Lilly Endowment has awarded grants to 41 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. The grants are from two invitational rounds of the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, in 2020 and 2022, and earlier funding efforts at the Endowment.

Many of the organizations are mounting temporary or permanent exhibitions and implementing programs that draw on their extensive collections and enhance and complement their current activities. Some museums and historic sites are showcasing particular religious traditions or specific historical periods or exploring religious themes or practices. Others are interpreting religious life in particular geographic regions. Recognizing the need to establish a firm footing for the interpretation of religion within their ongoing activities, many organizations are building endowments to fund permanent staff positions or ongoing programs focused on religion. Explore these grantees and their projects below.

Round One Grantees

Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA:  A $1.5 million grant supported development of an exhibition where parents and children can explore cultural influences on identity and fairness – including religion. The grant also helped fund staff dedicated to integrating religion into the museum’s exhibitions, programs, staff culture and collections.

Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to endow a new curator of religious community history and endow a fellowship program for early career curators in religious history collections. The curator provides authentic illustrations of the role of religion in shaping Chicago history and culture.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN:  A $2.5 million grant supported Sacred Places, an immersive exhibition that invites children and families to learn about the beliefs and practices of five religious traditions by exploring places that these traditions consider sacred.

Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to establish an endowment to support actor interpreters for religion programs and to reconstruct the First Baptist Church, the first church in Williamsburg established by enslaved and free Black Americans.

Conner Prairie Museum, Fishers, IN:  A $500,000 grant helped the museum hire a curator in religion to guide research and program development for the Promised Land as Proving Ground program. It will incorporate new religion storylines into interpretive programs.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to endow staff and programs to make religion a central component of the museum’s ongoing work. Also, in collaboration with the New York Historical Society, the museum will create the exhibit Acts of Faith: Religion and the American West, scheduled to open in April 2024.

Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the creation of Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery, an exhibit that explores religious and cultural responses to the human experience of death. The museum also endowed a postdoctoral fellowship program in the anthropology of religion.

Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA:  A $1,387,565 grant supported creation of the Engaging Lived Religion in the 21st Century program, which aims to expand the museum’s ability to mount exhibitions about religion that explore the way it shows up in everyday life – including in Los Angeles – and that acknowledge the diversity within religious traditions.

Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to create Substance of Stars, a permanent exhibition that explores the origin stories of four North American indigenous tribes that seeks to educate visitors about the diversity and beauty of indigenous religious and spiritual practices.

MFA Boston, Boston, MA:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to endow an assistant curator of Islamic art. The curator leads collaboration with Muslim communities to produce exhibitions, publications and public programs about the importance of religion within diverse Islamic cultures.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX:  A $1,448,450 grant supported the development of the World Faiths Initiative to help the museum draw on its collections as it presents exhibitions and programs on religion, faith and spirituality.

National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MO:  A $2.5 million grant enabled the museum to hire a curator to focus 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.

Plimoth Patuxet Museums, Plymouth, MA:  A $2,499,110 grant is supporting creation of Light Here Kindled: Providence, Manitou and the Legacy of America’s Founding Faiths, a program to incorporate the role of faith into interpretations of Plymouth Colony and the people of the indigenous Patuxet.

Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, Notre Dame, IN:  A $2,493,783 grant to the University of Notre Dame is helping expand the museum’s capacity to help visitors explore religious beliefs and practices through art.

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Washington, DC:  A $1,499,859 grant supported creation of Creative Encounters: Living Religions in America, a program to foster greater understanding of diverse religious traditions and strengthen religion programming in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC:  A $1.5 million grant supported creation of the Global Religions of Africa Initiative, which explores the impact and global relevance of Africa’s religious beliefs and practices through exhibitions and educational and public programs.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC:  An $8 million grant enabled the museum to establish the Center for the Public Understanding of Religion in American History and to create a gallery focusing in the role and influence of religion in American history and culture.

Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, Washington, DC:  A $2,499,799 grant supported creation of the Arts of Devotion, which brings museum collections into conversation with contemporary religious practices to help visitors appreciate the diversity of Islamic, Buddhist, Zen and Hindu religious traditions.

Round Two Grantees

Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Evansville, IN:  A $2.5 million grant to the Indiana State Museum Foundation is supporting development of a new visitors experience that will integrate information about the religious practices of the indigenous people who built the earthen mounds between the years 1050 and 1450.

Children’s Museum Houston, Houston, TX:  A $2,496,339 is supporting the Faithful Friends Exhibition, which seeks to encourage children and families to build tolerance, respect and love for those who have religious beliefs and traditions different from their own.

Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA:  A $3 million grant is supporting the reconstruction of the original First Baptist Church, the first church in Williamsburg established by enslaved and free Black Americans. The grant will also help establish a history interpretation program at the church site.

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI:  A $2.5 million grant is supporting the development of an exhibition of yogini sculpture that will feature life-sized stone sculptures of south Indian goddesses and challenge monolithic views of Hindu beliefs and practices.

The Two Mississippi Museums (Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum), Jackson, MS:  A $2.5 million grant will help the museums depict the role religion has played in Mississippi history, engage religious communities and strengthen access to archival collections related to religion.

Jamestown Settlement and American History Museum of Yorktown, Jamestown and Yorktown, VA:  A $2,499,988 grant is supporting a project to integrate religion programming into galleries and living history spaces and focus on the convergence of Native American, African and European cultures in colonial Virginia.

Historic New Harmony, New Harmony, IN:  A $ 2 million grant to the University of Southern Indiana is helping Historic New Harmony strengthen its work to educate visitors about the religious beliefs and practices of 19th century utopian societies and their impact on this southwestern Indiana community.

The King Center (Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change), Atlanta, GA:  A $2,499,500 is supporting the project, A Question of Faith, which will highlight Dr. King’s religious journey and the role of faith communities during the Civil Rights Movement. Internships and fellowships will encourage exploration of the religious motivations of the movement and their ongoing implications.

Library of Congress, Washington, DC:  A $2.5 million grant is supporting Enhancing Public Understanding of Religious Cultures, which will encourage dialogue and research about the religious beliefs and practices of African and Middle Eastern cultures. The library will also digitize Ethiopian religious manuscripts and develop an artist-in-residence program.

Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN:  A $2.5 million grant will help endow a curator of religious collections who will develop programs, exhibitions and digital collections featuring library holdings related to diverse religious traditions.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, VA: A $2.5 million grant is supporting the Interpreting Religion at Mount Vernon project at the Mount Vernon historic site, which is dedicated to preserving the estate of George Washington and educating the public about his legacy.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY: A $2.5 million grant to enhance its interpretation of religious art in five curatorial departments – European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Medieval Art, The Met Cloisters, Asian Art and Islamic Art – and explore more deeply themes in religious art in these areas.

National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA:  A $2,100,704 grant is supporting the Religion and the First Amendment Initiative, which includes an exhibition examining how religious liberty has been applied, protected, challenged, debated and interpreted throughout U.S. history.

National Museum of African American Music, Nashville, TN:  A $2.5 million grant is supporting an exhibition about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, performers from Fisk University who broke barriers in the late 1800s by increasing awareness of African American spirituals in the U.S. and around the world.

National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago IL:  A $1,926,655 grant is supporting development of a traveling exhibition, Milagros Mexicanos – Popular Faith and the Arts, which will portray how religious beliefs and spirituality in ancient Mexico are reflected today in Mexican and U.S. cultures.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH:  A $2.5 million grant is supporting Intersectionality: Religion and Social Justice, a project that will feature a traveling exhibition exploring the relationship among Christianity, Judaism and Islam and historical movements for social justice.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO:  A $2.5 million grant is helping the museum develop the World Religions Initiative, which will encourage visitors to explore religious contexts and practices depicted in art displayed in its permanent galleries.

New York Public Library, New York, NY: A $2.5 million grant will help the library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hire a curator to guide the Center’s programs on religion and spirituality and help deepen relationships with faith-based and civic organizations in Harlem and beyond.

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC: A $1,499,119 grant to help the museum work collaboratively with leaders from four Native communities to a thoughtful and ethical approach for handling, interpreting and displaying religious and sacred objects in its collections.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC:  A $2.5 million grant is helping endow the director for the Program on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust; and expand religion programs, including those to help clergy and others examine the relationship between the Holocaust and Christian traditions.

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, PA:  A $2.5 million grant is supporting renovation of core exhibition space to strengthen understanding of Judaism and its varied traditions and promote greater respect for people of diverse religious backgrounds.

Related Grantees

International African American Museum, Charleston, SC:  A $10 million grant in 2017 helped establish the museum, which tells a multifaceted story about Americans of African descent and their contributions to history and culture. The grant also helped the museum build its capacity to incorporate religion into its programs and collaborate with faith-based communities.

National WWII Memorial Washington DC:  A $2 million grant supported the installation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “D-Day Prayer” to the World War II Memorial, upgrade the Circle of Remembrance area and develop interpretative programming related to D-Day.

National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA:  A $500,000 grant in 2012 supported the museum’s permanent attraction that will portray the importance of faith in the lives of military personnel serving abroad and of individuals and families on the home front.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg, KY:  A $275,000 grant in 2021 is supporting a permanent exhibition about Shaker religious beliefs. A $5,149,800 grant in 2015 supported restoration of two buildings that were central to religious life; an interpretative plan that guides programs about religious life; and improved accessibility to collections and archives.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC:  A $10 million grant in 2015 helped the Museum establish the Center for the Study of African American Religion. A $10 million grant in 2010 supported the Smithsonian’s campaign to build the museum.

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, Washington DC:  A $10 million grant in 2022 is supporting the Smithsonian’s campaign to build the museum and planning activities to help develop the museum’s strategy for highlighting the role of religion in Latino history and culture.