Just recently, the Smithsonian released a prototype of the Smithsonian Commons—a new part of the digital plan at the Smithsonian that aims to stimulate “learning, creation, and innovation through open access” to the research, collections, and communities across the Institution’s 19 museums, 9 research centers, and the Zoo. Simply put: "The Smithsonian Commons project makes museums nerdier, more accessible, awesome."
The Smithsonian Commons begins to address many of the questions I’ve asked myself, and we at SIA have pondered during our work, especially since our mission is to serve as the institutional memory for the Smithsonian and its myriad collections: How might making our collections available online give access to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit the Smithsonian? When your collections are spread out (and housed both in DC and worldwide), how do you make them as accessible as possible? With our archives and collections spread across different museums and research centers (as well as different museums’ websites, the Smithsonian Flickr Commons, etc.), how can we connect these collections with one another, and how does the online environment enable this? And how can the information and collections that the public accesses on our websites be tailored to suit their particular interests?
The Smithsonian Commons prototype outlines some of the specific ways the Commons could address these issues in videos that profile the different types of visitors who are interested in the Smithsonian. For example, this video looks at how an enthusiast (art, nature, science, and history) might use the Commons to engage with Smithsonian resources (in this case, photos from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory):
Now we’re asking for your input! What you say will help shape what the Commons looks like in the near future. Visit the Smithsonian Commons prototype site, and then let us know your thoughts by voting and commenting or tweeting.