Frequently Asked Questions
What is Smithsonian Affiliations?
Smithsonian Affiliations creates long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with museums and other cultural and educational organizations to fulfill the Smithsonian’s mission, “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” and to advance both the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan and the SITES | Smithsonian Affiliations Strategic Plan. Core to our work is catalyzing public engagement, sparking curiosity and learning, and ultimately inspiring a deeper understanding of our world and how it can be changed for the better.
What are the benefits of becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate?
Affiliates enjoy a range of exclusive benefits:
A Dedicated Team
The Smithsonian is a big place. The team at Smithsonian Affiliations can help you navigate it. We connect Affiliates with resources and opportunities that support their needs and goals, while also supporting Smithsonian priorities.
The Affiliations team actively seeks out funding that enables us to award modest financial support to Affiliates to work with the Smithsonian on specific education programs, typically connected to Smithsonian-wide priorities. In the past two years, we have awarded more than $400,000 to 60+ Affiliates to conduct or participate in programs in collaboration with Smithsonian colleagues on diverse topics such as astrophotography, women’s history, climate change, the Puerto Rican diaspora, paleontology and evolution, and creating digital access to collections. Note that funding is available only for select projects and awarded through a competitive process; not all Affiliates that express interest in an opportunity may receive funding.
Affiliates enjoy robust professional development opportunities. The annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference offers networking, inspiring sessions, and access to Smithsonian and Affiliate colleagues. Office Hours allow Affiliates to connect with one another in an informal, virtual setting to discuss current issues, exchange ideas, and collectively brainstorm and problem-solve. The Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program is offered periodically and offers selected candidates a stipend to develop their professional skills through an immersive, cohort-based experience.
We can connect you with Smithsonian staff or other Affiliates who can share expertise, provide capacity building support, and more.
Smithsonian Channel films
Affiliates have exclusive access to screen—at no charge—select films produced by the Smithsonian Channel.
Only Affiliates can use the Smithsonian Affiliate logo and tagline, “in association with the Smithsonian Institution.” Affiliations works to promote Affiliates and their collaborations, through electronic publications, its blog, and social media, particularly as these activities support Smithsonian initiatives.
Affiliates have the exclusive opportunity to offer discounted Smithsonian membership to their members. Affiliate Reciprocal Membership Benefits are also available, connecting members at participating Affiliates to the broader Affiliate network.
Who can affiliate with the Smithsonian?
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 museums and other educational and cultural organizations. Like the Smithsonian, Affiliates are committed to education and public service, and have the capability to bring Smithsonian content, resources, and expertise, including educational programs, exhibitions, and other activities to their communities. Affiliates work in collaboration with the Smithsonian to catalyze critical conversations in their communities, introduce issues of historic and contemporary importance, and help their audiences to better understand the world around them.
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, not yet open or temporarily closed to the public are not eligible. Learn more on our Applying for Affiliation pages.
How does an organization become a Smithsonian Affiliate?
Organizations interested in affiliating with the Smithsonian must submit an application to Smithsonian Affiliations. As you consider whether Smithsonian Affiliations is right for your organization, we encourage you to explore the Applying for Affiliation and Learning Excursions pages.
After reviewing the resources in the Learning Excursions pages, and if you are thinking about applying, we encourage you to contact the Smithsonian Affiliations office. The knowledge and expertise of our talented and dedicated staff, coupled with the information shared on the Learning Excursions pages, can help your organization assess whether Affiliation is right for you.
Where do I submit the application for affiliation?
Organizations interested in affiliating with the Smithsonian Institution must submit an online proposal to Smithsonian Affiliations. All information can be found in on the Applying for Affiliation page.
What is the decision-making process?
After applications are received, a committee of Smithsonian and Affiliate leaders, along with others who have broad knowledge and understanding of museums and cultural organizations, reviews and assesses each application, using a standard rubric as a guide. The committee then convenes to discuss the applications and provide recommendations about which organizations are best positioned to be engaged Affiliates. The Director of SITES | Smithsonian Affiliations makes the final decisions about acceptance. All applicants are notified about the status of their application at the conclusion of this process. If accepted, affiliating organizations must sign a Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Agreement (available upon request) and must commit to paying the annual Smithsonian Affiliations fee of $3,000 per year.
What if the proposal is not accepted?
The Smithsonian will notify the applicant if the proposal is not accepted. Proposals may be resubmitted at a later time. Resubmitted applications go through the same review process and are not given preference or priority.
Are there costs associated with being an affiliate?
Each Smithsonian Affiliate pays an annual fee of $3,000. In addition to this fee, there are costs to participate in programs and activities with Smithsonian museums and research centers. These fees are separate from and are not reduced by the annual Affiliations membership fee. Charges by Smithsonian museums and programs vary depending on the type and scope of collaboration activities. As examples, travel, lodging, and per diem are required to bring curators, educators, and others to present public programs, conduct training, and provide professional consultation. Traveling exhibitions can have rental fees, as well as costs associated with insurance, packing and shipping, conservation, copyright clearances, installation and de-installation, security, and travel. Artifact loans have many of these same costs.
How can I get more information about Smithsonian Affiliations?
Organizations with specific questions should contact Smithsonian Affiliations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does my organization have to be an Affiliate to collaborate with the Smithsonian?
Any organization, regardless of Affiliation status, may request to borrow objects from the Smithsonian, rent traveling exhibitions, and take advantage of educational programs and resources. The Affiliations team can make it easier by connecting Affiliates directly to Smithsonian scholars, scientists, educators, and others to lead lectures, workshops, professional development, and more. We can help to identify unique exhibition opportunities for Affiliates to share with their communities. We can also help navigate the object loan process, though decisions about loans lie exclusively with the lending museum. Affiliation does not guarantee preference in borrowing objects, and each Smithsonian museum makes its own decisions on loans based on their specific policies and priorities.
You can view Smithsonian collections through the Smithsonian Collections Search Center and learn more about the loan process by contacting a museum directly. You can visit the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) to learn about available exhibitions and educational resources.
Can a non-collecting organization apply for Affiliation?
Yes. Smithsonian Affiliations accepts applications from organizations that do not acquire or maintain collections.
All potential applicants are strongly encouraged to review all of the information on the Applying for Affiliation and Learning Excursions pages when determining if a Smithsonian Affiliation is right for your organization.
May we still apply for an affiliation if we are still under construction, or in the process of establishing our organization?
To become a Smithsonian Affiliate, an organization must have a physical location where it currently provides services or activities for the public and must be open to the public on a consistent and predictable schedule. Organizations under development, not yet open or temporarily closed to the public are not eligible. Affiliates must be non-profit organizations with 501(c)(3) designations and current Form 990s on file with the IRS, or public institutions associated with state or local governments.
Read the full policy to help you determine if Affiliations is right for your organization.
To discuss your specific situation in detail, please contact us.