The Smithsonian Consortia

The Smithsonian Consortia advance knowledge across disciplines to solve critical global issues of our time. Our mission is to create new opportunities for interdisciplinary scholarship, research and education within the Smithsonian and beyond.

The Consortia incubate, develop and launch collaborations that—along with our museums, research centers and programs—address the Smithsonian Strategic Plan’s four Grand Challenges:

  • Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
  • Understanding the American Experience
  • Valuing World Cultures
  • Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe

The Consortia provide consultation and assistance to Smithsonian scholars as they work to identify partnerships and external funding for collaborative ideas that can be developed into proposals for external funding. The Consortia also serve as a portal for external organizations that wish to connect with the Smithsonian around the interdisciplinary research. 

The Consortia have regular open houses in their Castle offices. This is an opportunity to learn more about the Consortia through informal discussions with the Consortia Directors, staff and grantees. Other Consortia events are the annual Grand Challenges Share Fair, where the grantees discuss their projects, processes and outcomes. In addition, the Consortia support symposia and other events on a variety of topics. Please visit the Events section of this site for upcoming and archived events.

The Smithsonian Consortia and the Grand Challenges Awards were originally funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Consortia Goals & Objectives

  • Promote a new way of life at the Smithsonian Institution by creating opportunities for interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration across the Smithsonian.
  • Serve as a vital hub for research, outreach, development and entrepreneurship and bring these elements together in a way that advances the mission of the Smithsonian.
  • Pursue comprehensive strategies that build upon Smithsonian strengths in research, collections, exhibitions, education and outreach.
  • Facilitate groundbreaking research, fruitful internal and external partnerships, abundant programming and outreach, the generation of new collections, and expanded use of the Web and new media.
  • Bring people together to exchange ideas, generate new opportunities and brainstorm strategies that benefit the Smithsonian as a whole.

Download the Consortia brochure