Dubuque museum named Smithsonian affiliate

Will have access to art exhibits, artifacts

The Dubuque Museum of Art. (Reprinted with permission from the Dubuque Telegraph Herald)
The Dubuque Museum of Art. (Reprinted with permission from the Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Visitors to the Dubuque Museum of Art may soon have an opportunity to view art, artifacts and other exhibits on loan from the world’s largest museum and research complex.

The Dubuque museum, Iowa’s oldest cultural institution founded in 1874, has been designated a national affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which includes 19 museums and galleries and nine research facilities.

The Dubuque Museum of Art now joins the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, also in Dubuque, and the Putnam Museum in Davenport as the only active Smithsonian affiliated museums in Iowa. Fewer than 30 cities in the nation have multiple Smithsonian-affiliated museums.

Harold Closter, Smithsonian Affiliations director, announced the designation Tuesday in Dubuque. He said the museum was selected based on the strength of its collections, operations and national accreditation through the American Alliance of Museums.

As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Dubuque art museum will have access to loans of artifacts and traveling exhibitions, including those drawn from the Smithsonian’s world-class holdings of American art. The partnership also enables the Dubuque museum to participate in educational and outreach collaborations, including curriculum development in schools, lectures, workshops and study tours.

David Schmitz, executive director of the Dubuque Museum of Art, said affiliation will enhance the museum’s exhibitions and programs for the benefit of the community and region.

Schmitz said the museum has submitted initial plans to develop exhibitions around some of the most significant objects and themes in its collections. They include paintings by Eastern Iowan and American regionalist Grant Wood and Edward S. Curtis, a Wisconsin native known for his photographs of the American West and Native Americans.

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The Dubuque museum also hopes to borrow objects from the Smithsonian related to the culture of the Mississippi River region, Schmitz said.

As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Dubuque museum will pay a $3,000 annual membership fee. It also will be responsible for costs associated with insurance, packing and shipping, conservation, copyright clearances, installation, security and travel.

Traveling exhibits also have rental fees, according to the affiliate program. The costs, which are separate from the membership fee, may be underwritten by local sponsors.

Sean Ulmer, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, said his organization is revisiting its membership program and would possibly consider the Smithsonian Affiliates program.

“We already receive proposals for exhibitions from the Smithsonian American Museum of Art,” Ulmer said. “We need to see what benefits the affiliates program would provide our members and the community beyond our current relationship.”

More than 8,000 Smithsonian artifacts have been displayed at the 190 Smithsonian affiliates in 40 states, Puerto Rico and Panama.

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