The Smithsonian's Fellowships in Museum Practice (FMP) program is a professional development opportunity for experienced museum practitioners, academics, and training providers. It was developed in response to an articulated need by the field for career development and renewal opportunities at advanced levels.
The program, unique in the museum profession worldwide, supports research about issues of theory and practice in education, curation, exhibition, administration and other museum functions and disciplines. It offers competitively selected individuals an opportunity to study a museological topic of their choice for up-to-six months in residence at the Smithsonian.
The purpose of the fellowships program is to serve as a catalyst for helping expand the intellectual resources and networking capacities of museums and their personnel—conditions necessary for fostering inspiration, innovation and ultimately, the production of new scholarship.
Through self-designed programs of activities, interviews, readings and observations, fellows consult current museological scholarship while generating their own original research projects, interact with colleagues at the Smithsonian, and develop meaningful relationships within the broader Washington, D.C. cultural community. Participation in the program enables accomplished practitioners to reflect on their work, think creatively, and rejuvenate their talents and energy.
Residency arrangements are flexible. Individual schedules are structured to meet a fellow's employment situation and research objectives. Some people divide their time in Washington into two or more segments.
Fellows are expected to produce a document reflecting their work during the fellowship and to participate in forum discussions. Dissemination can be through a variety of formats such as journal articles, books, lectures, case studies, instructional materials, literature reviews and web sites.
Acknowledgement of the role of the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies in contributing to the resulting documentation is requested. A brief report describing the fellowship experience and its outcomes is due within six months after completing the fellowship.
One or more fellowships is awarded annually for a period of up to 6 months. An award consists of a stipend of $3,500 per month plus round-trip travel expenses between the recipient's home and Washington, D.C. Funds to support participation in a relevant conference or seminar will be considered on a case-by-case basis. A fellow must be in residence at the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies (SCEMS) office for the majority of the fellowship period. SCEMS reserves the right to not award a fellowship in a year if the reviewers decide that none of the applications is suitable.
On occasion the program offers an award of merit to an applicant whose proposal is worthy of further study but is not sufficiently structured to meet the Fellowships in Museum Practice selection criteria. In these cases, the applicant may be awarded funds to support the costs of a short-term professional visit to the SI. Professional visits do not entitle a recipient to participation in SI sponsored forums or obligate him/her to submit a report of findings.
The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies (SCEMS) provides office space, advisory services and access to Smithsonian facilities, resources, staff and reference collections as well as informal forums in which to present work-in-progress.
The program is open to mid- and senior-level museum personnel, researchers and training providers.
All disciplines and functional areas of work in museums and allied cultural and educational organizations are eligible to apply. However, priority is given to those fields which reflect the on-going research of the Smithsonian Institution, and its strategic plan. To read more, see: Four Grand Challenges of the Smithsonian Strategic Plan (http://si.edu/about/documents/SI_Strategic_Plan_2010-2015.pdf).
To be considered for funding, applicants must be employed by a not-for-profit (50l-C-3) cultural or educational institution that deals directly with the public or be an independent scholar. People who work in libraries and schools as well as museums and cultural centers have received fellowships. International participation is welcome. Participants must be fluent in spoken and written English. Alumni include practitioners from Austria, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, China, Canada, England, Italy, India, Mexico, and New Zealand.
What We Don’t Fund:
- Collection surveys
- Converting theses or dissertations into films, websites, books, or exhibits
- Requests to study in universities, colleges or continuing education programs, certificate or graduate programs, material culture or connoisseurship programs or that are part of an institutional project.
- Smithsonian employees, current Smithsonian research associates, and individuals who perform Smithsonian Institution service contracts are not eligible
Fellowships are awarded through a competitive process via electronic submission. The deadline for the application cycle is February 15, for fellowships beginning after October 15. The online application system will accept applications beginning December 15. To submit your proposal, please set-up a user ID in our online application system, SOLAA at:https://solaa.si.edu. Select Fellowships and “SCEMS Fellowships in Museum Practice”. There, you will be able to upload all relevant materials and requirements:
- Title of the study
- Discussion of the topic to be investigated including the thesis statement and key issues
- Description of the nature and scope of the topic relative to the needs of museums and cultural institutions and an explanation of how this proposal will add knowledge to the topic
- Plan of action including a description of the research methodology to be used and a list of preliminary questions to be explored
- Review of existing literature specific to the study
- Description of the format for disseminating the research and the rationale for the choice
- Resume / curriculum vitae, not to exceed two pages
- Two confidential letters of reference submitted on your behalf by your referees.
Applications are evaluated by an external committee of museum professionals on the following factors:
- The range and depth of the applicant’s knowledge and experience about the topic
- Evidence of the applicant's ability to produce quality work
- Rationale and coherence of the proposed plan of action
- Extent to which research on the topic would contribute to improved museum practices or impact institutional decisions
- Extent to which access to resources at the Smithsonian and in Washington, D.C. are needed to produce the product
- Degree to which the proposal advances the fellowship program’s goals and the priorities of the Smithsonian Institution (see SI Strategic Plan athttp://si.edu/about/documents/SI_Strategic_Plan_2010-2015.pdf)