Frequently Asked Questions

Affiliations Faq image

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 with 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.

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 sub-award 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.

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 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.

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 or not yet open 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)
  • 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. 
  • Last available annual report
  • Organizational chart
  • Full staff list with contact information**
  • 2-page resumes of key staff, including the executive director, communications specialist, lead curator, lead educator, and registrar
  • Letter signed by the organization’s Executive Director indicating why your organization wishes to become a Smithsonian Affiliate and how your organization envisions working with the Smithsonian

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

**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.

Organizations interested in affiliating with the Smithsonian Institution must submit an online proposal to Smithsonian Affiliations. The 2018 deadline is November 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.

The committee will review all applications. 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 may be 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, currently $3,000 per year.

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.

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 exhibitions 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.

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 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 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.

Please contact us to discuss your specific situation.