Museum Loan Network
The Museum Loan Network was established in 1993 with generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to make objects of cultural heritage more accessible to the public by encouraging collecting institutions to share these works over extended periods of time. Over the next decade, the MLN built a directory of 20,000 artifacts available for long-term loan from 400 participating institutions. In addition to providing information on loanable objects, the MLN directory was a means of connecting museum professionals all around the country, encouraging collaborations between collecting institutions and investigating new ways to interpret cultural artifacts. It undertook special projects including “Collecting Stories: Connecting Objects,” an initiative designed to engage communities by connecting oral histories with cultural objects. The MLN's extensive network also helped connect museums with the next generation of museum professionals and promoted mentoring and other intergenerational connections.
As museums built their own public databases and became more open to collaboration and new ways of connecting artifacts to the communities, and as funders moved on to new projects, the MLN database came to serve more of an archival function. It is still available for search by the member institutions, but no new members are accepted, and the MLN is unable to support loans or any other projects. The archives of the Museum Loan Network are available for research and students at the Brown Center for Public Humanities, and the publications are available here. For more information, contact Steven Lubar.