The International Tennis Hall of Fame has earned a prestigious designation as an official Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.,becoming the first and only sports Hall of Fame to be selected to participate in the program’s 20+ year history.
The affiliation honor was officially announced in a special event at the Hall of Fame last night, in which members of the local community, Rhode Island museum industry leaders, and representatives of the Smithsonian Institution celebrated the news.
Through this affiliation, the Hall of Fame will have exclusive access to the Smithsonian’s network of millions of exhibitions, education initiatives, research expertise and resources for use in developing new exhibitions, programs, and educational experiences.
“We are incredibly excited about our partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, as it immediately benefits our members, visitors and future tennis fans immeasurably,” said Doug Stark, ITHF Museum Director, in a press release. “We can provide our guests with a more enriching experience and create lasting experiences by providing more in-depth content, as well as expanding the reach of tennis by sharing our resources nationally.”
Organizations that are selected to be Affiliates enjoy a range of benefits, from facilitated object and exhibit loans and discounted Smithsonian memberships for their patrons to custom-developed education, performing arts, and public programs. Staff at the Smithsonian and the International Tennis Hall of Fame have already commenced discussions of potential collaborative projects for the first three years of the affiliation, including object loans, new exhibits, visits to Newport by Smithsonian experts for programs, and access to the Smithsonian Affiliates Membership program for individuals who are enrolled in the Hall of Fame Advantage Program.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame joins an exclusive group as one of only 204 Smithsonian Affiliates in 46 states and currently places the ITHF as the first and only sports Hall of Fame with that distinction. Smithsonian Affiliate candidates undergo a meticulous vetting process involving all aspects of their organization, from their leadership and financial structure to a review of their collections management and programming protocols. Affiliates are accepted into the program on the basis that they a common mission, a commitment to education and public service, and have the capability of bringing Smithsonian artifacts, exhibits, and programs to their venues.
“We are very honored to recognize the International Tennis Hall of Fame as our newest Smithsonian Affiliate,” stated Harold A. Closter, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations, in a press release. “Both of our organizations share strong common interests by looking at tennis and other sports as historical mirrors of changes in our society. The International Tennis Hall of Fame has amassed an unparalleled collection that tells the story of the rise of tennis around the world, presented in creative and engaging exhibits, developed by its expert staff. We look forward to working together on future exhibits, STEM-centered educational programs, and collaborative research to honor the history of tennis and to inspire future generations to recognize the relevance of all sport as a vital and barrier-breaking human activity.”
The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Smithsonian Institution share similar philosophies including a focus on expanding their collections and making educational programs more accessible.
Discussions about future collaborations have already begun. Potential opportunities that have been identified through the program may include a retrospective on Althea Gibson, who was the first African-American to win a major tennis tournament utilizing Smithsonian loaned artifacts, an expanded tennis and art exhibition at the Hall of Fame, development of a national traveling exhibit, and increased educational opportunities to utilize tennis history as an educational platform for school groups in the area.