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Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 5: Moving Forward, Together

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 5: Moving Forward, Together
#SmithsonianAffiliations25

smithsonian 150th anniversary logo

In 1996, the Smithsonian created this logo to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

In 1993, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents established the Commission on the Future of the Smithsonian and tasked the group with “an examination of the Smithsonian, its mandate and its roles, and an examination of the cultural, societal, and technological factors that influence its capacity to act.” Two years later, the Commission issued a report that identified a range of strategies for the Smithsonian to consider as it approached its 150th birthday—strategies aimed at making the Institution more relevant and accessible to the American public and enabling it to fulfill its mission as a national organization.

The 1995 report concluded, “The Smithsonian cannot achieve the nation’s expectations by itself,” and set out a series of recommendations around education; collections, research, and exhibitions; governance; and the future. Embedded in this report were the following recommendations:

  • Emphasize education both on the Mall and across the country through electronic means, traveling and collaborative exhibitions, and public programs,
  • Build collaborative partnerships with other museums, research centers, and educational institutions throughout the nation, and
  • Shape a master plan for maintenance of the priceless collections, including the sharing of collections through long-term or permanent loans to partner institutions.
Crowd on National Mall in 1996

As the Smithsonian’s 150th birthday celebration draws to a close, the crowd gathers in front of the Castle for an evening performance. Photo by Richard Hofmeister. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 09-257.

Just a year later, on the occasion of the Smithsonian’s 150th anniversary, I. Michael Heyman, then Secretary of the Smithsonian, announced the Smithsonian Affiliations program as one of several outreach initiatives introduced to fulfill the recommendations of the Commission and expand the Institution’s national reach: “The Smithsonian of the future must provide access to its collections and its vast resources. There is no value in being just the largest if we do not share the Smithsonian with as many people as possible. It means making sure those who cannot travel to Washington can somehow experience and enjoy the Smithsonian.”

In addition to the Affiliations program, the Smithsonian launched its first-ever website and the traveling exhibition, America’s Smithsonian, which featured some of the Institution’s most prized artifacts, including First Ladies’ gowns, Arthur Ashe’s tennis racquet, and the Apollo 14 command module, and reached an estimated 10 million people across the nation.

The Affiliations program was formally approved by the Board of Regents on September 15, 1996: “VOTED that the Board of Regents adopts the statement of policy and guidelines…on the Smithsonian Institution’s collections-based affiliations…”

A person sits at a workshop desk with the Apollo 13 Odyssey command module in the shadows.

Master restoration specialist Greg “Buck” Buckingham oversaw the evaluation, identification and reinstallation of more than 80,000 components of the Apollo 13 spacecraft Odyssey. This view shows Buckingham inside Odyssey’s restoration lab, which was glassed in to allow the public to view the historic project. Photo courtesy of the Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS.

The first Affiliate joined the program in early 1997. By the end of that year, there were 21 Affiliate collaborators across the U.S . As we entered the 21st century, more than 50 mission-aligned organizations made up the Affiliate network and were collaborating with the Smithsonian to bring its resources to their communities. In these first years, the Affiliations program was primarily envisioned as a way to extend the impact of the America’s Smithsonian exhibition and reach communities across the nation with objects from the Smithsonian’s collections. Affiliate organizations could borrow objects on long-term loan, connecting the Smithsonian with their audiences in ways that were meaningful, relevant, and accessible. Working with the National Air & Space Museum, the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS began the restoration of the Apollo 13 Command Module Odyssey in 1995, as part of an effort to re-assemble the historic spacecraft. Made famous by the movie Apollo 13 which tells of the greatest rescue effort of a manned space flight, Odyssey went on display at the Cosmosphere in 1998, the same year the museum became an Affiliate. The command module remains on display today in the Cosmosphere’s Apollo Gallery, and the Affiliate continues to provide critical restoration services to the Smithsonian through its SpaceWorks division.

Over our 25-year history, Affiliations has grown far beyond its initial mandate to share objects with Affiliate organizations and has lived up to the Institution’s ambition to educate beyond the National Mall and build collaborative relationships with other museums and cultural organizations. Today, with more than 200 Affiliate collaborators in 46 states, Panama, and Puerto Rico, the Smithsonian is able to engage communities across the nation in myriad ways, many of which have been highlighted in our blog over the last several months. As a network, we are able to spark curiosity and learning, inspire a deeper understanding of our world, and work together to create a better tomorrow.

As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As we at Smithsonian Affiliations celebrate our 25th anniversary, we look forward to many more years of moving forward together with our Affiliate collaborators and continuing the Smithsonian’s important work grounded in the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

Smithsonian yellow sunburst with 175 to the right of it

Celebrate Smithsonian Affiliations’ 25th anniversary on social media with us September 15, 2021, #SmithsonianAffiliations25! All Smithsonian Affiliates are invited to share a memory as a Smithsonian Affiliate with us using the hashtag #SmithsonianAffiliations25. Make sure to tag @SIAffiliates on Twitter or @SmithsonianAffiliates on Instagram! Contact us for more info.

Catch up on our whole 25th Anniversary blog series here:

Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 4: Supporting the People that Make Us Strong

Supporting our network of Affiliate partners is a keystone of our work at Smithsonian Affiliations. As we continue to reflect on our past 25 years, it is the strength of the people we work with at Affiliate organizations that truly makes an impact on the work that we do. This month we are focusing on the professional development collaborations with Affiliate colleagues. Here we take you on a visual journey of the ways in which we have helped to make an impact furthering the professional growth of staff at our Affiliate partner organizations.

Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

By: Tricia Edwards, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Affiliations and Natalie Wimberly, Management Support Specialist and Universe of Learning Project Manager, Smithsonian Affiliations

A young boy crouches in front of a telescope next to an adult in a bright green shirt seated next to him.

Student astrophotographer at Carolinas Aviation Museum (Charlotte, NC). Photo credit: Carolinas Aviation Museum.

“Working with Affiliations over the last 10 years has been one of the most productive collaborations for our Science Education Department,” says Mary Dussault, a STEM education program director at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, MA. Since 2012, with generous support from the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant program (YAG), Smithsonian Affiliations and Affiliates have collaborated with SAO to bring astronomy and astrophotography education to their communities through the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program (YCCC). Dussault adds, “Right from the get-go, we realized that the educational goals of the YAG program, the strategic partnership capacity and national network of Smithsonian Affiliations, and the scalable and accessible technology resources of SAO’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network were a case of the stars aligning.”

YCCC introduces communities, especially students, to the wonders of the universe. Participants can access SAO’s robotic telescopes, take images of the cosmos, and manipulate the photographs to produce their own artistic and scientific interpretations of the stars and galaxies. Along the way, they gain important technology skills and engage in—and apply—science, technology, engineering, art, and math content. As one young participant said, “I loved editing the photos. It grew my imagination and made me want to do more with it.”

A black and white image of the moon is pictured to the left of a brightly colored red, green, yellow and blue interpretation of the moon on right.

Photo captured by the MicroObservatory robotic telescope (left) alongside a student’s interpretation of the image.

Many Affiliates have participated in the program for multiple years and used YCCC to reach new audiences or forge deeper partnerships with existing collaborators. One Affiliate commented, “As a direct result of implementing the program we have already begun discussions with [our local] high school to develop a more intense astronomy program for next year.”

Since 2012, YCCC has grown to include 29 Smithsonian Affiliates and has reached more than 7,000 participants across the nation.

“Each Affiliate brings particular expertise and knowledge of their local community to adapting our SAO resources and materials, thereby creating wonderful program models that we never would have anticipated on our own,” says Erika Wright, SAO Education Specialist. For example, arts educator Annette Eschelman from the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) was able to combine visual arts and astronomical imaging techniques to engage incarcerated youth. Starr Kelly from the Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) developed a summer camp program in which indigenous knowledge of the Wabanaki Nations informed the experience of students in the local Indian Township School.

Pieces of the Astronomy Kit rest on a table

Astronomy Kit for virtual NASA UoL 2020 Programming at Cape Fear Museum (Wilmington, NC). Photo credit: Cape Fear Museum

The successful collaboration model itself has also expanded, as SAO and Affiliations have teamed up to pursue a number of other astronomy-based education programs funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. NASA’s Universe of Learning (NASA’s UoL), for example, connects the science, technology, subject matter experts, and adventure of NASA Astrophysics with STEM concepts, education standards, and 21st century skills central to science understanding and literacy. Resulting products, programs, and professional development experiences span a spectrum of environments and applications, enabling a rich learning “ecosystem” across the traditional boundaries of education. The goal of the program is to create and disseminate education products, programs, and professional development experiences that use NASA Astrophysics science, technology, and subject matter experts to advance NASA’s Science Mission Directorate education objectives on a national scale.

In partnership with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 15 Smithsonian Affiliate partners, over the course of 3 years, were identified to join the national network of collaborators for this project. The majority of the Affiliates who participated were already building on the long-term partnerships and successful implementations of the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program. Growing from these past project relationships, NASA’s UoL is able to extend its reach through Affiliates and the communities they serve.

“We have great content that we’ll share in our virtual portfolio and will gladly share with any other organization that can make use of it. I also hope to do other projects with Universe of Learning when possible.” Nathan Meyer, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS

NASA’s UoL project asks 3 main questions: How does the Universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? The project creates and delivers science and audience-driven resources along with experiences designed to engage and immerse learners of all ages and backgrounds in exploring the universe for themselves. Its main goal is to expose astrophysics content to a wider underserved audience as well as create a Community of Practice within the Affiliate partners to document, share, and discuss ideas about how this information could translate into their own institutions.

Astronomy resources are placed on a table at the Anchorage Museum

NASA’s UoL Science of Light Program at Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK). Photo credit: Anchorage Museum.

“Students wanted to spend more time doing these activities and engaging with astronomy related STEM resources. For some of the students, it was their first time in a planetarium, and being able to go there twice was their favorite part of the program. Others really enjoyed learning about the MicroObservatory resource and said they would continue using it on their own.” Aaron Slonecker, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK

Within the 3-year program period, our Affiliate partners have created long-term NASA UoL community programs and are actively still engaged with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to help broaden the scope and reach of NASA’s UoL future programming.

Through both YCCC and NASA’s UoL, Affiliates have helped to broaden access to SAO resources and magnify the reach of their expertise, all while engaging young learners in their communities in astronomy. Affiliates have also built their capacity. They have bolstered their astronomy knowledge and expertise, while also learning how to implement public workshops and programs for audiences of all ages. They have created a community of learners through online discussions and webinars, brainstormed programming ideas, and learned with and from one another.

Later this year, Smithsonian Affiliations and SAO will debut the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos toolkit, developed in collaboration with the Abbe Museum, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (Honolulu, HI), and Springfield Museum of Art. The toolkit will provide how-to instructions for accessing the MicroObservatory, along with successful YCCC program models implemented by Affiliates with different audiences and in different settings, enabling even more Affiliates and their communities to explore the wonders of the cosmos. We also look forward to rolling out the Observing with NASA program soon. Affiliates will have the opportunity to apply to host Observing with NASA kiosks that allow public audiences to request their own telescope images and to practice image processing skills. Stay tuned for more details on these two exciting projects!

Stay tuned next month for another chapter in our 25th Anniversary Series! Until then, catch up on stories you’ve missed:

Thanks in part to Affiliates, the Smithsonian is on a Summer Road Trip

A new 40-page activity booklet for young explorers.

Summer vacations may look differently this year, but families can still have fun no matter where they spend the summer. With its new 40-page activity booklet, Summer Road Trip, the Smithsonian invites kids and their families to follow their curiosity through a variety of activities that can be done at home, on the road, at a campsite, in the backyard… or wherever they let their minds wander.

Developed and distributed in collaboration with USA Today, the Summer Road Trip invites students to explore puzzles and games, make art and identify wildlife among other hands-on activities. Travelers can follow the tracks of Monarch butterflies, invent new modes of transportation, create a mini-exhibit of objects in their homes, or create a gallery of artworks, all inspired by Smithsonian exhibitions, programs, collections and research.

Smithsonian Affiliates proved to be key partners in helping the Institution to distribute the printed booklets in their communities. As anchors in cities and towns across the nation, Smithsonian Affiliates energized their local networks of school districts, youth organizations, housing partners, recreation centers and more to offer these free resources to students in all corners of their communities. Through Affiliates, the Smithsonian was able to distribute over 20,000 additional booklets. THANK YOU to all the Affiliates below for your help in sharing our educational resources with kids nationwide.

Download your free Summer Road Trip here. (Adults are welcome to use it too by the way.)  Share your “souvenirs” and pictures with us at #SmithsonianEDU. Have fun and bon voyage!

Booklets were distributed in 20 states, thanks to:

Playing with the Smithsonian’s Summer Road Trip booklet at the Oklahoma History Center. Credit: Oklahoma History Center

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Los Angeles, CA
History Colorado, Denver, CO
HistoryMiami, Miami, FL
Peoria Riverfront Museum, Peoria, IL
Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN
Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, KY
National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA
Framingham State University, Framingham, MA
Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA
American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, MO
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC
University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE
City of Las Cruces Museum System, Las Cruces, NM
National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, NV
Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, OH
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology, Newark, OH
Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City, OK
African American Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Children’s Museum of the Upstate, Greenville, SC
South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre, SD
Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol, TN
City of Austin-Parks & Recreation, Austin, TX
Witte Museum, San Antonio, TX

New Benefit: Smithsonian Voices

We want to help share your story! Smithsonian Voices is a blog on Smithsonianmag.com, the online version of Smithsonian magazine. Millions of visitors browse the content online per month and learn about science, history, art, popular culture, and innovation. The blog shares the unique voices that make up the Institution and now will include our Affiliate partners. A new blog—Smithsonian Affiliations Voices—is in development specifically for our Affiliate partners.

Smithsonian Affiliates are currently the only organizations outside of the Smithsonian invited to join the hundreds of scholars, researchers, and curators telling stories about their work. Smithsonian Voices content doesn’t have to have a Smithsonian connection—although having one is encouraged. Here, we want to provide a platform for our Affiliates and feature the incredible work they are doing every day, how they are engaging their communities, and demonstrate the importance of our Affiliate network in reaching broader and more diverse audiences.

As we finish developing the page, we invite our Affiliate partners to submit story ideas to be be featured on our page. Visit  the Smithsonian Voices blog page to get ideas and see how other Smithsonian units are telling stories.

Are you interested in sharing a story on our Smithsonian Affiliate Voices page? Contact Elizabeth Bugbee for guidelines and more information- BugbeeE@si.edu. 

2020 Invent It Challenge

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and Cricket Media have partnered for the past nine years to bring the Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge to students across the globe. The challenge is a free, STEM-focused contest open to students ages 5-18 that inspires them to solve real-world global issues through creativity and exploration. Smithsonian Affiliates are invited to share this opportunity with their visitors and incorporate it into Affiliate programming!

Here are some easy ways to promote the Challenge to your visitors or use in your own programming:
  • Use this flyer to spread the word about the 2020 Invent It Challenge to your visitors, school groups, and teachers.
  • Post this image across your social media outlets to inform your audience of the wonderful opportunity the Challenge presents for students to use their creativity and knowledge of science to make a positive impact on the world around them.
  • Introduce students to the 7-Step Invention Process using this introduction video and challenge them to think of how it can be applied to help create a solution to a wide variety of local, regional, or global issues.
  • Set up a whiteboard and have students play this interactive game from Smithsonian called “Pick Your Plate” to stimulate conversation around healthy food and how people across the globe might access it.
  • Show this inspirational video for possible ways to help solve the global issue of accessing healthy food and hold a question and answer session with students to get them thinking about what they could invent to address this issue.
Want to learn more about how the 2020 Invent It Challenge aligns with your programming, and what resources are available to you to promote it? Join our webinar on January 22nd, 2020, from 2-3 pm (EST)! Featured presenters include:
  • Sharon Klotz, Head of Invention Education at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
  • Laura Woodside, Senior Vice President of Education Products at Cricket Media, Inc.
  • Patricia Genovese, Teacher of Past Winners from California

RSVP for the webinar!

About the Invent It Challenge
Each year, the Lemelson Center and Cricket Media develop a theme related to an important global issue. By choosing themes that address significant global issues, the Invent It Challenge allows students to realize they can make an important difference in their world by applying their skills, knowledge, and creativity to come up with solutions to the challenges people around the world face daily. The 2020 theme focuses on what students can invent to help improve people’s access to healthy food. The fact that approximately 25% of the world’s 7.8 billion people struggle to access safe, nutritious food illustrates the importance and global nature of this issue.

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.

To submit an entry, students have to follow the Lemelson Center’s 7-Step Invention Process and document their progress through each step in a PowerPoint or video. To help them get started, students should review the Entry Guide, which includes everything they’ll need:

  • A list of Topics and Resources to help them generate ideas,
  • an Inventor’s Notebook to help them keep track of their progress through the seven steps,
  • and a Rubric to help them self-assess.
When students are ready, they can use this PowerPoint template to document their journey, or they can create their own presentations or videos. Judges at the Lemelson Center and Cricket Media evaluate each entry according to how deeply students engage with each step and how well they document their journey. In addition to great prizes from Faber Castell, Cricket Media, and others, students can win a multi-day trip to Washington, D.C. where their inventions get permanently displayed at the Spark!Lab! Entries are due by 11:59 pm (EST) on April 10, 2020.

Questions before the webinar? Email affiliates@si.edu.

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.