Conference FAQs

All conference sessions, breakfasts, and the Resource Fair for the 2020 Smithsonian Affiliations Conference will take place at the Hilton Washington DC National Mall. Attendees are encouraged to reserve a room at this hotel. Transportation for all events will only take place from the conference hotel.  Behind-the-scenes tours and some receptions will take place at Smithsonian museums or other venues on Capitol Hill.

Affiliate and Smithsonian colleagues are invited to submit session proposals. Please click here to review proposal guidelines.

In addition to submitted proposals, Affiliations staff reviews all topic suggestions made by Affiliates through conversations with their National Outreach Managers and the previous years’ conference evaluation forms to make sure a robust and informative conference is developed.

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.

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 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 one-on-one 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.

No. The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates and Smithsonian staff 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.

The conference registration fee entitles you to full access to the conference, including the Smithsonian 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.

If a registrant is unable to attend for any reason, they may substitute someone else to attend in their place. Cancellation requests received before June 1, 2020, will receive a full refund. No refunds will be granted after June 1. All requests must be made in writing via email to

Smithsonian Affiliations is able to offer a small number of scholarships to help support Affiliates’ attendance at the 2020 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference. Registration fees* for scholarship recipients will be waived; scholarship funds may be used for travel, lodging, and other associated costs. The applicant must be at an Affiliate organization in good standing and demonstrate that they would not be able to attend the conference without support.

2020 Scholarship deadline coming soon. All applicants will be notified of the status of their request by April 30. Awardees will be required to complete additional paperwork to receive scholarship funds.

The following is required to apply for a scholarship:

  • A letter of recommendation from your supervisor or director
  • A current resume (no more than 2 pages)
  • An essay of no more than 500 words addressing:
    How your participation in the conference will contribute to the conversation around the conference theme.
    How your participation in the conference will contribute to your professional growth.
    How you plan to apply knowledge from the conference to your work.
  • The amount of your scholarship request, including a budget to show how resources will be allocated. Please include in the budget any resources your institution will contribute to your attendance. Requests may not exceed $1,000.

*this includes registration for the awardee only. Any guest fees for special events will be the responsibility of the awardee.

Registered Affiliate attendees may bring additional guests (up to two additional guests) to evening events, however, additional fees per event apply.

Guests of registered attendees may not sign up for behind-the-scenes tours.

Conference attire is business casual. Some evening events and events on Capitol Hill may require business attire. While shuttle service may be provided for some events taking place outside of the hotel, be certain to wear comfortable shoes for walking during any tours or free time.

Please make certain you are signed up to receive eAlerts from Smithsonian Affiliations to be kept aware of conference activities. Sign up here.

If it’s your first time attending the Conference or you are a new Affiliate colleague, the Welcome 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