Online Proposal Process

Organizations interested in affiliating with the Smithsonian Institution must submit a proposal to Smithsonian Affiliations. New Affiliate applications are accepted on an annual basis.  The application process for 2020 is closed. A 2021 deadline will be announced in fall 2020.

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.

Please review this PDF to understand the information needed for Smithsonian affiliation. A brief overview of the documents required is also listed in the Application Requirements section below.

Smithsonian Affiliations creates long-term relationships with museums and other cultural and educational organizations to fulfill the Smithsonian’s mission, “the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” and to advance the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan. 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.

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.

In the June 2020 application round, preference will be given to organizations:

  • In states where we do not currently have Affiliates (Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Utah)
  • That have previously worked with the Smithsonian on research, exhibition development, collections sharing, educational program development or in other professional capacities
  • With strong research, collections, exhibition, and/or educational programs in the Smithsonian’s current priority topic areas, including American women’s history and Earth Optimism
  • With specific ideas for collaboration with one or more Smithsonian museums or research centers

Affiliates that get the most out of their association with the Smithsonian have both the financial and staff capacity to engage regularly with the Smithsonian on a range of different activities. Each Smithsonian Affiliate pays an annual fee of $3,000. In addition, 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 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.

Applications require the following documents. If you feel that any of these documents does not pertain to your organization and, thus, are not included in your application, please provide a brief statement indicating which documents are not included and why.

  • Institutional Code of Ethics
  • Current Strategic Plan
  • Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Plan If you do not have a formal plan, please tell us if emergency preparedness is part of a parent or related organization’s plan. If there is no plan, please let us know.
  • Collections Management Policy (for collecting institutions only)
  • American Alliance of Museums’ most current General Facilities Report (GFR)
  • Last available annual report
  • Organizational chart
  • 2-page resumes of key staff, including the executive director, communications specialist, lead curator, lead educator, and registrar
  • Full staff list with contact information Please note that if your organization is accepted as a Smithsonian Affiliate, staff members will be signed up to receive The Affiliate eNewsletter each month, highlighting Smithsonian opportunities and news for Affiliates. Staff may choose to opt-out at any time.
  • Form 990 for 2 Years. If your organization does not file a 990, please include a current and previous year’s institutional budget. For applicants that are subsidiaries of a parent organization and do not file 990s, please provide two years of budgets for the subsidiary organization and include an explanation of what costs or activities are covered by the parent.
  • Letter signed by the organization’s Executive Director indicating specific reason(s) why your organization wishes to become a Smithsonian Affiliate at this time and example(s) of how your organization envisions collaborating with the Smithsonian and/or building on its existing relationship with the Institution. We encourage specificity in your letter. For example:
    • We envision consulting with the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s ArtLab+ to learn about best practices related to teen engagement to inform the development of a new gallery and related programs targeted to our community’s teens. (This is stronger than, We hope to work with the Smithsonian to develop educational programs.)
    • Our museum has collaborated with the National Museum of Natural History on plant fossil research for the last 10 years. Through affiliation, we hope to build upon and expand the research relationship into other areas of mutual interest and, together, share the results of our collaborative research with the broader science community.
    • We are embarking on a new strategic plan to re-envision our institution’s role in our community. We are reaching out to thought-leader organizations across the country, including the Smithsonian, to work with us to develop a long-term community engagement strategy. We would like to work with and learn from the Anacostia Community Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian Latino Center, and other parts of the Smithsonian to inform our thinking and to develop and share best practices.
  • Optional but encouraged: Reference letter(s) from Smithsonian or current Affiliate colleague(s) with whom your institution has worked in the last three years
Kevin Gover and Julie Decker pose with certificate of affiliation

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Director, Kevin Gover, presents the Anchorage Museum Director, Julie Decker, with a certificate of Affiliation when the museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2014. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian.