MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Museum Loan Network (MLN), a program funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, was launched in October 1995 to promote collection-sharing among museums in the United States. The program, administered by the Office of the Arts, was created to encourage museums across the country to tap the potential of one of their most valuable but underutilized resources: artworks currently in storage. By making grants available to both borrowing and lending institutions for long-term loans, the MLN is helping these organizations bring to light thousands of artworks that lie hidden in storage rooms across the country and simultaneously broadening collections of borrowing museums.

After a successful trial year, MIT was awarded grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts of $1.4 million each (for a total of $2.8 million) to continue the MLN for three more years, October 1997-September 30, 1999.

The MLN selected a new Advisory Committee drawn from members of the national museum community, completed the design of the program, refined the database, actively promoted the program to the museum community to encourage and assist museums in participating and finally awarded grants to selected museums. This year the MLN put a strong emphasis on contacting individual museum curators to encourage networking in that facet of the museum community.

Development continued on a key element of the MLN: the MLN Directory, a practical means of identifying art objects available for long-term loan. The MLN staff began to add and edit entries to the MLN Directory which will be accessible to the museum community through the World Wide Web. These entries are comprised of information concerning art objects available for long-term loan to the nation's museums. The technological components of the database are being developed by MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives.

Two press releases concerning grant awards were distributed to 1,300 museums, related organizations and the press. Five thousand copies of an informational brochure, produced in May 1996, were distributed at museum conferences and by mail. The Museum Loan Network home page was launched in April 1996.

The MLN director lectured about the program at the American Association of Museums (AAM) Conference in Atlanta, the College Art Association in New York, the Mid-Atlantic Museums Association in Long Island, the Museum Trustees Association in San Francisco, the New Mexico Museums Association in Taos, the AAM Curator's Roundtable, Washington, DC and the AAM University Museums and Galleries Roundtable, Washington, DC.

The MLN awards two types of grants to eligible nonprofit institutions in the United States: planning grants and implementation grants. In the January 1997 and June 1997 Advisory Committee meetings held at MIT, 36 grants totaling $402,580 were recommended to be approved by MIT for funding to museums throughout the country, including survey grants to such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Art, RISD; the Duke University Museum of Art; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Travel grants were awarded to, among others, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Joslyn Art Museum, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and the Mexican Museum, Chicago. Implementation grants were awarded to such diverse institutions as the Lowe Art Museum, Miami; the Columbus Museum, Georgia; the Williams College Museum of Art, MA; the Clarksville-Montgomery Museum, TN; and the Huntington Library, CA.

More information about the Museum Loan Network can be found on the World Wide Web at the following URL:

Lori Gross

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97