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Executive Summary

This Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy was created through a fast and transparent process that directly involved, and continues to involve, hundreds of stakeholders inside and outside the Institution. This strategy feeds into the Smithsonian’s comprehensive strategic plan.


Three main themes emerged during the strategy-creation process:

Update the Smithsonian Digital Experience: Build on excellence and the potential for excellence throughout the Institution by focusing on Web-publishing fundamentals and improving access to collections, community, and content across all platforms.

Update the Smithsonian Learning Model: Support new kinds of learning, innovation, and knowledge creation inside and outside the Institution.

Balance Autonomy and Control within the Smithsonian: Balance the benefits and risks of central control and creative autonomy while binding oversight and operations to a shared vision for the future.


To make these themes actionable, this strategy describes eight goals, each of which has its own set of policy, program, and tactical recommendations. The eight goals are:

  1. Mission
    Prioritize Web and New Media programs in proportion to their impact on the mission
  2. Brand
    Strengthen brand relationships throughout the Smithsonian
  3. Learning
    Facilitate dialogue in a global community of learners
  4. Audience
    Attract larger audiences and engage them more deeply in long-term relationships
  5. Interpretation
    Support the work of Smithsonian staff
  6. Technology
    Develop a platform for participation and innovation
  7. Business Model
    Increase revenue from e-commerce fundamentals and Web 2.0 perspectives
  8. Governance
    Design and implement a pan-Institutional governance model

The Smithsonian Commons

These themes and goals are unified by the concept of a Smithsonian Commons—a new part of our digital presence dedicated to stimulating learning, creation, and innovation through open access to Smithsonian research, collections and communities. The Smithsonian Commons would also provide labor- and cost-saving tools for Smithsonian Web and New Media teams and collaborators.

This strategy describes transformational change for the Smithsonian. It can be successfully implemented if the Institution begins now to actively prepare itself and to accept that change will be achieved incrementally, one small victory at a time.

Moving Forward

Senior Management needs to do four things to begin implementing this Web and New Media Strategy:

1. Connect with the pan-Institutional and digitization strategies

To ensure clarity and focus, key points from this Web and New Media Strategy need to be incorporated into the emerging Smithsonian strategic plan and [the emerging] digitization plan, and elements from those plans need to be injected into this Web and New Media Strategy as they are codified

2. Appoint a leader

Appoint a pan-Institutional Web and New Media leader and give that person the decision authority and visibility to lead change

3. Create a tactical road map

Develop detailed plan that translates these strategic and tactical priorities into prioritized tasks, milestones, and budgets
[Note: Starting work on the tactical road map is contingent on clarifying leadership and decision authority as well as defining the overall governance structure (goal 8) - edsonm edsonm]

4. Begin work on the Smithsonian Commons

The Smithsonian Commons (described in detail in section IV. The Smithsonian Commons: A Place to Begin) is the conceptual cornerstone of the Web and New Media Strategy, and it may be the vehicle through which we obtain the funding needed to execute the overall strategy. Tell potential funders about the commons vision and consult them regarding its objectives and funding potential. Produce a proof-of-concept for the Smithsonian Commons.

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