Conference FAQs

Where is the Affiliations Conference held each year?

Smithsonian Affiliations hosts the annual conference each year in Washington, D.C. Conference sessions are held at various locations on the Smithsonian campus. In addition, behind-the-scenes tours are offered of Smithsonian facilities and receptions are held at the Smithsonian or other venues on Capitol Hill.

How are sessions and workshops for the Smithsonian Affiliations conference developed and planned?

When planning begins for the annual conference, Affiliations staff reviews all topic suggestions made by Affiliates through conversations with their National Outreach Managers and the previous years’ conference evaluation forms. Affiliates with session ideas often volunteer to moderate and lead meetings at the conference, assisting in the planning and development of the content.

What are some highlights of the annual conference?

Behind-the-scenes tours of the Smithsonian collections are always a highlight for conference participants. Previous tours have included an in-depth look at exhibition fabrication and design at Smithsonian Exhibits, an inside-look at conservation methods at the Museum Conservation Institute, the storage collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Garber Restoration Facility of the National Air and Space Museum.

Extended workshops focusing on new programs or new ways to engage with museum audiences are typically offered. Attendees have learned about early education with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, curating educational collections for school curriculum with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, and editing Wikipedia articles with the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The Smithsonian Affiliations is one of the only offices at the Institution which organizes a networking opportunity on Capitol Hill. Each year, a location either on Capitol Hill or in close proximity to the Capitol is selected for a reception or breakfast in honor of Affiliates and their congressional representatives. All members of Congress representing Affiliate states and districts are extended an invitation from the Secretary of the Smithsonian to come and meet their Affiliate constituents.

Conference week at the Smithsonian offers Affiliates the opportunity to schedule meetings with Smithsonian experts to discuss artifact and object loans, programming opportunities and educational workshops. It is also a chance to meet Smithsonian staff and forge new relationships. Affiliates are encouraged to send a representative or representatives to the annual meeting each year.

May I attend if I am not currently a staff member at an Affiliate organization?

No. The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, or have an application in progress and would like to attend the Conference, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee for more information.

What is included in registration cost?

The conference registration fee entitles you to full access to the conference, including the Smithsonian Exhibitor and Resource Fair, the keynote, the general sessions, and behind-the-scenes tours (pre-registration for tours may be required). All registrants will also receive a conference program and registration materials on-site. Some meals and special events may not be included.

Is registration fully refundable?

If you are unable to attend the conference, and are unable to transfer your registration to another person, you may request a refund of your conference registration fee.

Are there any scholarships available?

Unfortunately, not at this time. There is discounted registration for groups of 4 or more.

May I bring a guest to evening events and tours?

Registered Affiliate attendees may bring additional guests to evening events, however, additional fees may apply.

Behind-the-scenes tours usually have a limited number of available spots. Registered attendees receive first admittance. Please contact Elizabeth Bugbee,, to inquire if there is additional room.

How should I dress for the Conference?

Conference attire is business casual. Some evening events and events on Capitol Hill may require Business attire. Please make certain you are signed up to receive eAlerts to be kept aware of conference activities.

In addition, the Affiliations Conference takes place across the Smithsonian campus. While shuttle service may be provided for tours and off-campus events, it may not be provided throughout the day. Be certain to wear comfortable shoes for walking across the National Mall to and from Smithsonian museums.

Is there anything specifically directed towards first-time attendees?

If it’s your first time attending the Conference or you are a new Affiliate colleague, the Orientation session and Welcome Reception are for you. This is your opportunity to meet with fellow Affiliate members as well as Smithsonian staff who can provide insight to the benefits of your Affiliation. First timers, please let us know it’s your first Affiliations Conference when we meet you!

Have more questions? The Smithsonian Affiliations staff is happy to answer your questions, hear your concerns, and brainstorm with you about the National Conference. Contact us!

Conference audience at the opening session