Frequently Asked Questions

Affiliations Faq image

What is Smithsonian Affiliations?

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term, high quality partnerships with museums and educational organizations in order to share collections, exhibitions, learning opportunities, and research expertise. Visitors to affiliated organizations experience the Smithsonian in their neighborhood where they may view major works of art, historic spacecraft, wonders of nature, icons of American history, and other artifacts, artworks, and scientific specimens from the national collections. Smithsonian Affiliations also reaches across the country with special educational programs designed for museums, schools, and centers serving pre-school, K-12 students, and adult learners. The Smithsonian Affiliations network provides new and unforeseen avenues for regional, cultural, topical and audience-oriented types of support and collaboration.

What are the benefits of becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate?

Smithsonian Affiliates enjoy these unique benefits:

  • An assigned National Outreach Manager who serves as a direct liaison to all Smithsonian museums, research centers, and education/outreach offices
  • Exclusive use of the Smithsonian Affiliate logo and tagline: “in association with the Smithsonian Institution”
  • Ability to borrow objects from the Smithsonian on a long-term basis
  • First notice of Smithsonian speakers, authors, workshops, distance learning programs, webinars, and special exhibitions
  • Custom-developed education, performing arts, and public programs
  • Inclusion in grant-funded research and education programs
  • Attendance at the annual Affiliations National Conference
  • Discounted Smithsonian memberships for individual members of affiliated organizations (includes subscription to Smithsonian Magazine or Air & Space)
  • Stipended professional development opportunities
  • Promotion through Smithsonian Affiliations websites and social media
  • Behind-the-scenes tours and special event coordination
  • Access to a network of supportive organizations, host venues, and shared expertise

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 institutions including history, art, and science museums, universities and university-based museums, discovery centers, historic sites, zoos, aquaria, libraries, archives, foundations, cultural organizations and schools. Interested organizations must submit an application with all the requisite documents (see Proposal Process). The Smithsonian considers proposals from organizations that share a common mission, a commitment to education and public service, and have the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to their venues.

How do you apply for an affiliation?

Organizations interested in participating in the program need to apply 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, and a 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).

Smithsonian Affiliations also welcomes applications from organizations that do not collect or maintain collections, or that do not wish to borrow objects or exhibits from the Smithsonian. Applicant 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.

Where do I submit the proposal?

Two copies of the complete proposal should be submitted to:

Smithsonian Affiliations
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 30 to 60 days. 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. Once accepted into the program, affiliating organizations must sign a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Agreement (available upon request), and must commit to paying the annual Smithsonian Affiliations membership fee, currently $3,000 per year.

What if the proposal is not accepted by the Smithsonian?

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?

Costs vary depending on the type and scope of collaboration activities. Artifact loans and traveling exhibits typically 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 and lodging is usually required for speakers and public program participants. The above costs may be underwritten by local sponsors. Smithsonian Affiliations may also cover certain collaboration expenses consistent with the purposes of the I. Michael Heyman Smithsonian Across America Fund, or other available grant funding.

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

How can I get more information about Smithsonian Affiliations?

Most information about Smithsonian Affiliations is available through this web site, but organizations with specific questions about the application process should contact Smithsonian Affiliations at 202.633.5300.

What do I do if I am not interested in an affiliation but do want to a) learn more about some of the Smithsonian’s educational programs, and/or b) borrow objects from the Smithsonian on a short-term basis?

Information about educational resources from the Smithsonian may be found at the Smithsonian Learning Lab,  or on the websites of each of the Smithsonian museums, research centers, or outreach offices. Please contact the appropriate office directly for further information.

Standard artifact loans may be initiated by writing directly to the appropriate museum. The request should identify the specific artifact(s); the plans for their handling, care, and display; a brief summary of the exhibition and the rationale for the requested artifacts; and the desired loan period.