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U.S. Department of State, American Alliance of Museums Announce 2015 Museums Connect Grants

Category: Press Release


July 16, 2015

15 Global Partners Create Museum-Based Youth Exchanges Focused on Environmental and Social Change

WASHINGTON, DC ─Museums Connect announced seven grants with 15 museum partners for the 2015 cycle, including projects in countries and states new to the program. Now in its eighth year, Museums Connect is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Museums Connect pairs museums in the United States with museums abroad for a cross-cultural exchange that brings people, especially youth, together through community projects that address topics of local relevance.

The mission of Museums Connect is to build global communities through partnership, collaboration, and cross-cultural exchanges, linking the respective museums with communities both abroad and locally, while also supporting U.S. foreign policy goals, such as youth empowerment, environmental protection, and social inclusion.

“This is a partnership program unlike any other,” said Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Laura Lott. “Museums Connect allows students and citizens across the globe to delve into issues impacting their local communities and to work together to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Museums Connect partnerships create global citizens and foster deep relationships between American and global communities. AAM is proud to continue its partnership with the U.S. Department of State on this extraordinary educational exchange program.”

Since its inception, Museums Connect has linked American museums in 27 states and the District of Columbia with partners in 49 countries, including Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Honduras, India, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Ukraine, among others.

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This year’s grantees embrace the discipline and geographic diversity that is the signature of Museums Connect. Below are brief summaries of all the 2015 projects; further information can be found at

Confronting Violence through Youth-Oriented Media

  • IZOLYATSIA, Kiev, Ukraine
  • AS220 (a non-profit community arts center), Providence, Rhode Island

This project will bring Ukrainian youth who have been affected by conflict in their country together with disadvantaged Rhode Island youth to explore how the use of youth-oriented media can channel their experiences in a positive and empowering way. At a Summer Lab Intensive Workshop, participants will learn new media techniques, such as 3D modeling, game design, laser cutting and small scale model building. The project will result in a website, as well as exhibitions in both cities that will be created and installed by the participants. Ten students, ages 16 to 18, from each country will participate, and four university students, ages 20–25, will serve as mentors throughout the project.

Connecting Coastal Communities: An International Dialogue about Ocean Conservation & Ecotourism

  • Old Dartmouth Historical Society-New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Husavik Whale Museum, Husavik, Iceland

Despite their social and cultural differences, students in New Bedford and Husavik come from similar coastal communities with maritime economies. Both share a deep history of ties to whales as economic generators and cultural symbols. In this project, teenagers in Husavik and New Bedford will explore their mutual economic and cultural heritage within the context of their ocean environments. The students will organize community and school events to celebrate whales in their local waters and share points of view about protecting the ocean and the creatures living in it, while also debating whale-based tourism and harvesting whales for economic purposes. High school students ages 15-18 in each country (18 in the U.S. and nine in Iceland) will form an “Ocean Crew.”  They will receive instruction in whale science, biology and ocean ecology. The students will create public programs, including a “whale readathon” for children, a family-centered “Whale Celebration Day,” and a project website featuring the students’ digital presentations. In addition to the environmental theme, this program supports the 2015-2017 U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Dialogues in the African Diaspora: Youth Reclaiming Community, Identity and Memory

  • Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, New York, New York
  • National Museum Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica

The formation of the African diaspora resultant from slavery tragically erased the history of entire peoples. This project aims to recover and preserve the diasporic history associated with the rural community of Nonsuch, Jamaica and the urban community of San Juan Hills in Manhattan, New York. Through creative discussions and learning about the historical conditions that disadvantaged these two communities, the 30 – 40 middle school students participating in this project will reclaim a history that has been submerged over time and reconnect with their past as a means of better understanding the present and empowering their futures. The teens will learn how to use archival sources and conduct interviews with elderly residents in their respective communities as they develop compelling digital videos and art works. They will create exhibitions in their communities to display the results of their work. They will also create a bound written text of the history that they will recover through the project, assemble tours of relevant historical sites and design a curriculum about this history for future middle school students.

Girls + STEAM = Designs for Green Global Communities

  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya

Design thinking is an effective tool for brainstorming and prototyping creative solutions to solve practical problems. The fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, benefit from the inclusion of the artistic process, or STEAM, and empower girls to imagine creative solutions to challenges in their communities. STEAM can encompass a range of contexts from the development of household goods to urban planning. Though it originates in the engineering field, STEAM also involves the creative processes of brainstorming, sketching and modeling that precede the creation of a final product. Fifteen to 20 girls in Minneapolis and Nairobi will investigate how their cities are impacted by environmental issues in order to create and prototype ways to address those issues. They will conduct interviews with people impacted by environmental problems in their respective cities as well as create ten projects (five at each museum) featuring plans, sketches, models and charts. The participants will also produce a video for screening at exhibitions and distribution to schools, as well as plan an exhibition of their prototypes as part of a community event.

Hacking Space: A Student Exchange to Sustain Life on Earth

  • Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland, California
  • Science City, West Bengal, India

According to the United Nations, the Earth’s population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050. This population growth will inevitably impact the ways in which human beings manage resources and adapt to environmental changes. The purpose of this project is to bring together 16 students ages 15-18 in the United States and India to generate potential strategies for environmental sustainability on Earth by focusing on the lessons learned from attempted space travel. Many technologies devised for the purpose of space exploration have been adapted to meet needs on Earth, including medical devices, solar panels and water purification systems, to name a few examples. This project will encourage students in both countries to develop projects focusing on using space travel technology to address sustainability on Earth. Participants will create workshops for museums visitors and a web site to demonstrate the applicability of space travel innovations to addressing the issue of environmental sustainability on our planet.

Youth Empowerment through Social Practice Art: Strategies for Coping with Violence and Trauma

  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California
  • Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico

Young people in America and Mexico experience violence or the threat of violence in their communities, a significant social issue that impacts our countries and communities in profound ways. This project enables youth to find meaning and expression through the power of the arts and empowers them to envision solutions through creative interventions. This project will connect 40 teens (20 in each country) from underserved areas around San Diego and Mexico City with social practice artists who specialize in film and photography and have experience working with teens while addressing issues of social and political violence. The projects that the youth produce will examine the impact of violence on teen lives. The teens themselves will select a theme within violence, such as intra-familial violence, dating violence, gangs and cartels or gun use as the focus of their artistic work. They also will create a short documentary film and mount a public exhibition in both countries.

Youth Mission to Mars: Exploring Space to Address Sustainability on Earth

  • Space Center Houston, Houston, Texas
  • Cite de l’espace, Toulouse, France
  • Science Center, Singapore

Space is a global enterprise. Space science and technology bring together people, resources, ideas and talents from many different countries and cultures from all over the world. Fifty disadvantaged students each from Houston, Texas; Toulouse, France; and Singapore, ages 15 – 16 will collaborate to plan a mission to establish a human base on Mars. They will investigate the cultural requirements for sustaining human life on Mars, develop a “chart of life on Mars,” and train on the basics of Mars science in order to design specific products or processes for providing the air, water, energy and nutrition needed to support human life on Mars. In the process, they will discover parallels between sustaining life on Mars and on Earth. By targeting disadvantaged youth and girls, the project aims to expose new audiences to the fascination of outer space. The students will collaborate throughout the year and participate in a three week STEM course consisting of engaging lessons and activities, videos of Mars scientists, learning games and student discussions. They will carry out team projects, culminating in a “Live the Mission” summit in Houston.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums is the largest museum service organization in the world, serving all types of museums, including art, history, science, botanic gardens, zoos and aquariums. The Alliance helps museums serve their communities by developing standards and best practices, offering professional training and resources, and serving as the national voice of museums for the public, media and elected officials. Working on behalf of 35,000 museums, 400,000 museum employees, thousands of volunteers and the visitors who come to museums 850 million times each year, the Alliance is dedicated to bolstering museums in promoting lifelong learning, celebrating cultural heritage and inspiring the creative skills to compete in a global economy. For more information, visit

About the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports and professional exchange programs, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us, like religion, politics, language and ethnicity, and geography. ECA programs build connections that engage and empower people, and motivate them to become leaders and thinkers; to develop new skills; and to find connections that will create positive change in their communities. Alumni of ECA exchange programs comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 40 Nobel Laureates and more than 300 current or former heads of state and government around the world. For more information, visit:

Media Contacts:

Adam Nelson
Director, International Program

Jane Danese
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Department of State


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