The Museum Loan Network, an innovative program facilitating collection sharing among museums and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration with communities, will relocate to Brown University after 12 years at MIT. At Brown, the network will be based at the John Nicholas Brown Center’s Public Humanities Program, where it will continue its work fostering partnerships among cultural organizations and launch new programs to connect museums with the next generation of museum professionals.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.— Brown University is the new home of the Museum Loan Network (MLN), an innovative program that inspires creativity and learning in communities by providing wider access to objects of cultural heritage, strengthening museum networks, and supporting education.

Established at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995, the MLN will now be based at the John Nicholas Brown Center, Brown’s center for the public humanities. The MLN Directory, an online database of some 20,000 cultural objects available for loan, will be administered by the Brown University Library Center for Digital Initiatives.

“Brown is delighted to be able to continue and extend the MLN’s work in reconnecting cultural heritage to communities,” said Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons. “It fits well with Brown’s public humanities initiative, which is building new links between the University, cultural organizations, and communities.”

The MLN brings objects out of storage and into public view, and promotes innovative ways to interpret them, enhancing the installations of museums and enabling them to better serve their communities. Initiated with a feasibility study in 1993 and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1995, the MLN has supported the long-term loan of more than 4,500 objects to nearly 400 institutions in 51 states and territories. The MLN Directory serves as a shared resource for museums nationwide.

“For over a decade, the MLN has benefited from MIT’s technological expertise and supportive arts environment,” said Lori Gross, founding director of the MLN. “At Brown University, the MLN will be able to expand its mission and influence the next generation of museum professionals while continuing its vital work with the museum community.”

The MLN has also supported projects to widen the ways that museums interpret artifacts. Collecting Stories: Connecting Objects, funded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and Knight Foundation, is a museum/community-focused initiative designed to engage communities with museums by connecting oral histories with cultural objects. Energizing the Study of Early American Art, sponsored by The Henry Luce Foundation, supported the cataloging of hundreds of artworks and trained students in museum techniques.

The program will continue its work supporting collaborations between U.S. institutions and new ways to interpret cultural artifacts, and will also launch a new program to connect museums with the next generation of museum professionals. Brown University’s Master of Arts program in public humanities, the first in the nation, trains graduate students in interdisciplinary methods of work in cultural organizations. The MLN will connect the Brown program with museums and other graduate training programs in cultural heritage by providing a shared set of resources for study and exploration.

Steven Lubar, director of the John Nicholas Brown Center, notes that “the MLN is a network not just of artifacts, but also of ideas and individuals. We look forward to extending this distinguished history of the MLN as an institution that catalyses a wide range of museum work.”

“Lee Hills, the late chair of Knight Foundation’s board and the visionary leader who inspired the Museum Loan Network would be pleased to see it find such an appropriate new home at Brown,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation’s president.

The Museum Loan Network

The mission of the Museum Loan Network is to make objects of cultural heritage more accessible and understandable to the public by encouraging collecting institutions to share these works over extended periods of time, enabling museums to better serve their communities. 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. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was chosen as the initial administrative site for the program because of its dynamic arts community and excellence in science and technology. More information:

Brown University’s Public Humanities Program

The John Nicholas Brown Center is Brown University’s center for the public humanities. It supports students and faculty who connect the public to history, art, and culture, and sponsors programs that consider the ways in which the humanities enrich everyday life. The JNBC is the home of Brown’s public humanities Master of Arts program, which prepares students to apply the methods and skills of humanities professionals to the ideas and traditions of diverse communities, broadening the ways that Americans understand their cultural heritage. More information: