Yale and Smithsonian join forces to address global issues

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Yale President Peter Salovey and Richard Kurin, under secretary for history, art, and culture at the Smithsonian Institution (center), are pictured with officials from the university and the museum at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

The Smithsonian and Yale University signed a memorandum of understanding April 12 that formalizes the long-standing relationship between the two organizations, with the goal of capitalizing on the institutions’ intellectual and programmatic connections in order to engage broad and diverse audiences and address issues of global significance.

The partnership will focus initially on fostering innovation and activities concentrated in five areas: conservation and preservation of cultural heritage; digital humanities; race and human diversity; environment and climate change; and material culture and collections-based teaching and research.

“I am pleased that we are formally recognizing the considerable ties between the Smithsonian and Yale University and our commitment to explore new initiatives together,” said David Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian. “We look forward to creating broad research and public engagement opportunities with Yale.”  

“The connections between Yale and the Smithsonian extend back to both of our institutions’ earliest days,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “In so many ways, and without exaggeration, you might say that we are two halves of a whole. All of us at Yale are delighted that, in this new partnership, that spirit of collaboration and interconnection will be brought to bear on a number of current topics that are of vital importance to our global society.”

Through this agreement, both the Smithsonian and Yale aim to prepare future generations of researchers and scholars and develop new and innovative strategies for engaging the public, including: joint research projects; internships, fellowships and research associate engagement; joint academic programs, including Yale courses that focus on Smithsonian archives and collections; thematic seminars, institutes, or joint convenings; and lecture and speaker exchanges.

Several pilot projects are already underway and others will continue into 2017. Among the first projects from the partnership are:

  • A new Yale course, offered in fall of 2016, titled “American Public Sculpture: History, Context and Continuing Significance”
  • Two graduate student internships in the Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations planned for summer 2016
  • A lecture at Yale by Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s acting provost and under secretary for museums and research, titled “Saving Culture in Disaster” (read about the lecture)

Another planned project includes building on the existing collaboration between the Smithsonian’s Center for Tropical Forest Science­–Forest Global Earth Observatory and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies around a global network of forest dynamics plots.

Read about events at the U.N. Global Colloquim of University Presidents.

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