As the Washington Post put it this morning, “The subject: dragging the world’s greatest museum complex into the current century.” And of particular interest: “Of the Smithsonian’s 137 million artifacts, however, not only is less than 1 percent on display, but most of that is in Washington. You have to come to the Smithsonian. It doesn’t much come to you.” The writer must not know about Affiliates.
Nonetheless, one of the earliest initiatives of Secretary Clough was to brilliantly ask advice on this topic from 31 luminaries of the digital realm – digerati – in town this past weekend for days-long brainstorming and idea sharing with Smithsonian staff. The result was some of the most stimulating dialog I’ve heard, and so many ideas about navigating this whole new world of 2.0. Ideas applicable to all, not just the Smithsonian.
Case in point – the kickoff keynoter, Bran Ferren of Applied Minds, threw out this idea – give away your collection to the American people. The concept? Give one item from our collection to each citizen. The Smithsonian would retain the stewardship of the item, but that citizen would accept the responsibility for the online dialogue about that object. They would, in a new sense, perhaps a 21st century sense (?), “own” it.
So which object would you choose?