New digs

Congratulations to our friends and colleagues at the Office of Exhibits Central, who just hosted us all for an open house in their new, absolutely fantastic new facility, the Pennsy Collections and Support Center! 

Interior of OEC spacesThe renovated 360,000 square foot facility features specialized space and equipment for exhibit design and fabrication and conservation.  It also serves as additional collection storage for the American History Museum and the growing collection of the African American Museum of History and Culture.

According to the project director, “This wonderful new facility represents an innovative model for the Smithsonian that combines a variety of uses under one big roof… the Center sets a milestone in increased efficiency and support capabilities for the Smithsonian’s mission.”

Although it’s not open to the public, we’d love to show it off to Affiliates!   Just give us a call.

(More fun pics below.)




New artifact case at NMNH
Mockup of a new artifact case at NMNH

Innovating packaging for a SITES' Museums on Main Street exhibition














Preparing for a new SITES’ Museum on Main Street exhibition

Where will these guys end up?!


thoughts on new media strategy

We’ve been thinking about new media as a possible session at the Affiliations annual conference, and also wondering,  what does this even mean?  there is alot of talk in museum circles about digitization, web 2.0, social networking, etc., but how do you make sense of it and actually make it meaningful for your museum or organization?

We’re fortunate at the Smithsonian to have a Director of Web and New Media Strategy who thinks about this all the time.  He recently invited Josh Greenberg, director of digital media and scholarship at the New York Public Library, to lead a fascinating seminar for Smithsonian staff and share his thoughts on their efforts to develop a coherent policy.  Among his many salient points:

we are shifting from a world defined by scarcity of access to scarcity of attention.  Design accordingly.

make information access user-centric, not system-centric.  this was particularly challenging to NYPL… people go to their site to search their catalog, right?  No.  they go to find out the hours of their local library, to see if any events are going on, or find a literacy curriculum.  keep in mind that what you think your users are looking for may not be true in practice.

meet users where they are.  NYPL wanted to find out why their ‘homework help’ site was so poorly visited.  guess what?  kids don’t use the library’s site when doing homework – they use google or wikipedia almost exclusively.  AND, the majority of traffic for kids online goes through platforms like facebook, itunes or instant messagers.  so don’t reinvent the wheel – just put yourself (via widgets, etc.) in the places where your users already are.  this goes for staff too.  if your staff has expertise in a certain area, encourage them to comment as an expert on relevant blogs, or respond to newspaper articles online, etc.

every one of your web pages is a home page.  alot of users will find you because something, somewhere, on your site pops up in their Google search.  make sure that if a user finds you via some remote page deep in your site, they can identify your organization and get back to your home page.

finally, digitization is not an end unto itself.  it’s a means for encouraging creative use of your content.  which means, to some degree, you have to let go of absolute authority over it, and let users make it their own. 

What do YOU think?  Interested in a session or more conversation about this?