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The Consortium for World Cultures promotes pan-institutional, interdisciplinary scholarship that enhances our knowledge and understanding of cultural diversity, creativity, environmental adaptation and the evolution of humanity. Our programs seek to inspire audiences to explore the cultural and artistic heritage of the world’s peoples and cultivate appreciation for diversity through collecting activities, public programs and community engagement.
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 Valuing World Cultures.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.
Robert Leopold serves as Senior Program Officer 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. He is also a Professorial Lecturer in Museum Studies at George Washington University, where he teaches Digital Imaging for Museums: Policy and Practice, a course that builds on his experience managing imaging programs and creating online exhibits that support scholarly research and promote the repatriation of knowledge to source communities. Dr. Leopold served as project director and technical consultant for the online exhibit Lakota Winter Counts, which received a Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and a U.N. World Summit Award. Previously, at the National Museum of Natural History, Dr. Leopold served as director of the National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, where he received major grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Save America’s Treasures program to preserve and digitize endangered languages documentation, historical photographs and indigenous artwork and contributed his expertise to language revitalization initiatives in native communities. Leopold has a special interest in how scholars and source communities negotiate access to culturally sensitive materials in libraries, archives and museums. He is a co-author of the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials (2006) and was a co-sponsor of the international symposium Ethnographic Archives, Communities of Origin and Intangible Cultural Heritage (2006). He currently serves on the Cultural Property Working Group and the Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct of the Society of American Archivists, as well as the advisory panel of the Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project.
Dr. Leopold is a former Fulbright Fellow who conducted ethnographic research on social organization, ritual and cosmology in Liberia from 1985-87. He earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton (1979) and his doctorate in social and cultural anthropology from Indiana University (1991).