The High Desert Museum has been selected as a Smithsonian Affiliate, which will give it access to exhibits and artifacts from the world’s largest museum and research complex.

The wildlife and living history museum south of Bend will also have access to Smithsonian Institution educational programs, book tours and lectures.

“We can borrow on a long-term basis their artifacts,” said Dana Whitelaw, executive director of the High Desert Museum. “From now on, when we are planning our exhibitions, we can go and see what they have.”

Harold Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations, is announcing the partnership today during the opening reception of the Bend museum’s new exhibit, “WWII: The High Desert Home Front.”

Closter will present Whitelaw with a certificate of affiliation.

When considering museums for affiliation, the Smithsonian Institution looks at the quality of a museum’s facilities, the training and professionalism of its staff and its mission to educate the public, Closter said.

Bend’s museum fit the bill, he said.

“This is certainly a well-known and great museum. Our folks are very familiar with it,” Closter said. “It made a lot of sense.”

While local museums benefit from the Smithsonian resources, the national institution also gains from having a physical presence in museums outside of Washington, D.C.

“We don’t have everything, and everyone is doing work that is complementary,” Closter said. “The natural history of Oregon is different than other parts of the country. For us, it’s having a first-class partner in that part of the world and being able to share the expertise of both organizations.”

The High Desert Museum applied for the affiliation, and was accepted at the end of last summer. The museum will pay an annual fee of $3,000 to cover the cost of bringing Smithsonian employees, education programs and exhibits to the museum.

Whitelaw said not being in a metropolitan area has limited the museum staff’s exposure to training and conferences. Now through the Smithsonian Affiliation, staff already has more opportunities.

One of the museum’s curators was invited to Washington, D.C., in the fall for a national conference through the Smithsonian Institution.

“It’s not an opportunity that our staff has on a regular basis,” Whitelaw said. “She was able to go behind the scenes and look at all the collections they have.”

Whitelaw said the new affiliation is a benefit to the public as well. High Desert Museum members are able to visit other Smithsonian Affiliates for free.

In Oregon, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville and the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro are already Smithsonian Affiliates.

A total of 216 Smithsonian Affiliates are in 46 states and Puerto Rico and Panama.

In the past two decades, more than 8,000 Smithsonian artifacts have been displayed at Smithsonian Affiliates.

At the High Desert Museum, artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution will help supplement upcoming exhibits, Whitelaw said. For example, an exhibit on birds of prey could include specific bones and skeletons from the Smithsonian collection.

In history exhibits, the museum could borrow letters, journal entries and photographs.

A whole series of artifacts and fossils are set up at the Smithsonian Institution to be replicated on 3-D printers. The High Desert Museum now has access to those 3-D copies.

Adding the extra pieces to each exhibit will enhance the visitor experience, Whitelaw said.

“Those are all components that make exhibits come to life,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,