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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 Delaney is director for the Smithsonian’s consortia for humanities. Delaney and a committee consider proposals for innovative research, exhibitions and programs from around the Smithsonian to determine which ones will receive funding. Delaney also serves as senior program officer for history, art and culture, working with senior staff and directors to develop and implement the Smithsonian’s strategic plans. Her office reports directly to the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture.
Before she was named consortia director in summer 2010, Delaney was curator in photographic history at the National Museum of American History. Her research interests focus on American visual culture, early Daguerreian-era photography, art photography and pictorialism, Eadweard Muybridge’s locomotion studies, contemporary photojournalism and Washington, D.C., photography.