Education personnel at the Smithsonian Institution founded the Museum Education Roundtable (MER) in 1970 as a consortium of local museum educators. Today MER is an independent, non-profit, educational corporation which seeks to promote communication between museum personnel and local educators, further the use of museums and cultural institutions as educational resources, and develop educational services in museums and other public institutions. Regular meetings supplemented by workshops are also concerned with the creation of cooperative museum-school projects, and improving communication between educators in museums and schools by keeping members informed of programs available in the area, as well as professional museum education staff development. As a volunteer organization, MER seeks financial support through subscriptions to its quarterly newsletter, "Roundtable Reports," and membership dues. Initial funding came from National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities grants.
An elected board of directors governs MER. Their responsibilities include transforming the organization's goals into programs and obtaining funding. Chairs of the MER board have included: Tom Radford, 1971-1973; Sue Hoth, 1973-1975; Donna Ari, 1975-1977; Barbara Fertig, 1977-1979; Kenneth Yellis, 1979-1981; Susan L. Nichols, 1981-1982; and Schroeder J. Cherry, 1982- . Membership information and surveys, minutes of board meetings, and membership materials are included in these MER records, as are workshop materials and funding proposals.
The Museum Education Roundtable promotes communication between the museum and education communities both nationally and locally through its publications. Through "Roundtable Reports" MER provides its members and other subscribers with information about national trends in museum education, recent developments in the profession, and nationally available resources such as other museum education organizations and their seminars, workshops, and committees. A nearly complete set of "Roundtable Reports," 1973, 1975-1980, is part of this record unit.
Another MER publication, the "Directory of Educational Opportunities in the Washington Area," has had three editions, 1971-1973. Through the Directory readers learn about field trips and educational resources in the District of Columbia area. Other flyers and brochures are also part of the MER archives.