The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, the Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.

In 2014, the Arts and Cultural Heritage program awarded the Smithsonian Institution a planning grant to develop an institutional approach for deepening and formalizing its investment in protecting cultural heritage in the United States and abroad. In 2017, the Foundation made an implementation grant to the Smithsonian to support the launch of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI), envisioned as a centralized body for domestic and international research, response, and training for protecting cultural heritage imperiled by natural or man-made disasters.