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The Smithsonian embodies advancement and synthesis of knowledge that contributes to understanding the American Experience—its history and culture, arts and sciences. The Smithsonian will now foster a pan-institutional approach to interpreting the American Experience through its unique museums, research centers, public programs, national collections and archives; one that encourages interdisciplinary project teams and creative approaches to documenting and collecting for the historic and contemporary accomplishments and creativity of the American people, and inspires a broader public awareness of American life and national identity, cultural expression, the environment and changing landscape, and achievements in science and technology.
Smithsonian Grand Challenges Awards—a competitive, internal granting program—advance cross-disciplinary, integrated scholarly efforts across the Institution which relate to the Smithsonian Grand Challenge Understanding the American Experience. These awards encourage Smithsonian staff to advance research, as well as broaden access, revitalize education, strengthen collections and encourage new ways of thinking that involve emerging technology.
Grand Challenges grants are awarded through the Smithsonian Consortia at two distinct levels:
Level One grants provide seed money to develop groups around promising concepts. Successful proposals at Level One provide the time and incentive for individuals with common interests to meet and crystallize ideas for major interdisciplinary/pan-Institutional projects. These projects are intended to be short in duration (6-12 months) and focused in purpose, such as support for arranging seminars, workshops, meetings, and brown-bag lunches.
Level Two grants are larger and aimed at maturing groups poised to confront relevant issues and prepared to secure external funding. Applicants apply for Level Two funding to conduct preliminary experiments, write a position paper, explore the design of an exhibition, conduct preparatory work for a major project or produce other evidence of scholarly capacity that is deemed essential for external competition. Successful proposals at Level Two provide a group that has defined a common goal with the resources they need to establish themselves as credible competitors for external funding. Applicants for Level Two funding may already have a collaborative history or may be building on the outcome of a successful Level One process.
Michelle Anne Delaney serves as Senior Program Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, working with senior leadership, museum directors and staff to develop and implement the Smithsonian's strategic plans, national campaign, educational, web and digital strategy, and revenue and business policies. Prior to this position, Delaney worked in the Smithsonian’s Photographic History Collection, National Museum of American History since 1989, and serving as curator of photography since 2009. Her research interests are American visual culture, early Daguerreian-era photography, the history of art photography, Eadweard Muybridge’s locomotion studies, contemporary photojournalism and Washington, D.C. photography. Delaney has successfully directed several Smithsonian collections-based and scholarly research grants, and a 2006 Getty Foundation Conservation grant studying the Smithsonian’s collection of Hillotypes, early experiments in color photography. She and her co-editors received a 2009 Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize for the exhibition catalog The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise. Her most recent exhibition project is a companion to her first book, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Warriors: A Photographic History by Gertrude Käsebier, jointly sponsored by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, and the National Museum of American History. In 2009, Delaney was appointed an associate editor for visual culture for The Papers of William F. Cody. She received her master’s degree in American Studies from the George Washington University. Ms. Delaney was named Director of the Smithsonian's new Consortium for Understanding the American Experience July 2010.