Jul 3, 2009

Smithsonian Seeding Staff New Media Innovation

The Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, Washington DCSmithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough announced a new project and fund to encourage staff at the world's largest museum complex and research organization to explore and launch ways to "use digital technology and new media" to advance the Smithsonian's work.

From Secretary Clough's announcement to staff
The Smithsonian 2.0 Fund offers internal grants to staff for varied and diverse attempts to use interactive web methods and digital technology in a creative way so as to engage members of the public or particular constituencies in the collections, research, exhibitions, or programs of the Smithsonian. Grant awards will typically be in the $10,000 to $30,000 range; they are intended to provide seed money for projects likely to turn into larger initiatives.

All Smithsonian staff and units are eligible to submit projects for funding. Proposed projects must be led by a Smithsonian staff person, though they may involve more than one SI unit as well as outside partners.

In light of our very successful Smithsonian 2.0 conference and subsequent debates and discussions, I am confident that we have a large number of good ideas for moving ahead in the digital arena. I fully expect numerous staff to submit fine proposals for the benefit of the Smithsonian, the public, and our various constituencies.--from email to staff
This project begins to answer one of the challenges raised in their debates:
Knowledge is increasing at such a rapid pace that keeping web-delivered content up to date is an extremely challenging and expensive task, perhaps too much so...If the pace of knowledge development is driven by the collaboration and sharing of expertise via the Internet, should we be looking at a similar model to get the word out about the breakthroughs and new developments we are part of?--see more on the Smithsonian 2.0 blog.
What a terrific effort to tap the collective knowledge and creativity of the people who directly know the collections and the audience, AND, to acknowledge that the knowledge and creativity of staff as a valued resource.

The effort is funded by gifts from the Smithsonian National Board. Great job putting your money where your mouth is, Smithsonian.


  1. Gwynne, Thanks for sharing the ongoing efforts of the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian does a great job with rich media on their musuem web sites. The discovery journey could be enhanced if the existing content was availabile in sharable content objects. This would empower people to easily share their passions about art and history the same way we share Google YouTube videos. Can you imagine if we had a Smithsonian Application Programming Interface (API) like the Twitter API? This would empower people to create mashups, apps, mobile apps, and mini sites.

    I would also like to access an area where I can download podcasts/mp3s of the audio tour to my iPhone/iPod/mp3 player to use during my visit. They already have the content, why not make it available?

    See Google's effort here: http://google.com/intl/en/landing/prado


  2. Wow, what great ideas. I really like your youtube analogy--the Hirshorn online?

    Others know much better than me, but museums have unique issues with "new" media and how it affects the sharing of their collections.
    I was at a show at the Pottrait Gallery in the winter, and people were able to load the audio to their ipods. Easy, yet very impressive.


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