FAQ about SAAM Fellowships

Q: What are the benefits and expectations of being a SAAM Fellow? 

A: One of the benefits of a SAAM fellowship is the opportunity to become part of a scholarly community, thus each cohort of fellows participates in professional development programming, work-in-progress sharing sessions, area field trips, gallery talks, and end-of-tenure public lectures. This sense of scholarly community extends beyond the fellows cohort, and their residency in Washington, as they become integral parts of a vibrant alumni network and an expanding field of scholars. To foster intellectual exchange, Fellows are expected to be in residence full time at the museum, where they will be provided with a study carrel and access to the Smithsonian’s holdings of primary and secondary resources. 


Q: How do I apply for named fellowships at SAAM, such as the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Fellowship? 

A: Applicants must identify a member of SAAM’s research staff to serve as primary fellowship advisor in order to hold a residency at this museum. All candidates—except those interested in the Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship or the Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art—should submit their application to the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP). They will automatically be considered for the museum’s named awards and do not need to identify a specific fellowship. These include the Barnet, Corn, Douglass, Frankenthaler, Frost, Gurney, Taylor, Terra, Truettner, Windgate, and Wyeth Fellowships. 


Q: How do I apply for the Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship or the Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art? 

A: These two newly established fellowships have unique stipend levels, deadlines, and selection criteria, and thus require a separate application. If you would like to be considered for the Flack or Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art and SIFP (or one of SAAM’s other named awards), you must submit multiple applications.  


Q: I don’t see an application for the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program (SIFP) under SAAM's name in the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System (SOLAA). How do I find it? 

A: The Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program is administered by the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships. Once inside SOLAA, under Search for Programs, you will see a field labeled Office/Museum/Research Center. From the drop-down menu, select Office of Academic Appointments and Internships (not Smithsonian American Art Museum). From there, you can select the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program application that is appropriate for you (graduate student, predoctoral, postdoctoral, or senior). 


Q: If I want my fellowship to be hosted by SAAM, can I propose a fellowship co-advisor or consultant based at a different Smithsonian unit? 

A: Yes, as long as the primary sponsor is based at SAAM. Applicants with interdisciplinary projects are especially encouraged to identify co-advisors or consultants at multiple Smithsonian units. 


Q: How do I identify the best Smithsonian fellowship advisor(s) for my research project? 

A: A directory of Smithsonian research staff and their specialties is available in the Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study (SORS) Guide. SAAM also provides bios of select staff on its website. Additional queries can be directed to SAAM’s Fellowship Office at (202) 633-8353 or SAAMFellowships@si.edu


Q: I notified my potential Smithsonian fellowship advisor(s) that I wish to list them on my application, but I have not heard back. Can I still list that person on my application? 

A: Yes. Applicants are encouraged to contact potential Smithsonian fellowship advisors early in the application process with a brief description of their topic to allow them enough time to respond. As the application deadline approaches, though, many Smithsonian staff are inundated with inquiries. If you do not hear back from your choice of advisor by the application deadline, you may go ahead and submit their name. 


Q: Is it appropriate to list on my application the research resources that I hope to utilize at other Smithsonian museums? What about non-Smithsonian institutions, such as the Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration? 

A: Yes. SAAM fellows are encouraged to use collections and archives across the institution and in the Washington, D.C. area.  


Q: By when must I submit my application? 

A: The online application system (SOLAA) for SIFP closes at midnight Eastern Standard Time on November 1,2023. The Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship application closes at midnight on December 1, 2023, and the Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship application closes at midnight on February 1, 2024. All application materials and reference letters must be submitted by the respective deadlines. Please remind your referees of all deadlines and have them check their Spam folder if they have not received the reference request link from SOLAA. Candidates can check their SOLAA application to determine if their letters of recommendation have been submitted. Applicants are encouraged to follow-up with referees who have not yet submitted.  

Q: In the application, under Program Choices, I am asked to indicate where I am traveling from and traveling to. What should I enter in those fields? 

A: SAAM fellowships are residential, so you should list your current city of residence in the first field, and enter Washington, D.C., in the second field. 


Q: Does SAAM offer non-residential fellowships? 

A: Although we recognize that relocation to the Washington, D.C., region is not possible for everyone, SAAM’s fellowship program is dedicated to supporting on-site research and in-person scholarly exchange. Fellows’ programming is clustered on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays whenever possible to allow for concentrated days in archives and collections. Those whose personal circumstances (i.e., financial constraints, employment conditions, care-giving responsibilities, or other limitations) preclude longer-term residencies may wish to apply for the Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship, which supports one month of research at SAAM. 


Q: Under Program Choices, I am asked to indicate the proposed dates of my fellowship tenure. What are my tenure options? 

A: The standard term of residency for pre-, postdoc, and senior fellowships is twelve months, but terms as short as three months will be considered. Stipends are prorated for periods of less than twelve months. SAAM fellowships may begin on or after June 1 of that year and must conclude by August 31 of the following year. Graduate student fellowships are limited to ten weeks and should take place between June 1 and August 31. The Audrey Flack Short-Term Fellowship facilitates one month onsite for a scholar whose personal circumstances preclude them from participating in longer-term residencies. The Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art supports a 12-month residency for a scholar at the predoctoral level or a 9-month appointment for a postdoctoral or senior-level researcher.


Q: Are there any word-count limits for the bibliography, budget, and timetable? 

A: The proposal narrative is not to exceed 1500 words, maximum six-pages (double-spaced, 11-point type). There is no word-count limit for the bibliography, budget, nor timetable. 


Q: Should my proposal narrative cover my general research project or specifically what I plan to research while at SAAM? 

A: Both. The best proposals give the committee a broad overview of your project and an in-depth explanation of your research plan. It’s also important to provide a detailed chapter outline of your dissertation or book project as you see it unfolding at time of application. Your timetable should be as detailed as possible, identifying when you plan to write certain chapters and access specific collections. Simply saying “in October I will research and in November I will write” is discouraged.  


Q: Can I include images in my proposal? 

A: Yes, these can be included in the proposal narrative and count toward the six page-count limit. 


Q: What types of expenses are eligible for inclusion in the proposed research budget request? 

A: The research allowance is solely intended to support essential research travel during your Smithsonian fellowship (e.g. airfare and lodging to visit a private collection outside of Washington, D.C.). Trips that will last longer than three weeks require advanced approval from the Smithsonian fellowship advisor and program chair. Trips for research in the location where you are relocating from are unlikely to be approved. You may include the cost of meals and incidentals during travel using the GSA’s M&IE guide. Your budget request should not include costs for relocation, as that is awarded separately. The Smithsonian cannot provide funds for travel or living expenses of dependents. Other ineligible expenses include equipment costs, photocopying fees, and funding for a research assistant. 


Q: Are there any special requirements for applicants researching Indigenous art and visual culture? 

A: Applicants who are conducting research with Indigenous communities should describe the current state of consultation or collaboration with Indigenous artists and estates, knowledge holders, and communities relevant to the work, and demonstrate how the research is accountable to these rights holders. A letter of support from a tribal community member, knowledge holder, artist, or artist’s estate will strengthen a proposal and may be submitted as an additional reference letter. If applying to the Betsy James Wyeth Fellowship in Native American Art, a letter of support is required.  


Q: What Smithsonian policies apply to fellows whose projects involve research with human subjects? 

A: Smithsonian fellows are required to comply with Smithsonian Directive 606 “Research Involving Human Subjects.” Fellows whose research involves collecting data from human subjects must demonstrate formal certification in the protection of human participants or undergo the Smithsonian’s two-part training. Fellows whose projects will entail research with Smithsonian visitors must apply for Smithsonian IRB approval. Questions? Email SAAMFellowships@si.edu