Affiliations staff coordinates behind-the-scenes tours and special access for Affiliate staff and stakeholders.

Participation in the Smithsonian Affiliations program is open to any qualified non-profit, 501(c)(3) with a current Form 990 on file with the IRS, or public institutions and agencies associated with state or local government. Affiliate organizations represent a broad range of museums and other educational and cultural organizations. Like the Smithsonian, Affiliates are committed to education and public service, and have the capability to bring Smithsonian content, resources, and expertise, including educational programs, exhibitions, and other activities to their communities. Affiliates work in collaboration with the Smithsonian to catalyze critical conversations in their communities, introduce issues of historic and contemporary importance, and help their audiences to better understand the world around them.

To become a Smithsonian Affiliate, an organization must have a physical location where it currently provides services and/or activities for the public and must be open to the public on a consistent and predictable schedule. Organizations under development, not yet open or temporarily closed to the public are not eligible.

Organizations interested becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate are required to submit an application following the steps set forth on the Proposal Process page.

The proposal should include the following, in addition to what is requested on the Application Requirements PDF:

  • Institutional Code of Ethics
  • Current Strategic Plan
  • Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Plan If you do not have a formal plan, please tell us if emergency preparedness is part of a parent or related organization’s plan. If there is no plan, please let us know.
  • Collections Management Policy (for collecting institutions only)
  • American Alliance of Museums’ General Facilities Report (GFR)
  • Last available annual report
  • Organizational chart
  • Full staff list with contact information Please note that if your organization is accepted as a Smithsonian Affiliate, staff members will be signed up to receive The Affiliate eNewsletter each month, highlighting Smithsonian opportunities and news for Affiliates. Staff may choose to opt-out at any time.
  • 2-page resumes of key staff, including the executive director, communications specialist, lead curator, lead educator, and registrar
  • Form 990 for 2 Years. If your organization does not file a 990, please include a current and previous year’s institutional budget. For applicants that are subsidiaries of a parent organization and do not file 990s, please provide two years of budgets for the subsidiary organization and include an explanation of what costs or activities are covered by the parent.
  • Letter signed by the organization’s Executive Director indicating specific reason(s) why your organization wishes to become a Smithsonian Affiliate at this time and example(s) of how your organization envisions collaborating with the Smithsonian and/or building on its existing relationship with the Institution
  • Optional but encouraged: Reference letter(s) from Smithsonian or current Affiliate colleague(s) with whom your institution has worked in the last three years

All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate National Outreach Manager for additional questions and consultation prior to submitting an application package.

Organizations interested in affiliating with the Smithsonian Institution must submit an online proposal to Smithsonian Affiliations. The 2020 deadline is June 30. Please use the application form located on the Proposal Process page.

Please review all of the required information here and gather your documents before beginning the online form. PLEASE NOTE: Once you have started the form you cannot save it and return later.

A review committee made up of Affiliations, Affiliate, and other Smithsonian staff will review all applications within 120 days of the application deadline. Applicants may be called upon during the review process to provide additional or clarifying information and will be notified when the review has been completed. A site visit is sometimes required. If accepted, affiliating organizations must sign a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Agreement (available upon request) and must commit to paying the annual Smithsonian Affiliations fee of $3,000 per year.

The Smithsonian will notify the applicant if the proposal is not accepted. Proposals may be resubmitted at a later time.

Each Smithsonian Affiliate pays an annual fee of $3,000. In addition to this fee, there are costs to participate in programs and activities with Smithsonian museums and research centers. These fees are separate from and are not reduced by the annual Affiliations membership fee. Charges by Smithsonian museums and programs vary depending on the type and scope of collaboration activities. As examples, travel, lodging, and per diem are required to bring curators, educators, and others to present public programs, conduct training, and provide professional consultation. Traveling exhibitions can have rental fees, as well as costs associated with insurance, packing and shipping, conservation, copyright clearances, installation and de-installation, security, and travel. Artifact loans have many of these same costs.

Organizations with specific questions should contact Smithsonian Affiliations at 202.633.5300,, or use the Contact Us form.

No. An organization does not have to be an Affiliate to borrow collections objects from the Smithsonian, or to participate in Smithsonian education programs. Use Smithsonian Collections Search Center to view objects. Learn more about the loan process by directly contacting the appropriate museum. Information about educational resources from the Smithsonian can be found at

Yes. Smithsonian Affiliations accepts applications from organizations that do not acquire or maintain collections.

All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Smithsonian Affiliations office before completing or submitting the application package.

Organizations under development, not yet open or temporarily closed to the public are not eligible for affiliation. To discuss your specific situation in detail, please contact us.