Frequently Asked Questions

Affiliations Faq image

What is Smithsonian Affiliations?

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term partnerships with museums and educational organizations. Through the Affiliate network, the Smithsonian shares collections, exhibitions, and research expertise at affiliated partners so that local communities can experience the Smithsonian in their neighborhoods. Smithsonian Affiliations also reaches across the country with special educational programs designed for museums, schools, and centers serving learners of all ages.

What are the benefits of becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate?

Smithsonian Affiliates enjoy these unique benefits:

  • A Dedicated Team—The Smithsonian is a big organization; Smithsonian Affiliations helps navigate it. Affiliations staff connects partner organizations with resources and opportunities tailored to their needs.
  • Object Loan Assistance—Smithsonian Affiliations helps identify potential object loans from the vast Smithsonian collections and guides Affiliates through the unique loan process at each Smithsonian museum.
  • Smithsonian Programs and Exhibits—Smithsonian Affiliations staff connect Affiliates to Smithsonian scholars, scientists, educators, and authors to lead lectures, workshops, distance learning programs, and more in Affiliate communities. Affiliations staff works to find unique exhibition opportunities for Affiliates.
  • 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 to the broader Affiliate network.
  • 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.
  • 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 fellowship offers selected candidates a stipend to develop their professional skills during an immersive, hands-on experience.
  • Collaborative Funding— Affiliates have the opportunity to participate in grant partnerships for research and education programs.
  • 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.

Who can affiliate with the Smithsonian?

Participation in the Smithsonian Affiliations program is open to any 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 learning organizations. Affiliates share a common mission with the Smithsonian, a commitment to education and public service, and have the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to local communities.

How does an organization become a Smithsonian Affiliate?

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 address:

  • Areas of interest for potential collaboration
  • Verification of the organization’s nonprofit status
  • A mission statement
  • Organization chart
  • Collections management policy
  • Annual reports
  • IRS Form 990s
  • Facilities report that follows the American Alliance of Museums format
  • The applicant should also complete the Profile Summary Sheet (found on the Application Documents page).

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

Where do I submit the proposal?

Two copies of the complete proposal should be submitted to:

Smithsonian Affiliations
ATTN: Application Review
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 942
Washington, DC  20013-7012

How long does it take to become an affiliate?

The application review process is typically completed in 60 business days. A site visit may be required. 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. If accepted, affiliating organizations must sign a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Agreement (available upon request), and must commit to paying the annual Smithsonian Affiliations fee, currently $3,000 per year.

What if the proposal is not accepted?

The Smithsonian will notify the applicant if the proposal is not accepted and will explain the reasons why it was not accepted. Proposals may be resubmitted at a later time.

Are there costs associated with being an affiliate?

Beyond the annual Smithsonian Affiliations fee of $3,000, costs may vary depending on the type and scope of collaboration activities. Artifact loans and traveling exhibits may have costs associated with insurance, packing and shipping, conservation, copyright clearances, installation and de-installation, security, and travel. Traveling exhibits also have stated rental fees. Travel, lodging, and per diem is required for speakers and public program participants. In some cases, Affiliates may benefit from reduced or waived fees.

Costs associated with particular programs and activities are separate from and are not reduced by the annual Affiliations membership fee. Charges by Smithsonian museums and programs vary.

How can I get more information about Smithsonian Affiliations?

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

Does my organization have to be an Affiliate to collaborate with the Smithsonian?

No. An organization does not have to be an Affiliate to borrow 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

Can a non-collecting organization apply for Affiliation?

Yes. Smithsonian Affiliations accepts applications from organizations that do not collect or maintain collections, or that do not wish to borrow objects or exhibits from the Smithsonian. Applicants interested in Affiliating on a programmatic basis (bringing new educational programs or learning strategies to communities) should provide a narrative explanation of the types of educational collaborations envisioned.
All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Smithsonian Affiliations office before completing or submitting the application package.

May we still apply for an affiliation if we are still under construction, or in the process of establishing our organization?

Please contact us to discuss your specific situation.