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Through the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, Lilly Endowment has awarded grants totaling more than $43 million to museums and other cultural institutions across the United States to develop exhibitions and educational programs that fairly and accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S and around the world.

This initiative is designed to foster public understanding about religion and lift up the contributions that people of all faiths and diverse religious communities make to our greater civic well-being. View the news release here.

Many of the institutions plan to mount temporary or permanent exhibitions and implement programs that draw on their extensive collections and enhance and complement their current activities. Some will feature particular religious traditions or specific historical periods or explore religious themes or practices, while others will focus on interpreting religious life in particular geographic regions. Recognizing the need to establish a firm footing for the interpretation of religion within their ongoing activities, nearly half of the organizations will use grant funds to establish or build endowments for permanent staff positions or ongoing programs focused on religion. Explore grantees and their projects below.

Religion and Cultural Institutions Grantee List

The following 18 grants to museums and other cultural institutions will help strengthen their capacities to fairly and accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S. and around the world.

  • Boston Children’s Museum
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  • Chicago History Museum
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  • Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
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  • Colonial Williamsburg
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  • Conner Prairie Museum
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  • Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
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  • Field Museum of Natural History
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  • Fowler Museum at UCLA
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  • Heard Museum
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  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
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  • National WWI Museum and Memorial
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  • Plimoth Patuxet Museums
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  • Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
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  • Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
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  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History
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  • Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art
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  • Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame
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Boston Children’s Museum

This grant will support the Religious Literacy at Boston Children’s Museum program. The museum will hire a senior staff member with expertise in religion and the humanities who will lead a team that seeks to integrate religion into the museum’s exhibitions, programs, staff culture and collections.

$1,500,000
Boston, Massachusetts
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Chicago History Museum

This grant will enable the museum to establish an endowment for a new curator of Religious Community History and an endowment for a new fellowship program for early career curators in religious history collections. Through exhibitions, public programs, digital platforms and publications, the new curator will provide the public with ongoing accurate and authentic illustrations of the central role of religion in shaping Chicago history and culture.

$2,500,000
Chicago, Illinois
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Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

This grant will support an immersive family exhibition that will showcase five of the world’s most sacred spaces with a goal for visitors to learn about and develop respect for diverse religious traditions.

$2,500,000
Indianapolis, Indiana
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Colonial Williamsburg

This grant will enable the museum to establish an endowment to support actor interpreters for religion programs and funding to undertake and complete the archeological excavation and the architectural work needed to reconstruct the original First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Va.

$2,500,000
Williamsburg, Virginia
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Conner Prairie Museum

This grant will support the Promised Land as Proving Ground program, which will incorporate new religion storylines into its interpretive programs, restore an existing cabin in the recreated 1836 Prairietown and hire a full-time curator in religion to guide research and program development.

$500,000
Fishers, Indiana
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Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

This grant will enable the museum to establish an endowment for staff and programs to make religion a central component of the museum’s ongoing work and mount an exhibition in collaboration with the New York Historical Society that will incorporate religion into the reinstallation of the Native American Gallery.

$2,500,000
Indianapolis, Indiana
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Field Museum of Natural History

This grant will enable the museum to mount an exhibition that will explore multiple religious and cultural responses to the human experience of death. The grant will also help establish an endowment for a postdoctoral fellowship program for a permanent, rotating position in the anthropology of religion.

$2,500,000
Chicago, Illinois
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Fowler Museum at UCLA

This grant will support the Engaging Lived Religion in the 21st Century program, which aims to expand the museum’s ability to mount thoughtful exhibitions on religion that explore the way it shows up in everyday life and that acknowledge the diversity within religious traditions.

$1,387,565
Los Angeles, California
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Heard Museum

This grant will enable the museum to create a permanent exhibition that will explore the origin stories of four North American indigenous tribes — the Seneca in the Northeast, the Yup’ik in the Arctic, the Akimel O’odham and the Navajo in the Southwest — in an immersive and educational presentation that seeks to educate visitors and the online public about the diversity and beauty of indigenous religion and spiritual practices

$2,500,000
Phoenix, Arizona
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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This grant will enable the museum to establish an endowment for a new Assistant Curator of Islamic Art. Working in collaboration with Islamic communities in the greater Boston area and beyond, the new assistant curator will help to create exhibitions, publications and public programs that will illuminate the importance of religion within the richness and diversity of Islamic cultures.

 

$2,500,000
Boston, Massachusetts
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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

This grant will support the World Faiths Initiative, which will strengthen the museum’s capacity to draw on its collections to present exhibitions and programs on religion, faith and spirituality. The museum will also develop a comprehensive religion program to provide in-depth artistic and interpretive materials about major world religions.

$1,448,450
Houston, Texas
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National WWI Museum and Memorial

This grant will enable the museum to establish an endowed curator position on faith and religion, strengthen public programming on religion and war, enhance online exhibitions and resources on religion and increase its collection of religious objects and materials. Through this program, the museum will strengthen its capacities to explore the enduring impact of World War I on religion and faith and vice versa.

$2,500,000
Kansas City, Missouri
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Plimoth Patuxet Museums

This grant will support The Light Here Kindled: Providence, Manitou and the Legacy of America’s Founding Faiths program that seeks to strengthen and expand the museum’s capacity to incorporate the crucial role of faith, particularly the beliefs and practices of Reformed Christianity, into its interpretations of Colonial Plymouth and the people of the indigenous Patuxet.

$2,499,110
Plymouth, Massachusetts
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Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

This grant will support the Creative Encounters: Living Religions in America program. During the summer of 2022, the annual 10-day Smithsonian Folklife Festival will explore and display diverse religious communities and experiences in the United States and highlight the stories, everyday religious practices and experiences of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh, and other religious traditions and provide a place of encounter to foster greater understanding and respect.

$1,499,859
Washington, D.C.
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Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

This grant will support the Global Religions of Africa Initiative, which aims to explore the impact and global relevance of Africa’s religious beliefs and practices through exhibitions on religion and an expansive slate of educational and public outreach programs.

$1,500,00
Washington, D.C.
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Smithsonian National Museum of American History

This grant will enable the museum to establish a new Center for the Public Understanding of Religion in American History and to create a dedicated 3,500 square foot gallery space focusing on the role and influence of religion in American history and culture.

$8,000,000
Washington, D.C.
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Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art

This grant will support The Arts of Devotion program, which aims to bring the museum’s art collections into more direct and meaningful conversation with contemporary religious practices to help visitors understand the richness and diversity of pre-modern and contemporary Islamic, Buddhist, Zen and Hindu religious traditions and practice.

$2,499,799
Washington, D.C.
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Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame

This grant will support the Inspiring Wonder initiative, which will expand the museum’s capacity to help students and visitors explore religious faith, beliefs and practices through art.

$2,493,783
Notre Dame, Indiana
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