University granted Smithsonian affiliate status

By David Valdes

A new relationship has formed between the University and the internationally renowned Smithsonian Institution, according to a Sept. 2 press release.

The University was recently granted affiliate status with the Smithsonian Institution, which will allow each institution to access the other’s collections and resources. The Krannert Art Museum, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music and the University library are all components of the new Smithsonian Institution affiliation.

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“One percent of the Smithsonian’s content is on display, and the rest is in storage,” said Scott Schwartz, associate professor of Library Administration and main facilitator between the University and the Smithsonian Institution. “The relationship we’ve established has made that other 99 percent available to get out there.”

Schwartz, who is also the archivist for Music and Fine Arts with the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music said the affiliation would greatly benefit both institutions as well as University students.

He said the Affiliates Program grants the Smithsonian “the ability to exhibit its rare collection to the broadest population in this country.”

The University is one of very few universities with affiliate status, Schwartz said. Most affiliates are actual museums.

According to the Smithsonian’s Web site, there are currently 142 affiliates in 39 U.S. states as well as in Panama and Puerto Rico.

Schwartz said the University’s first big loan from the Smithsonian Insititution will be in 2006, when the University will receive Stradivarius violins, a very old and historic collection of musical instruments.

“We are bringing some truly rare instruments to the Midwest to allow people to see these as artifacts as well as instruments,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz, who worked with the institution for 10 years prior to coming to the University, said the affiliation would bring a wealth of opportunities to University students.

“Internships, fellowships and mentoring opportunities are now available because of this,” he said. “I’ve got lots of bright colleagues at the (Smithsonian). Why not tap into them?”

Paula Kaufman, a University librarian, said she was optimistic about the affiliation as well.

“(The University-Smithsonian affiliation) came out of work that Scott Schwartz did last year in preparing for a Sousa celebration,” she said. “I really encouraged him to move forward, interact with the chancellor and get it done.”

Kaufman also said many doors would be opened by this affiliation.

“For example, we’ll have access to their curators who have knowledge in many areas that we may not,” she said.

Kathleen Harleman, director of the American Association of Museums-accredited Krannert Art Museum, said the University’s affiliation with the Smithsonian will be very beneficial.

“In the first place, it’s a strong way of working together across disciplines on campus,” she said. Harleman added that she is excited to be working with the Smithsonian.

“When loans are requested to make exciting exhibitions happen, we’ve already been assessed as a place (the Smithsonian) wants to work with,” she said. “It’s very exciting to get that done.”

Harleman echoed Schwartz’s sentiments about student internships and a growing connection with the Smithsonian.

“It’s wonderful to have the Washington, D.C. connection for our students,” she said. She said the affiliation is still new and that much more exciting news should be expected in the future.

“If all things go well, this is a perfect example of working together to make extraordinary things happen,” Harleman said.

For Schwartz, it was a natural union.

“U of I has a national reputation; the (Smithsonian) has an international reputation,” he said. “Why shouldn’t the two be joined?”