On December 19, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie G. Bunch III signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand future collaboration between their two organizations, bringing the world-class expertise and educational impact of the Smithsonian to audiences from around the world via the international reach of the Department of State.
Secretaries Blinken and Bunch signed the MOU in the newly renovated Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room at the Department of State. During the ceremony, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Elizabeth M. Allen delivered opening remarks and Secretary Blinken announced four new initiatives, including having Smithsonian scientists join the State Department Embassy Science Fellows program to tackle global science challenges; strengthening ties with Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations through a new position for a State Department detailee; supporting a pilot project in Oaxaca, Mexico, to help preserve traditional crafts; and launching Cultural Heritage Forward, an international exchange program for experts to develop and share best practices for more inclusive museums.
Both organizations’ work with global audiences will advance geopolitical discussions, promote climate and biodiversity action, and drive democratic movements. This partnership enables the Smithsonian — the largest museum, research, and education complex in the world — and the Department of State to work together and leverage their respective strengths and convening powers. These joint efforts will reach new audiences, highlight American expertise and innovation, and advance shared goals in the areas of art, education, culture, science, and research.
Priority areas for collaboration include: strengthening educational, cultural, and scientific exchanges; increasing connections between Smithsonian scientists and researchers and the Department’s science policy practitioners; sharing Smithsonian collections and expertise with international audiences; fostering engagement with cultural organizations to promote new modes of museum practice and stewardship; celebrating the semiquincentennial of the United States; and partnering to promote a more sustainable planet, including joining the U.S. delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).