Wayne Clough, the new head of the Smithsonian Institution, wants to change the venerable museum institution: “We need to make our collections, talented scholars and other resources accessible worldwide by providing additional platforms and vehicles for educating and inspiring large audiences,” he said to yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, and added:
Our job is to authenticate and inform the significance of the collections, not to control access to them. It is no longer acceptable for us to share only 1% of our 137 million specimens and artifacts in an age when the Internet has made it possible to share it all. In doing this, the relevance of the Smithsonian to education can be magnified many times over.
Museums all over the world are facing a similar challenge. Most of us have difficulties meeting it, because we lack the resources to digitalize our collections. But when the brain of the colossus speaks there may be a chance that museum authorities in other countries begin to listen.
The new signals from the Smithsonian have everything to do with the fact that Wayne Clough is the former president of Georgia Tech and thus sees the importance of technological solutions to the outreach problem in museums. I guess that’s why he was selected for the job in the first place! Clough was also one of the prime movers behind Smithsonian’s recent museum 2.0-conference.