Smithsonian 2.0: Help Shape the Future of Your Museum Experience
7.23.10 | The Smithsonian Institution, one of the largest museum complexes in the world, is going digital. And it needs your help.
The Smithsonian, which includes the National Air and Space Museum, the National History Museum, and the National Zoo, among other sites, wants input on ideas for a new digital space, Smithsonian Commons, currently under development as part of the museum’s new media strategy.
Here’s a look at the prototype. Visitors can plan trips and organize personal collections of relevant museum content, curriculum resources and data that they can then share, reuse or embed on their own sites and social networks.
This Smithsonian wikispace explains the project’s scope and goals:
The Smithsonian Commons will be a special part of our digital presence dedicated to the free and unrestricted sharing of Smithsonian resources and encouraging new kinds of learning and creation through interaction with Smithsonian research, collections, and communities.
The digital commons movement is just a few years old but the concept of a commons is quite old. Commons are usually created when a property owner determines that a given set of resources—grass for grazing sheep, forest for parkland, software code, or intellectual property—will create more value if freely shared. Our understanding of research, education, artistic creativity, and the progress of knowledge is built on the axiom that no idea stands alone, and that all innovation is built upon the ideas and innovation of others. The Smithsonian community has always championed these ideals.
The initial Smithsonian Commons will be a Web site (also designed for mobile devices), perhaps http://www.si.edu/commons, featuring collections of digital assets contributed voluntarily by the units and presented through a platform that provides best-of-class search and navigation; social tools such as commenting, recommending, tagging, collecting, and sharing; and intellectual-property permissions that clearly give users the right to use, re-use, share, and innovate with our content without unnecessary restrictions.
Over at the prototype site, four vignettes demonstrate how the new digital space might be used by a general visitor, a teacher, a web-savvy teenager and an enthusiast/citizen scientist.
The vignettes do a good job of helping us imagine the Commons experience and how museums in general can use digital media to increase their value to the public. (Read more coverage on how museums are re-imagining their work in a digital world at Spotlight.)
For example, one story walks through how a 4th-grade teacher gathers resources for a unit on Teddy Roosevelt. She is able to pull together artifacts, images, video and commentary by experts and members of the Smithsonian Commons community, as well as recommended instructional guides. She can then export this data to create classroom activities.
Another example shows how a teenager who finds something interesting on the Smithsonian Commons website shares it with friends - via Twitter, Facebook and his blog - and thus helps push content that can be used and reused by the public.
Built to support collaborative and participatory learning, the Commons recognizes what the online community can add to this space. Designers hope to balance this expertise with that brought by Smithsonian staff: “By encouraging the use of Smithsonian data beyond the walls of the Institution, and by embracing the energy and intelligence of our visitors, the Smithsonian Commons creates a virtuous cycle of interaction and learning.”
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