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Local and Global Issues

How do we authentically speak to the multifaceted American experience and responsible stewardship of planet earth?

Local and Global Issues

How do we authentically speak to the multifaceted American experience and responsible stewardship of planet earth?

A group of people holding protest banners walk down a street.

At Smithsonian Affiliations, we work with our Affiliate collaborators and Smithsonian partners to highlight and share community stories alongside national narratives of social and environmental issues. Through this, we foster honest fact- and research-based conversations on questions that matter to the diverse communities in which we work. We aim to inspire audiences of all ages to broaden their perspective, deepen their understanding of critical issues, and become more informed and curious learners.

The Multifaceted American Experience

Quest for Social Justice and Equity

We work together with our Affiliate collaborators in making our communities and the nation better, putting education and public service first and foremost.

Collectively, we explore opportunities to provide spaces for communities to come together—virtually and in-person—to have informed conversations on current issues. While museums—including the Smithsonian—are traditionally seen as places for scholarship and unique objects, they may also be gathering places for the community for all kinds of societal events.

We think about how museums and educational and cultural organizations have fallen short or failed in the past and how we can work with our Smithsonian partners and Affiliate collaborators to address these shortcomings. For example, how might we consult with Indigenous communities to ensure we are not perpetuating stereotypes of Native Americans or other historically excluded groups? And how might we more deeply reflect on the ways in which our own organizations have perpetuated or benefited from systemic racism and then take actions to ensure we develop new more equitable practices? We work with Affiliates to address questions like these and, through consultations with Smithsonian colleagues, community members, and others, change collecting and interpretation practices.

Responsible Stewardship of Planet

There is no Planet B

Climate change is not new to the Smithsonian. Our scholars have investigated the effects of climate change on natural systems for more than 160 years. The urgency requires that we boost and expand our efforts to increase public knowledge and that we inspire others through education and by example.

The Smithsonian is interested in working with museums and educational and cultural organizations that are committed to helping our society make the wise choices needed to ensure that future generations inherit a diverse world that sustains our natural environments and our cultures for centuries to come.

We work with Affiliates to incorporate critical conversations about climate change into their programming, while also thinking about how we can operate as sustainable businesses. This can include anything from cultivating a “green” mindset among our staff to identifying ways to conserve energy and reduce waste within our organizations.

See full Smithsonian Statement on Climate Change

National to Local Stories

Smithsonian Affiliations collaborates with museums and educational and cultural organizations to bring the Smithsonian to your neighborhood. We support you in articulating your story within and alongside the larger narratives told by the Smithsonian. 

Here are some examples of how we have worked with Affiliates to support their work. How does this inspire you? We encourage you to include your ideas in the Statement of Purpose included in your Affiliate application.


Smithsonian Initiative
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AFFILIATE Initiative

Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past

There is a heightened focus on the complicity of museums and educational and cultural organizations in sustaining systemic racism but also on the potential for them to be agents and allies in effecting change. 

“The Smithsonian’s expertise, scholarship, and collections will help our nation to better understand the challenges that arise from racism, to confront our difficult history, and to unite to bring healing and hope for our future.” – Smithsonian Secretary, Lonnie G. Bunch, III

“[We] quickly embraced a rapid response collecting effort to document our community’s response to George Floyd’s murder and then created a rapid response exhibition, Pieces of Now: Murals, Masks and Community Stories. One year later, we are collaborating with local groups of artists/protesters and co-planning a…special event, Reflections on Pieces of Now. We responded to the needs of the community by changing the way we do things…creating a new, less restrictive, community collections category and an exhibit that focused on emotion rather than information.”
Carol Hart thumbnail size portrait Carol Hart
Director, Greensboro History Museum
(Greensboro, NC)
Smithsonian Initiative
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AFFILIATE Initiative

Life on a Sustainable Planet

The Smithsonian is dedicated to addressing climate change, focusing on solutions rather than problems, and a sense of hope rather than loss. The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. Affiliations has worked with Smithsonian scientists, curators, educators, and others to engage young people in Affiliate communities to identify local environmental issues and take action to solve them.

“Working on this project has really helped me explore my creative side when trying to look at solutions to these issues… [T]his project helped me practice public speaking and has made me more comfortable and confident… [T]his project has really made me consider working in environmental science or ecology.”

Frost Science logo
Teen leaders who worked at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science as part of the Smithsonian Affiliations Earth Optimism Teen Action initiative. The students lead Small Changes, Big Impact, a youth environmental conservation organization.
Smithsonian Initiative
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AFFILIATE Initiative
A group of people holding flags and protest signs march down a street.

Youth in Action

Developed by the National Museum of the American Indian, Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future is a series of moderated panel discussions that serve as a national platform for young Native leaders and changemakers from across the Western Hemisphere to amplify their efforts in equity and social justice work for Indigenous peoples.

Two Native American people on horseback
High Desert museum (Bend, OR)

Collaboration with the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs

In collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the High Desert Museum is working to update its exhibitions that present the stories of Indigenous people. As part of their research, High Desert and Warm Springs staff visited the Smithsonian—including the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Cultural Resources Center—to gain insight into how the Smithsonian has interpreted and exhibited Indigenous stories.

Local and Global Issues


This is a tool to reflect on your own organization’s work as you consider whether affiliating with the Smithsonian is right for your organization.

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