100 of my favorite public comments
  • These are 100 of my favorite public comments about the Smithsonian Commons Prototype (retired May, 2013).
  • Over 1,200 votes and comments were submitted submitted via a form on the prototype website. It's hard to read so many comments so I thought it would be interesting to grab 100 of the many many good and useful comments and put them on one page.
  • Some of the comments have been spell checked and edited for brevity or clarity and the unabridged list of 1,200+ comments starts here.
  • Each comment below has a link to the page where the unabridged comment lives. We've posted replies to over 300 of the comments.

Other groups of comments

I. Open access to information

1. My big attraction to the Smithsonian is that access to all your content is freely given. I would like to see larger images of artifacts. While you are working on this aspect of the organization, I'd like to see images of the over 90% of your collection that is neither digitally available now, or sitting in your archives.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #548, 8/3/2010

2. I would love if I could easily use that on e-learning sites and projects for my courses, including the appropriate citations and a link to Smithsonian Commons... I think it is great that the website not only allows people to cite their source easily, but also to use the material on their own blogs and social accounts. The Smithsonian Commons would definitely be a great resource for students/teachers and researchers (incl. amateurs) all over the world.
Comment # 699, 8/4/2010

3. I'd like to see on the main title page, the word "FREE" in bold all caps at least three times.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #516, 8/3/2010

4. Re. Millennial video - one of the great qualities of the Web is the ability to share and access information around the world, and I commend the Smithsonian for its effort in getting its wealth of resources outside all of its walls.
Comment #989, 8/10/2010

5. This is a fantastic idea. I am a teacher and always looking for movie and video clips, but I can't ever afford to buy all the rights, or to buy all the DVDs just for a 3 minute clip! Thanks for keeping people engaged in learning!
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #332, 7/15/2010

6. [I'd like to] download high-resolution images and photographs that I can use in my work.
Comment #50, 6/28/2010

7. I want real content from curatorial departments - not the small percent that has been edited and approved for wide release. Trust visitors to use research files, photos, accession files, and other primary materials, not just exhibition texts.
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #636, 8/3/2010

8. One of my biggest gripes doing presentations for the public on Archaeology, is the number of museums that do not have their collections online. Much is kept hidden away for researchers only. We can read journal articles on valuable exhibits and sometimes a few drawings are available, but anything else requires either a visit or an application to do scholarly research.
This is not fair to the public, since they pay either directly or indirectly for the valuable items kept for a limited number of people. Further, many people cannot travel or will never travel to see some more distant institutions.
I am hoping for the day when all museums small and large put their collections online, for the benefit of schools, colleges and the general public. Thanks!
Comment #406, 8/3/2010

9. I'd like to see the Commons not just make Smithsonian content available to the world for use in others' creative and research projects, but also incorporate content produced by those audiences…
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #254, 7/7/2010

quote.gifThis is a fantastic idea. I am a teacher and alwayslooking for movie and video clips, but I can't everafford to buy all the rights, or to buy all theDVDs just for a 3 minute clip!Thanks for keeping people engaged in learning!Teacher (higher education)


10. Yes, please to APIs. A commons is fabulous, but much more fabulous when it exists outside a silo, and can be blended with other free and licensed resources available through a library.
Member of the media/press Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #22, 6/21/2010

11. I love the fact that you can cut and paste pictures for reports!!!! Copyright is such a headache for students.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #163, 7/2/2010

12. I like the fact that it is free to use over and over. This is something I would come back to again and again. I'm interested in colonial American history and the old west. It would be nice to network and meet other enthusiast on a specific topic.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #781, 8/4/2010

13. Wow! This is quite amazing. I love the personalization, the encouragement to share fairly, and knowing this is a trusted resource.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #795, 8/4/2010

14. As a lifelong fan of the Smithsonian museums and a former intern at NASM, I love the mission of the Institution as "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge"--and I don't know what fits that vision better than a Commons. As a professional librarian, I am also passionate about connecting people with information and encouraging them to extend our knowledge in new ways.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #52, 6/28/2010

II. Schools and education

15. I would use Smithsonian Commons to create lesson plans as well as build on lessons which could use more interesting info and pics. I love the idea of being able to not only go directly to relevant content, but to also narrow that down into grade levels! That is a feature I would get great use out of! The site looks so easy to use and navigate. I cannot wait to get started! My kids are going to love it!
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #838, 8/4/2010

16. As a former teacher, I really wish that I had this tool in the classroom. As an educator in a museum, I think this would be really helpful in preparing materials for workshops and other programs. The fact that it comes from a trusted source is great. Love the instant ability to see the copyright information and cite link.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #792, 8/4/2010


quote.gifI love the anytime...anywhere concept!...
I believe this exemplifies 21st century learning at its best.
The potential is limitless for educators who desire to
create authentic, interactive learning environments that
integrate technology.


17. I love the anytime...anywhere concept!... I believe this exemplifies 21st century learning at its best. The potential is limitless for educators who desire to create authentic, interactive learning environments that integrate technology.
Comment #112, 7/1/2010

18. I think it is great that the website not only allows people to cite their source easily, but also to use the material on their own blogs and social accounts. The Smithsonian Commons would definitely be a great resource for students/teachers and researchers (incl. amateurs) all over the world. On one hand, it would allow people to explore and study the objects and documents even when they are not able to visit D.C. and, on the other hand, it would help them prepare carefully for their next visit.
Comment #699, 8/4/2010

19. As a teacher of ESL I'm thrilled to know that whatever country I am in I can use the Smithsonian Commons as a source of information and knowledge which I could use to fuel my students' interest in the language… I love it! What better way to open the world of the Smithsonian to the world! If Mr. Smithson only knew what his donation to the US has lead to. Incredible!
Comment #589, 8/3/2010

20. I am a middle school teacher and I love the idea of having instant access to your wonderful collections. I am always looking for credible hands-on historic materials I can use to teach my students about the world. The Smithsonian Commons appear to be user friendly, quick and can even be used by teachers who are not technically savvy. The content I reviewed is very relevant and can help make lesson planning less cumbersome, particularly with the use of instructional guides. Thank you so much for making this innovative technology possible, it makes the idea of having collections in perpetuity real and meaningful to citizens. I believe the Smithsonian Commons will increase attendance, membership, and should have a positive effect of sales. As a former employee of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science I understand how important it is to move beyond the confines of the walls of the museum to reach audiences. Your idea is very timely and innovative; I do look forward to seeing the wonders you expose us to as you move forward.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #1092, 8/15/2010

III. Amateurs/citizens

21. A body of knowledge is enhanced by input from experts and amateurs alike - it is impressive that [the Smithsonian Commons] offers a forum for this interaction. Instead of enthusiasts making observations or advancing research in isolation, SC will foster an organic community of contributors. I anticipate being a frequent visitor to SC - I don't know many local people who share my areas of interest, and I would welcome the chance to learn from others who do.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #719, 8/4/2010

22. I like the ability to share my information with other enthusiasts, and receive information from them as well…
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #591, 8/3/2010

23. I am very pleased to see that you are involving the general public into contributing information. Many of science's great discoveries have been by the unaccredited and self-taught. Too often we accept that knowledge only can be gained by attending and graduating from an institution. I applaud whole-heartedly the Smithsonian's attempt to create a more robust user experience through the technology of today. I can't wait to see it in actual use. Thank you for allowing me to see and contribute to this process.
Parent and Child
Comment #573, 8/3/2010

24. I would like to see comments and participate in discussions with people of like-minded interests, not just "hey that's awesome", but "I collect in this area, and suggest you visit X for other examples."
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #716, 8/4/2010


quote.gifI have visited the Smithsonian many times, both in personand on the internet. I have yet to leave disappointed or withoutlearning something new. Smithsonian Commons can only makeit better by encouraging like-minded enthusiasts to share theresources of the Smithsonian with others.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast


25. I have visited the Smithsonian many times, both in person and on the internet. I have yet to leave disappointed or without learning something new. Smithsonian Commons can only make it better by encouraging like-minded enthusiasts to share the resources of the Smithsonian with others. What a fabulous resource for everyone! I will be a frequent visitor…
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #401, 8/3/2010

26. This is an exciting model for the museum community--both in terms of the openness of the development process and the ways on which museum-public relationships are envisioned. I can't wait to give the Commons a whirl in my many roles as a visitor, researcher, enthusiast and educator.
Comment #729, 8/4/2010

27. I am very pleased to see that you are involving the general public into contributing information. Many of sciences great discoveries have been by the unaccredited and self-taught. Too often we accept that knowledge only can be gained by attending and graduating from an institution. I applaud whole-heartedly the Smithsonian's attempt to create a more robust user experience through the technology of today.
Parent and child
Comment #573, 8/3/2010

28. … The Smithsonian Commons connects disparate objects, ideas, displays and concepts with a single thread, weaving an incredible set of images and text that encourages not just learning and understanding, but the emotional excitement of learning and understanding. Research is made fun, visiting is enhanced, teaching is expanded and public involvement becomes exciting. For possibly the first time in our history, the average American will be having fun learning, even if they don't realize that is what they are doing. The Smithsonian Commons is what the Internet was meant to be.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #873, 8/5/2010

IV. Young and old

29. Now over 90, age limitations and distance make physical visiting almost impossible. The Smithsonian Commons now opens wonderful vistas.
Comment #785, 8/4/2010

30. I'm a high school student who loves science. I have family in DC so I have the opportunity to visit the museums myself but I think this is a great idea for people who can't and even people who can so they can get a more in-depth exploration of the museums.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1097, 8/17/2010

quote.gifNow over 90, age limitations and distance makephysical visiting almost impossibleThe Smithsonian Commonsnow opens wonderful vistas.Donor/member/supporter

31. It's fab. I'm 76 and love the ability to visit new and interesting Pictures, info. and areas of the world which are new to me and I can explore.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #890, 8/6/2010

32. I am in my eighties and so glad to have the opportunity to stay abreast with some of the best brains on the planet. Power on Smithsonian!
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1063, 8/15/2010

33. Much work and thought has gone into this concept and it is very well done. What a superb way to entice our youth to explore the Smithsonian.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #820, 8/4/2010

34. I love everything about the Smithsonian and esp. this concept. I think automatic emails to me about the commons would be lovely. I'm a senior, 74, who is especially interested in the jewelry sections, archeology, recent events worldwide, I love to read about other countries and their cultures...esp the more obscure ones. thank you
Comment #447, 8/3/2010

35. I want to explore all the resources the Smithsonian has. I'm a high school student interested in every science from astronomy to physical/forensic anthropology to biology to robotics.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #222, 7/5/2010

V. Parents and Children

36. [The Smithsonian Commons] will enable us to use and teach things to our homeschooled grandson that would otherwise be impossible. Thanks a million.
Parent and Child
Comment #175, 7/2/2010

37. What a fantastic resource. I am a home school parent. My daughter is continuing home education, starting with high school in the fall. She will definitely love this site to help with reports and general knowledge. We love the Smithsonian, and we are Resident Associate members. However, the military will be moving us within another year. Now we can continue to enjoy these awesome museums no matter where we are stationed. Thanks for making it so easy to access your authoritative information.
Parent and Child
Comment #442, 8/3/2010

quote.gifI see the Smithsonian Commons as a valuable research engine for me and my children.
Parent and Child

38. I see Smithsonian Commons as valuable research engine for me and my children. We just cannot spend enough of the museums when we visit Washington D.C. and with Smithsonian Commons, it is an extension of our experience in US history, science, arts and much more. What a wonderful tool!!!
Parent and Child
Comment #712, 8/4/2010

39. I haven't even thought of the Smithsonian for teacher resources. I am a Scout Leader in Canada and will use this as a resource tool. It seems very user friendly. I sure there is much I can pull off for badge work.
Parent and child
Comment #1030, 8/11/2010

40. We live outside of DC and this is a great way to bring our nation's collection to a wider audience!
Parent and child
Comment #1054, 8/13/2010

VI. Higher Education

41. The Commons would be ideal for organizing and presenting lessons. It's clear, logical flow should attract even the most fixed luddite...Your approach is wonderfully logical. I always worry most about those who shy away from technology--the "It's too complicated" crowd--but Smithsonian Commons obviates that response. The collections feature is marvelous.
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #725, 8/4/2010

42. In particular I would like to see images of as much as possible of the Freer and Sackler Galleries' collections of Asian art available through it. In general, as full access from a distance as practicable to the collections and appropriate date relating to them; based in Britain, my opportunities of actually physically visiting any part of the Smithsonian Institution are limited.
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #403, 8/3/2010

quote.gifI am a college professor and hope you will makeavailable all of the deep information at theSmithsonian. Scholarly papers,photographs, etc.Teacher (higher education)


43. I would like for you to include topics for young adult English learners such as the ones I have here in León, Mexico. The language for adult learners must be simple, and as they are not familiar with the culture, the most common facts about America have to be explained. As an EFL teacher, this kind of facilities can be useful, but as I told you, explanations need to be very simple for basic learners.
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #230, 7/5/2010

44. The video mostly highlights getting objects. I am most interested in the investigations, most interesting perspectives from the scientists,... of the Smithsonian. real examples of how to use the museum as a resource for students' inquiry would be most interesting to me.
Teacher (higher education)
Comment #232, 7/5/2010

45. I am a college professor and hope you will make available all of the deep information at the Smithsonian. Scholarly papers, photographs, etc. It sounds as if you are going to do this, so I am looking forward to becoming an active user of Smithsonian Commons.
Comment #939, 8/8/2010
Teacher (higher education)

VII. Can't visit in person

46. I am retired in Arizona and Washington, D.C. is just not something I can work into a SSI income, but the range of information available to me online would be greatly expanded with this type of information. Sometimes you don't know what to ask about and this seems to have a large pool of information using other criteria to find. This seems extremely helpful.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1104, 8/19/2010

47. I would like to see many of your exhibits on the website. We don't travel like we used to (we are 75 and 80 years old) and would like to see your collections online.
Comment #432, 8/3/2010

48. All I really have to say this time is Wow! I would have loved to have had this available in high school and college. I really like how interactive it is, and the extensive range, availability and variety of the content. I especially like this site because living in California, any trip to the Smithsonian is a major effort. This is the next best thing to be able to visit the Institute. And it's free.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #885, 8/5/2010


quote.gifI especially like this site because living in California,any trip to the Smithsonian is a major effort.This is the next best thing to be able tovisit the Institute. And it's free.Art/science/nature/history enthusiast


49. I live in Westfield Vermont next to Jay Peak Ski Area on the Canadian border. We have virtually no facilities for learning in the area. This would be ideal for someone like me who works as a Realtor but does not have the time or money to be able to participate in the learning culture.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #418, 8/3/2010

50. [I would like to] explore the collection vicariously (hard to do in person from Western Australia). Dream.
Comment #683, 8/3/2010

51. Would like to use it with my students! I am in Iowa and most of my students will never get to Washington to see the Smithsonian collections. I like the apparent ease of navigation. I would use this site often to pull up pictures as we study various topics.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #671, 8/3/2010

52. I was just taken in by all the wondrous advantages of what can be done to enjoy the Smithsonian from my home. (I live in Michigan) Which means, that the time I visited the Smithsonian back in the 60's now can be mine to enjoy again and again. The fact that you have included new concepts and applications shows your forward thinking. Thank you for bringing the Smithsonian to ME!!
Comment #711, 8/4/2010

53. All I really have to say this time is Wow! I would have loved to have had this available in high school and college. I really like how interactive it is, and the extensive range, availability and variety of the content. I especially like this site because living in California, any trip to the Smithsonian is a major effort. This is the next best thing to be able to visit the Institute. And it's free.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #871, 8/5/2010

VIII. Critique/advice

54. Don't dumb this down! Keep the information rich and thick. Surface information is available elsewhere on the web. I want a source I can TRUST since I can't do that at Wikipedia. Remember that your main strength is knowledge and the dissemination of it.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1214, 11/15/2010

55. The opening page as shown in the prototypes is so chock-full of images, I feel lost. And I haven't the foggiest idea of what apps are and I don't twitter or Facebook or do blogs. … So, please remember that there are many different types of computer users out there, with varying degrees of skill and knowledge. Many thanks.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #119, 7/1/2010

56. [You need to] balance visual images with primary document sources. It would be great for the commons to be a centralized search engine for significant American History for educators and students. In cases where the Smithsonian does not have rights to the material, maybe major non-governmental links could be sited, e.g. several Universities have significant map collections, etc.
Comment #126, 7/2/2010

57. I teach science and social studies content to adult ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners, and I can definitely see the possibilities for using the Commons this summer or next year. However, some of the site content might be too rich and complex for my beginner-mid-level students to manage or negotiate. I wonder if some parts could be simplified or leveled more specifically to ESOL students, and not just elementary or adolescent students.
Also, we hope to integrate some assignments and links to the Blackboard platform used throughout Fairfax County PS next year. I wonder how I can import or link comprehensible chunks of content into an area that is readily accessible to my digitally challenged adults. Thanks for making me aware of the potential for exploring a new and exciting platform for learning. It's beautiful at first glance.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #130, 7/2/2010


quote.gifI like the idea, but honestly, I'm for screws, not glue.The way the Smithsonian Commons is being described,it seems like it's the SI going for "open enough"...Museum/library/archive professional


58. [I would like] easy access to info for teachers.
Comment #26, 6/22/2010

59. I like the idea, but honestly, I'm for screws, not glue. The way the Smithsonian Commons is being described, it seems like it's the SI going for "open enough," which to me, just feels like BP trying for all these years to appear "green enough."
I want the Smithsonian Commons to be truly open. Publicly funded and supported institutions like the SI and the LC need to stop being quite so proprietary about their data, and open it up as part of a vision of the institution serving as an agent of the public good.
[Note: this commenter published a blog post about this topic at]
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #36, 6/22/2010

60. As a kindergarten teacher, I find it difficult to find online content that age appropriate. I will a little disheartened to see PreK-3 grouped together. There is a vast difference between children who are learning to read and those taking state-mandated assessments.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #74, 7/1/2010

61. There is too much content on the search results page. It's great to have options, but it can be visually overwhelming. A simple, all-inclusive list might be better, with the option to separate out (images, multi-media, etc.), like the new Google.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #76, 7/1/2010

62. While I like the approach, it seems like it would be further strengthened by allowing users to link to other collections (i.e. Library of Congress, Archives)
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #244, 7/6/2010

63. While it is a big task, you might want to include each state's educational standards as a search option or include a pull down menu to see how the content a teacher is looking at might fit into their particular state's standards of learning. Also, you might want to add some type of feature that would allow teachers to view content directly on a SMARTboard or Promethean Whiteboard.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #282, 7/7/2010

64. As a special education teacher, I would love to see material adapted for a range of reading levels and abilities. I would be interested in ways to link content from Social studies to language arts to math, where possible.
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #290, 7/8/2010

65. I would like to see the commons expanded to encompass comprehensive and in-depth research capabilities beyond "favorites" and high school or popular magazine level descriptions. The videos don't suggest much more than entry level coverage, unless I missed something here. Would there be a way, for example, to access not only the pictures of the musical instruments in your complete collection, but also the complete written documentation of each item? I don't mean just the brief, often inaccurate museum labels, but full records and references. The potential for the Commons is great, especially if it can rise above just the Facebook and Twitter mentality.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #742, 8/4/2010

66. I want to learn on the Smithsonian Commons. I realize that many people enjoy the frenzied race to view the coolest/latest thing and quickly move on. I don't think these people should be your target audience. It seems a little bit too much like making a toddler the target audience (or at least a patron). Everyone wants to be fascinated and inspired, and the Smithsonian should seize on that enthusiasm to educate people at the same time.
You have our attention with flesh-eating maggots... but what are maggots? Will they turn into flies? How big are they and what is their life cycle, what was their evolutionary path? Where are they native to, are they invasive and spreading, or are they perhaps threatened by some human activity?

I know museums love to describe themselves as educational institutions, but they also have to balance and include an entertainment factor (visitors need to be fascinated and awe-inspired or they won't visit). But if all you provide is entertainment, I'll be on within a minute and I'll be spending my time looking for other educational content.
Could the Smithsonian Commons provide links to either its own or some external site's encyclopedic knowledge?

Museums love to give one juicy fact about a 100 different things (for obvious reasons, people won't stop and read more than a paragraph while walking through a museum). But what about the rest of us that want 100 facts about just one thing (and not just facts, but a deeper level of understanding, identifying connections to what we already know, and adding something to our vocabulary, view of the world, etc.)
The world has already moved to a fast-paced, multi-faceted, and barely skin-deep treatment of all subjects (whether important or trivial). I don't want to read 17 people's opinions about the 'awesomeness' of something, nor the 'stupidity' of something else. I want to make up my own mind and avoid the ubiquitous gossip (feigning expertise) which is devoid of substantial information.
Good job and thank you, this site will be a great resource for fellow teachers.
Comment #743, 8/4/2010

67. The easier it is to use, the more it will be used.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #366, 7/20/2010


quote.gifI'm not interested in the Smithsonian wasting time andmoney on projects revolving around socialnetworking sites. They are bogging the internetdown with a surplus of crap.Art/science/nature/history enthusiast


68. Maybe have a kid friendly version to engage children that are 3-6 years old in the experience they will have before they visit.
Parent and child
Comment #1176, 9/6/2010

69. I am not a i-phone user but would like to be able to use all the same features from the Smithsonian Commons site. Please don't forget about us - the less technical-gadget adept.
I do think this is a great resource and will add it to my links for my children and I to resource more frequently!
Thank you!
Parent and child
Comment #422, 8/3/2010

70. While the smart phone applications are admirable, I'd like to see more for the family that can afford such devices (for example, kiosks to print information, ability to send itinerary to a printer or pdf file so that it could be printed from a workstation either at home or at a hotel).
Comment #426, Parent and child

71. Even though I do not use my phone for anything other than making/receiving calls, I know many others out there do. I believe the additional access to Smithsonian can only increase interest. However, I caution Smithsonian to not take away any other access modes.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #449, 8/3/2010

72. Will the Smithsonian be partnering with other government-affiliated museums to broaden the Commons approach, such as the Air Force Museum etc?
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #480, 8/3/2010

73. There is a lot going on the page, it may be cluttered and good tools could get over looked
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #522, 8/3/2010

74. I'm not interested in the Smithsonian wasting time and money on projects revolving around social networking sites. They are bogging the internet down with a surplus of crap. Every site I've used that started catering towards social networking sites has become messy, irrelevant, and difficult to navigate.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #542, 8/3/2010

75. I want to use it in a Promethium board. Would like to see more interactive options. Would like to see 3-D. Also would like to be able to chat ( student to student, teacher to teacher).
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #546, 8/3/2010

76. It was a little too complicated for me, but I'm not a teacher... What's good for the students, is that it is a safe and secure site!
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #578, 8/3/2010

77. Too complicated and vast for an "ordinary" person like me. But it is interesting!
Comment #581, 8/3/2010

78. Include some versions in languages beyond English only.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #582, 8/3/2010

79. I have found that Wikipedia is the most useful research tool on the web. It is surprising how reliable the information is. But more, the articles are relevant. I almost always get a relevant Wikipedia article in my Google research searches. The article is almost always useful and leads to vast web resources.
I think having Smithsonian references is as many Wikipedia articles as possible would be the best possible interface to the Smithsonian for amateur research.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #612, 8/3/2010

80. It's same as Wikipedia? show why the SI is more unique than the already popular informational resource against which competition is futile; key is to get members to go there not merely provide info; a giant but subtle sales pitch… don't duplicate what other sites already do
Comment #723, 8/4/2010


quote.gifMaster the "vast and findable" challengeand you will have a winner. Fail and the effort will have been in vain…Museum/library/archive professional


81. As more students have internet access on their phones, this becomes a mobile library for the teacher. But for those students who don't have it, what a put down in the classroom.
But I like it, and will someday get a phone myself that has apps!
Teacher (k-12)
Comment #630, 8/3/2010

82. The samples of the Commons web site seemed too complicated to navigate through.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #633, 8/3/2010

83. From the videos, it looks like there will be a lot of interesting things to do on the site. However, it also looks like there could be something of a learning curve because there will be so many options. Having context-sensitive help or suggestions will likely be key to users' success with and enjoyment of the site. It will also be important to not let unmoderated contributions overwhelm the other (curated) material. While many people have excellent information or ideas to contribute, others will just be offering noise that will distract from the value of the overall material.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #678, 8/3/2010

84. Would like to see a more overall view of the entire Smithsonian. I know it is really big - I need something to help me scale the whole thing.
Comment #753, 8/4/2010

85. …Far too much of the museum's content remains out of reach today. Until you can find it online, as a practical matter, it doesn't exist. Master the 'vast and findable' challenge and you will have a winner. Fail and the effort will have been in vain…
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #859, 8/5/2010

86. …The Smithsonian is one of our greatest treasures, and such an authority on countless subjects. I do not want the content watered down with lowest common denominator comments and outside links. I think there is a risk of the pertinent information becoming lost in a jumble of opinions of those other than the experts'.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #865, 8/5/2010

87. Smithsonian Commons is THE next best thing on the Internet!!!
My few concerns are: 1) how secure is personal info when submitting comments, uploading images, sharing info & links etc. 2) how will Smithsonian moderate the site for appropriate content/comments?
People will look to the Smithsonian website content, including the Commons for accurate & reliable information as a trusted site . . . will Smithsonian add comments or rate user contributions?
BRAVO! Commons is an incredible development in the integration of content & social networking, making the Internet a more valuable tool to enhance our lives. I am VERY impressed & look forward to having this available for everyone - not just US - this IS the WORLD wide web after all!
Comment #874, 8/5/2010

88. There must be something that your collections do not cover. If you have only limited information about a subject, ( say, the Mona Lisa), will you offer any tips or links to people who want or need more information?
Comment #944, 8/8/2010

89. …Museums tend to present their collections object by object, as do these videos. Yes, the teacher can look up Theodore Roosevelt, but she immediately gets a bunch of objects. She is looking for themes and concepts within this topic, not necessarily individual objects only. This is a problem, and it requires so much work to address.
Moreover, the teacher (or citizen scientist, visitor, etc) aren't focused on the Smithsonian, are they? Even the visitor, for example, is coming to DC and would want to know about Dumbarton Oaks, the National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, Newseum, etc. And she isn't necessarily interested in looking object by object, but perhaps by her interests--those pesky themes again!
So some robust thematic overlay would need to be in place, and it would need to be integrated with other resources outside the Smithsonian.
This vision is halfway there--excellent start. But it needs to be less object-and less Smithsonian-oriented. That's a big challenge, but I am convinced it is the way people want to go!
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #957, 8/9/2010

90. One thing that I don't believe that I saw is a way for users to make connections between content available through the Commons to non-SI content, and have those connections register within the Commons itself. Challenge is moderating the connections, I imagine, but while watching the videos I was thinking about how I might connect SI content to, say, some of the full-text resources available through Google Books, especially the vast amount of material that has entered the public domain after copyright expiration or was published prior to the major changes in US copyright law in the 1920s. There's tons of 19th-century documents that illuminate or at least are contemporary with the NMAH collection, for example.
The other topic I was wondering about is how the Commons might work to elevate its users above merely being sharers or comment-makers. What sort of knowledge-creating projects do you see as possible here?
Comment #961, 8/9/2010

91. Suggestions:
I'd like to see more integration with the physical objects onsite. For example, next to an object at the museum, could be a little code or something users type in on their mobile browsers to learn more about that object or share it etc…
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1036, 8/12/2010

92. There's potential in the Commons concept, but any web experience is a weak substitute for actually getting into the various SI locations and standing next to an exhibit. More resources might be directed towards making it easier or simpler to move people into the museum itself.
Parent and child
Comment #1068, 8/15/2010

IX. Eclectic

93. I would look at needlework that is in the Smithsonian collection, at the history of women who would have done the needlework as well as the time period...I think this is a wonderful idea for the use of the Smithsonian for those of us who are unable to travel to the museums in person. As a designer of needlework and a student of history I like the ability to add the Smithsonian content as well as being able to develop my own web page through the Commons.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #748, 8/4/2010

94. [I would like to see] early pop song sheet music! Historical documents and images! Portraits! Things related to space and exploration! Oral histories! Oh, the research we'll be able to do! And the connections we'll make!
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1016, 8/10/2010

95. I am a book author and 18th century living historian, so I would like to be able to research colonial settlement and lifestyles in the New World from about 1680 to 1760. Looking at artifacts from this period would be a great help. I also have a blog on the 18th century so I do a lot of research.
Comment #681, 8/3/2010


quote.gifThe possibility of interaction is WONDERFUL!!!


96. The possibility of interaction is WONDERFUL!!!
Comment #801, 8/4/2010

97. Wonderful, well-thought-out, and comprehensive in introductory description. The site invokes curiosity and enthusiasm, in addition to learning, for an upcoming visit.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #1082, 8/16/2010

98. After viewing all four of the prototypes, I was very impressed with the scope and relevance of content, the illustrative quality, the scholarly interpretation, and the explanation of application for each prototype. Each one of these will lend itself to the establishment of a ready reference for students, educators, and those who are always inquisitive and never stop learning...This is wonderful - thank you very much for the opportunity to view and to participate in this exciting new direction by the Smithsonian.
Museum/library/archive professional
Comment #1086, 8/16/2010

99. What a great opportunity for students/scholars of all ages/abilities to pursue the life of the mind. Who needs "reality television" when the Smithsonian offers so many realities, including those we may not have discovered (or delved into) yet! Thank you! And keep up the great work!
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1117, 8/22/1010

quote.gifWhat a great opportunity for students/scholars of allages/abilities to pursue the life of the mind. Who needs"reality television" when the Smithsonian offersso many realities, including those we maynot have discovered (or delved into) yet! Art/science/nature/history enthusiast

100. I can hear my brain saying "feed me". All my life I have wanted to spend 2 weeks in DC doing nothing but going to the Smithsonian. I have taken the magazine for years. This will give me a chance to visit all the museums, find my favorite subject and learn more and more. I am retired at this time and could not do all the walking necessary to fulfill my dream. With the Smithsonian Commons I can go to the Smithsonian every day.
Art/science/nature/history enthusiast
Comment #1184, 9/25/2010

Extra Credit

This batch of comments is published directly on the Smithsonian Commons Prototype website, and the comments are credited to their authors. Some of these comments were found in external websites and Twitter, some were emailed directly to project leaders, and some were pulled from comments submitted via the vote/comment form.

101. The Smithsonian Commons is the very model of what a modern major knowledge institution should be doing in the 21st century to throw its doors open to the world. In the age of the Internet, the definition of "public domain" and "public benefit" has changed. In order for our national treasures to be sharable with as broad a group of citizens as possible, they have to exist in digital format and under proper license, and ideally they should be discoverable within an inviting user interface. If Smithsonian Commons is built it will be a beacon to other knowledge institutions all over the world.
Anya Kamenetz
Author, DIY U

102. The Smithsonian Commons is a critical part of the transition to a more open network of online opportunities for people to learn, engage, and craft new art and science, using and sharing the tools of heritage, creativity, and inquiry. Using sites like the Commons, people will increasingly be able to knit their interactions together from across the web by linking data and services into a web of personal experience.
Peter Brantley
Director, BookServer Project, Internet Archive

102. [The] Smithsonian Commons goes way beyond putting online as much of our national museum as possible — which should be enough to justify its creation. It goes beyond bringing to bear everything curators, experts, and passionate visitors know to increase our understanding of what is there. By allowing us to discover connections, link in and out, and add ideas and knowledge, what used to be a “mere” collection will be an embedded part of countless webs of knowledge that in turn add value to one another. That is to say, we will be able to take up the objects of our heritage in ways that will make them more distinctly and uniquely ours than ever before.
David Weinberger
Co-director, Harvard Library Innovation Lab; Senior researcher, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Franklin Fellow, U.S. State Department; Author, Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (and others)
Via blog post

104. This is a brilliant vision of how to achieve James Smithson's increase and diffusion of knowledge in the twenty-first century. The Smithsonian Commons offers an exciting new vehicle for navigating the riches of the institution, encouraging collaboration and research, and greatly augmenting the ways in which we can all connect with the Smithsonian's tremendous resources.
Heather Ewing
Author of The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian

105. The most exciting thing about the Smithsonian Commons is not the rich, vast and freely available content it will contain; it’s the conversations that will result from pushing collections out of the museum to meet users where they live, breathe—and learn!
Maura Marx
Executive Director, Open Knowledge Commons

quote.gifThis project is an amazing exampleof the true capabilities of the web.Vanessa Fox, O'Reilly Radar blog

106. This project is an amazing example of the true capabilities of the web.
Vanessa Fox
O'Reilly Radar blog

107. I like to see our institutions involving users in the enrichment of our shared global cultural heritage. The power of stories is in all of us and inspiration is the source of innovation. The Smithsonian Commons Prototype is beacon of light on a possible digital future of our invaluable, priceless institutions. Rave on!!
Erik Boekesteijn
DOK, the library concept center, Delft, NL

108. Increase and diffusion indeed! It's so exciting to see one of the largest museums on the planet working to weave itself into the web through the Smithsonian Commons. The curious blend of expertise, humility and sheer breadth of holdings will scatter far and wide, to the benefit of all.
George Oates
Director, Open Library at the Internet Archive and creator of the Flickr Commons

109. The Smithsonian Commons will be a dream come true for educators. Providing teachers and students with copyright friendly images and information that is easy to find is an invaluable resource. The Smithsonian Commons will allow teachers and students to conduct research more effectively, affording them more time to use the information in new and meaningful ways. Thanks to the Smithsonian, students and teachers will be able to go beyond consuming information and move into creating content for others to use. I applaud the Smithsonian for considering the needs of educators and students.
Kelli Etheredge
Teaching and Learning Resources Director for PK-12
St. Pauls Episcopal School, Mobile, AL

110. The Smithsonian Commons represent a new model for making museums accessible to anyone and everyone, but it also represents a model for all of us who seek to make content — its discovery, use, and growth — belong to those who encounter it! We have all been invited in to enjoy, share, and enhance our nation's treasures. Amazing!
Reggie Henry
Chief Technology Officer, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)

111. Forget the plexiglass case. With the launch of the Smithsonian Commons a national treasure is being restored to its former glory as a shared space for inquiry and collaboration around grand challenges. The Smithsonian Institution is making a bold statement that it is now about more than museums, and it has aspirations for impact that reach well beyond the National Mall. Want to get involved? You can. The Smithsonian is open.
Philip Auerswald
Associate Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University
Editor, Innovations Journal (MIT/Harvard/George Mason)

112. Built to support collaborative and participatory learning, the [Smithsonian] Commons recognizes what the online community can add to this space.
Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning / MacArthur Foundation

113. The Smithsonian Commons is in sync with the new era of social media, in which tech users want to interact with organizations and contribute what they know.
Lee Rainie
Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project

114. The Smithsonian is not just about the past, but about the present and the future. The Smithsonian is not just about what goes on inside the walls in Washington, D.C., but about the communications that flow through those walls to and from citizens. The Smithsonian is not just about experts teaching citizens, but also about citizens teaching — and discovering knowledge together with — each other. The Smithsonian Commons is not just about using contemporary technology to further an enterprise that was founded with deep respect for American technological innovation, but about expanding the idea of the institution itself. Every click on a website, every video viewed, every exhibition shared via mobile device, every citizen scientist project, every teacher and student interaction with the Smithsonian via social media expands the idea of what the Smithsonian Institution is, who it reaches, what it can do.
Howard Rheingold

115. The Smithsonian Commons updates James Smithson's vision for our time, placing the Institution at the center of the increase and diffusion of knowledge in a digitally networked world.
Josh Greenberg
Director, Digital Strategy and Scholarship, New York Public Library

quote.gifThe Smithsonian Commons opens the doornot only to the museum's incredible collection,but also to conversations, discoveries, and insightthat until now have simply not been possible.Open to anyone, using any device, it will put thenation's museum in the palm of your hand.Larry Johnson, CEO, The New Media Consortium

116. The Smithsonian Commons is a terrific example of how Networked Nonprofits work: it lets outsiders in and insiders out while building community and conversations around the museum's collections.
Beth Kanter
Author of Beth's Blog and Co-Author, The Networked Nonprofit

117. The Smithsonian Commons project makes museums nerdier, more accessible, awesome.
Erin McCann
via blog post

118. The Smithsonian Commons opens the door to not only the museum's incredible collections, but also to conversations, discoveries, and insights that until now have simply not been possible. Open to anyone, using any device, it will put the nation's museum in the palm of your hand.
Larry Johnson
CEO, The New Media Consortium

119. The Smithsonian Commons may soon join the National Mall as an entrance to our nation's attic, making the treasures of the Smithsonian Institution available to all the Internet.
Carl Malamud

120. The Smithsonian Commons enables people to become participants in a rich tapestry of shared cultural heritage. Brilliant, fascinating -- and vastly important.
JD Lasica

121. Museums have been struggling with how to grasp this delicate topic for years. Finally the Smithsonian is showing us the way.
Dave Asheim
CEO and Founder, Guide By Cell, Inc.

122. The question of openness can be reduced to this: you can take the objects out of their cases. But do you just want to put them in front of a worldwide public, or to put them in their hands?
Tad Suiter
via blog post

123. The Smithsonian Commons will do more than enable new discoveries. It will make possible whole new fields of discovery.
Tom Scheinfeldt
Center for History and New Media

124. The Smithsonian Commons will change the world by getting expert knowledge out and bringing amateur knowledge in.
Amanda French
via Twitter

100 of my favorite public comments
  • These are 100 of my favorite public comments about the Smithsonian Commons Prototype.
  • Over 1,200 votes and comments were submitted submitted via a form on the prototype website. It's hard to read so many comments so I thought it would be interesting to grab 100 of the many many good and useful comments and put them on one page.
  • Some of the comments have been spell checked and edited for brevity or clarity and the unabridged list of 1,200+ comments starts here.
  • Each comment below has a link to the page where the unabridged comment lives. We've posted replies to over 300 of the comments.

Other groups of comments