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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s Frank H. McClung Museum has been accepted into the prestigious Smithsonian Institution Affiliations program.

Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents announced the affiliation Thursday.

“The Smithsonian’s Affiliations program was created to share our national treasures with citizens throughout the country,” Frist said. “I’m pleased the McClung can help open the doors of the Smithsonian to all Tennesseans.”

The affiliation will give the McClung Museum access to selections from the more than 142 million objects in the Smithsonian collections, from spacecraft to cultural artifacts to fine art. The program allows the museum to incorporate Smithsonian collections into its long-term exhibition plans and educational outreach.

“This is another indicator of our university’s vital role as a cultural and educational resource for Tennessee and the region,” said Dr. Loren Crabtree, UT provost.

McClung is the fourth organization in Tennessee to affiliate with the Smithsonian. The museum will retain its identity, staff and university governance and will receive no financial support from the Smithsonian.

“I am very excited about the opportunities offered by this affiliation,” said Dr. Jeff Chapman, director of the McClung Museum. “It will heighten our visibility and is a clear recognition of the quality museum we have become.”

The McClung plans to explore the possibility of loans of Smithsonian geological and fossil specimens for installation in the long-term exhibition, “Geology and the Fossil History of Tennessee.” The museum will also seek the loan of archaeological objects that will enhance the recently opened exhibition, “Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee.”

Pete Claussen, a Knoxville businessman who sits on the Smithsonian’s national board of directors, said the affiliation is part of the Smithsonian’s effort to reach out across the country.

“What the Smithsonian is trying to do is get outside the Beltway,” Claussen said. “Better than 98 percent of the institution’s collection is in storage, and affiliations with museums like McClung will put these materials out so that the public can enjoy them.”

Smithsonian Affiliations offers museums across the country the opportunity to have greater access to Smithsonian collections and resources. Since the program was established in 1997, the Smithsonian has established partnerships with more than 80 institutions in 27 states, the District of Columbia, Panama and Puerto Rico. McClung Museum is the fourth in Tennessee.

In addition, the museum will have the opportunity to use outreach services offered by the Smithsonian, including curriculum development for local schools and hosting of Smithsonian traveling exhibitions, workshops and lecture series given by Smithsonian scholars and scientists. The Smithsonian also shares staff expertise in areas of conservation, collections care and exhibition development with affiliates.

“The Affiliations program is a very effective way for the Smithsonian Institution to reach beyond the geographical limits of its own museums,” said Michael Carrigan, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations.

Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small, a major proponent of the program concurs: “The ultimate beneficiaries of the Affiliations program are the American people and their communities. This program has allowed the American people to experience the Smithsonian and its wonders in their own backyard.”

Affiliate organizations must have goals compatible with the Smithsonian’s mission, and they must maintain the high standards of excellence that are synonymous with the Smithsonian’s exhibit and museum education programs. In recognition of its professionalism and high standards, the McClung Museum has been accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1972.

For information on Smithsonian Affiliations, contact Lonna Seibert (202-786-2012).