About the Museum Loan Network
The Museum Loan Network:
- inspires creativity and learning by providing wider access to objects of cultural heritage.
- strengthens existing museum networks, builds new ones, and provides a vehicle for the compilation and exchange of information about cultural heritage, and
- supports teaching the skills needed to preserve and interpret cultural heritage.
The goal of the MLN is to help cultural institutions better serve their communities, and better preserve and present cultural heritage.
The MLN was initiated by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and received substantial funding from the Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Additional grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Kress Foundation and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation allowed the program to thrive. MLN was created and spent its first decade located at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As it enters its second decade, the MLN is thrilled to be taking on new challenges under the administration of Brown University's John Nicholas Brown Center's Public Humanities Program, with support from the Brown University Library Center for Digital Initiatives.
The Museum Loan Network's move to Brown University brings with it change, and new opportunity. We will focus our efforts on building on the successes of recent MLN initiatives. In the last few years the MLN has taken the notion of museum collaboration far beyond the loan of art and artifacts. In "Museum as Catalyst for Interdisciplinary Collaboration," the MLN brought together innovative leaders from different disciplines to explore challenges and opportunities affecting collaboration among museums, and between museums and communities. In "Energizing the Study of Early American Art," a cataloging project served to connect academics, curators, students and educators, strengthening existing museum networks and fostering new relationships between organizations and individuals. And most ambitious, "Collecting Stories: Connecting Objects" engaged museums and communities by connecting oral histories along with cultural objects. CS:CO's website provides a toolkit, demonstration projects and other online resources that suggest new ways to conserve and interpret cultural heritage.
These projects highlight the potential of museums to serve as more than collectors of artifacts, and demonstrate new roles for a network that ties museums together not only through loans, but also through ideas and individuals. We look forward to extending this distinguished history to make MLN an institution that catalyzes a wide range of museum work.
We will continue to support the MLN Directory, maintaining and expanding the database of objects available for loan. One new direction in which we are particularly interested is using the MLN's database, collaborative projects, and networks to connect museums to each other; museum workers to their colleagues and collaborators; and to bring the next generation of museum staff into these networks. The MLN shares its new location at the John Nicholas Brown Center with an ambitious new public humanities M.A. program that educates students for work in museums and other cultural institutions in a unique way, combining museum training with community cultural work. The MLN's recent projects show some of the ways that museums can serve as a catalyst for culture, and we look forward to using the MLN to broaden training in museum studies, and connect students with museums.
Although the MLN will shift its focus from providing grants to support the loan of artifacts from museum to museum, we look forward to finding funding to support targeted cataloging and loans as part of our work in encouraging museum and community collaboration more generally.
History and Support
The program got its start in 1993 when the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned a feasibility study to determine the amount of interest in a national collection-sharing initiative. The enthusiastic response to the study by potential borrowing and lending institutions convinced the Knight Foundation to proceed and encouraged the Pew Charitable Trusts to become full partners in the new program. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology served as the administrative site for the MLN from its founding until 2007.
- John S. and James L. Knight Foundation The Museum Loan Network is an idea that originated with the Knight Foundation's past chairman, the late Lee Hills and reflected the Foundation's 53 years of support for a wide spectrum of museums, principally art, historical, natural history, science and children's museums. Knight Foundation has had a long standing commitment to the MLN and its mission to help museums create programming that is specifically relevant to local audiences. Knight Foundation has supported the MLN with more than $6 million in grants since 1995.
- The Pew Charitable Trusts In 1993, the director of the Trusts' Culture program was invited to participate in a national meeting convened by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to assess the feasibility of a national art museum loan program. Based on their successful experience with earlier loan programs and their continued commitment to expanding cultural experiences for the American public, the Trusts offered to join the Knight Foundation in cosponsoring the national Museum Loan Network.
- The Henry Luce Foundation Support from The Henry Luce Foundation enabled the MLN to add a significant group of American portraits to our shared database, facilitate collections sharing, foster new long-term relationships between colleagues, and thereby energize the study and teaching of early American art.
- The Nathan Cummings Foundation Support from The Nathan Cummings Foundation enabled the MLN to encourage institutional engagement with community-focused collections practices; identify community knowledge bases; and convene national leaders and members of the museum community to discuss interdisciplinary collaboration.
To view past MLN press releases, please visit our News and Updates page.
The Museum Loan Network advisory committee provides counsel on program policy and philosophy.
- David Park Curry
Curator of American Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, VA
- Saralyn Reece Hardy
Salina Art Center, KS
- Melissa Mcloud
Center for Chesapeake Studies
Chesapeake Maritime Museum, MD
- Clement Alexander Price
Professor of History
Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, Rutgers University-Newark, NJ
- Lori Gross
Founding Director Museum Loan Network