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U. of I. granted affiliate status by Smithsonian Institution

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


Scott Schwartz
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by Kwame Ross
The renowned Smithsonian Institution has invited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign into its prestigious Affiliations Program.Scott Schwartz, director of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, will serve as the liaison between university units and the 159-year-old institution.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 159-year-old Smithsonian Institution has opened its doors – and collections – to a slightly younger cousin across the country.

The renowned institution in Washington, D.C., has invited the 137-year-old University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign into its prestigious Affiliations Program.

Affiliation with the institution that “offers the world a picture of America, and America a picture of the world,” brings a host of privileges, including greater access to the institution’s 137-million objects, many of them priceless. The institution considers affiliation with organizations whose mission is parallel to its own: “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

Illinois is among only a handful of institutions of higher education that have been granted affiliate status; most affiliates are individual museums.

Joining Illinois in the class of 2005 is the San Diego Aerospace Museum in California, bringing the number of SI affiliates to 142 in 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Panama.

Aaron Glavas, senior coordinator of the Smithsonian Affiliations Program, said that Illinois and its museums, including the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music (SACAM), “perform a vital public service for the people of Illinois and visitors throughout the region. We look forward to strengthening the relationship between our institutions to expand and enhance that service.”

Three U. of I. units – the Krannert Art Museum, the University Library and SACAM, which is under the aegis of the Library – got the affiliation process rolling. Those three units will be early beneficiaries of the partnership, but the benefits will be available campuswide, including to all other U. of I. museums, galleries and collections.

In its announcement on Sept. 2, the Smithsonian wrote that it was pleased to announce the establishment of the partnership between its Affiliations Program and Illinois.

“A world-class leader in research and education, the University of Illinois also is home to the Krannert Art Museum, an AAM-accredited facility, housing more than 8,000 works of art representing the cultures of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, and to the University Library, one of the largest public university libraries in the world.”

Scott Schwartz, director of SACAM, will serve as the liaison or facilitator between university units and the SI. He said he takes “great pride in knowing that these two internationally recognized institutions of higher knowledge – the SI and the U. of I. – have come together for the betterment of learning for future generations.”

According to Schwartz, the SI sees its affiliates as “vehicles to help get its collections out to the broadest public possible.” Last year an estimated 21 million people visited Smithsonian-Affiliate institutions.

The Smithsonian also helps promote the preservation and educational missions of its affiliates, Schwartz said, and facilitates “greater collaboration between its affiliates across the country and world – “one of the greatest benefits of an affiliation with the SI.”

Others involved in the application for membership were Paula Kaufman, university librarian, and Pauline Cochrane, professor emerita, both in the University Library; Kathleen Harleman, director, and Karen Hewitt, deputy director, Krannert Art Museum; and Richard Herman, chancellor of the Urbana campus.

The affiliations program is available to 501 (c)(3) nonprofit cultural or educational institutions interested in obtaining Smithsonian collections on a long-term basis.

Affiliate organizations may integrate Smithsonian collections into exhibitions, educational initiatives and research programs; incorporate the many outreach services of the Smithsonian: curriculum development in local schools, lectures, traveling exhibitions, workshops and study tours; and “borrow” Smithsonian staff expertise in areas of conservation, collections care and exhibition development.

Schwartz said that “significant artifacts and archival documents that best complement the university’s exhibition and programming of its historical collections would make the best use of this affiliation.”

He also sees “enhanced opportunities” for Illinois faculty and students to participate in a variety of internships and fellowships at and through the SI and working with “leaders from diverse academic, museum, archives, library and preservation communities in our nation’s capital.”

“But the opportunity to develop new and innovative collaborations across academic disciplines at Illinois is perhaps the greatest benefit of the new affiliation.”

Schwartz began the process to obtain SI affiliation more than a year ago. He knew the effort to “establish a vital link and collaborative relationship” would be well worth his time because he had been an archivist for the SI’s Duke Ellington and American Music Collections in the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, before coming to Illinois in 2003.

Thus Schwartz knew that as an affiliate, the university would be able to share the SI’s public programming, educational outreach, academic mentoring and borrowing of historical artifacts for exhibitions “in ways that would not have been as possible had we not become an affiliate.”

He said he also recognized that the partnership would “expedite” the process of borrowing objects from the SI, something with which he also has some acquaintance.

Last year, for example, and largely the result of his existing relationship with the staff of the NMAH, Schwartz borrowed John Philip Sousa sheet music and piano rolls, and hired the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

The occasion was the Sousa Sesquicentennial, a month-long celebration last November that Schwartz produced in honor of the “March King’s” birth in particular, and of American music in general. Schwartz arranged the music festival to coincide with the national American Music Month, held annually in November.

For the 2006 celebration of American Music Month at Illinois, Schwartz is planning once again to tap the SI, specifically, to bring to campus the Smithsonian Chamber Ensemble and the SI’s Stradivarius and Amati violins for a month-long festival tentatively titled “Illinois Chautauqua: Life Long Learning Through the Performing Arts.”

“By becoming an affiliate, the university has elevated its loan request for these historic music instruments by demonstrating that it shares with the SI a mission of academic excellence, educational outreach and public engagement.”

This November’s American Music Month celebration, detailed at and titled “Lifescapes of America’s Music,” features a performance of original jazz compositions by Billy Strayhorn and lectures by Walter van de Leur, artistic director of the Dutch Jazz Orchestra and the leading Strayhorn scholar; a youth fiddling contest and benefit concert for the preservation of American music and a local theater, the Virginia; lectures by prominent physicians on music and healing; and exhibitions.

According to Schwartz, the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music is “rapidly becoming a vital research and preservation repository of archival papers documenting America’s wind band traditions, the early evolution of electronic music and “an incredible ethnomusicology collection.”

SACAM is home to the world’s largest collection of original music composed and arranged by John Philip Sousa, including original scores and parts, published music and manuscripts, personal papers, photographs, programs, broadsides and artifacts.

With more than 10 million volumes, the University Library is the largest public university collection in the world.

The Krannert Art Museum’s strengths include the Trees Collection of European and American Painting, the Olsen Collection of pre-Columbia Art and a small but exquisite collection of Asian art, and a large and important collection of works on paper.

“This museum was one of the reasons the U. of I. was so attractive to SI as an affiliate,” Schwartz said. He can be contacted at 217-244-9309 and at