MIT Reports to the President 1997-98


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.

Not content to merely give out grants, the program continues to expand its emphasis on network building, both through human and technological resources. A group of curatorial ambassadors were appointed to help promote MLN, assist applicants in locating potential lending partners, and increase the networking potential of the program. This group is composed of eight curators chosen from museums nationwide and representing various art historical disciplines. Development continued on a key element of the MLN: the MLN Directory, a practical means of identifying art objects available for long-term loan to eligible museums throughout the United States. The Directory, now fully functional, contains over 3,000 art objects from 20 institutions in the United States. The technological components of the database were developed by MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, while the enhancements to the website are being created by Hypermedia Teaching Facility at MIT. A further innovation was the development of mini-virtual exhibitions drawn from objects from the directory. The first exhibition, An American Sampler, was launched on the MLN website on May 18 to honor International Museum Day.

Press releases concerning grant awards were distributed to 1,500 museums, related organizations and the press. A newsletter, entitled MLN Network News, was launched in October 1997 and distributed at museum conferences and by mail. The MLN Director or Program Associate lectured about the program and related museum issues at the following annual meetings: American Association of Museums (AAM), Los Angeles; the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, Los Angeles; the AAM Curator's Roundtable, Boston; the College Art Association (CAA), Toronto; the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, Rochester; Mountain Plains Museums Association, Missoula; New England Museum Association, Hartford; Southeastern Museums Conference, Raleigh; and the Western Museums Association, San Diego. In addition, MLN hosted two luncheon meetings for museum professionals: one for registrars in conjunction with the AAM meeting in Los Angeles and one primarily for curators during the CAA meeting in Toronto.

The MLN awards two types of grants to eligible nonprofit institutions in the United States: planning grants and implementation grants. At the February 1997 and May 1998 Advisory Committee meetings held at MIT, 30 grants totaling $485,901 were recommended for approval by MIT for funding to museums throughout the country. Survey grants were awarded to such prestigious institutions as the Arctic Study Center, The Hispanic Society of America; Peabody Essex Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Travel grants were awarded to the Art Museum of Western Virginia, Iñupiat Heritage Center, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Afro American History, Inc. Implementation grants were awarded to such diverse institutions as the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Joslyn Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museo de las Americas and Stanford Museum of Art.

In October 1998 the newly created position of Program Associate was filled by Michele Assaf, formerly registrar at the Denver Art Museum. The MLN Director was appointed a member of the CAA Museum Task Force.

More information about the MLN can be found on the WWW at the following URL:

Lori Gross

MIT Reports to the President 1997-98