Smithsonian castle garden, red stone building with brick path. pink flowery trees

Smithsonian Outreach and Service

The Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846 for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge,” is the world’s largest museum, research, and educational complex. Its collections hold more than 160 million artifacts, artworks and specimens, as well as tens of millions of photographs, audio-visual recordings, and archives that document human achievement and life on the planet.  A public institution of the United States, the Smithsonian stretches from the museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to research and educational activities in more than 145 countries around the globe, and even to outer space. The Smithsonian is supported by U.S. federal appropriations, philanthropic donations, and grants from foundations. Its cultural rescue activities are recognized in legislation, including its annual appropriation and in the U.S. Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (PL 114-151).

The Smithsonian works closely and cooperatively with local and regional communities, government agencies, and cultural professional organizations to save heritage in the most responsive, efficient, and effective ways. Through strategic partnerships with government agencies and cultural organizations, the Smithsonian engages and informs policymakers and professionals on the best ways to protect threatened heritage.

The Smithsonian:

  • Develops and implements on-the-ground projects in collaboration with local communities and a variety of national and international organizations to save heritage damaged or threatened by disaster.
  • Chairs the Preservation Working Group of the U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) for the protection of international cultural heritage at risk.
  • Co-chairs the U.S. Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Coordinates disaster response and training activities with U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Cultural Emergency Response (CER), International Council of Museums (ICOM) and other nongovernmental and professional organizations.
  • Provides information to members of Congress and participants in conferences, such as the World Economic Forum, about the need to protect cultural heritage from disasters.
  • Cooperates with U.S. and international law enforcement agencies in producing the ICOM Red List, which warns the international community about looting and trafficking of cultural property.
  • Develops museum exhibitions, publications, and public programs to alert policymakers and the public about cultural loss and its consequences.