Each workshop ended with the facilitator asking participants what message they would like to deliver to the Secretary. This is what was said.
Add your thoughts to the discussion tab, or make a video for the Voice Your Vision contest on YouTube

Education Workshop




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"The Secretary just gave the Digitization Committee an
interesting view of education as two previously distinct
fields - formal education and informal 'learning' - that
are now converging in part thanks to new technologies."

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  • define education.
    • that just prolongs the discussion, we really need to define the Smithsonian. [I disagree: the Secretary just gave the Digitization Committee an interesting view of education as two previously distinct fields - formal education and informal 'learning' - that are now converging in part thanks to new technologies. Especially because 'Education' has a specific meaning and history at SI, we need to make sure we're on the same page with this terminology. - NP 5/14/09]
  • is the brand Smithsonian? or Nat Air Space Museum, Natural History, etc...?
  • create environment where all units know they belong to same organization. One Smithsonian. Within that one, there's many.
  • if Clough continues to centralize organizations, every other improvement in every other area would come from that. Centralization is a good thing.
  • hire more teachers ["Teachers" in the broad sense, as I'm assuming curators & scientists don't spend a large percentage of their time teaching. Smoot, 4/29] if interested in education. But re: Web 2.0, develop a platform so we can record teaching we actually do, digitize it, and allow others to access.
  • invest in professional development so we have tools to contribute.
  • make it a cultural change / policy that our audience is diverse, not just about formal education but other audiences. Anoint more people than just researchers and curators to communicate the message.
  • don't use the word education. People think K-12. What about funding, supporting, fostering learning institution? Opens up to broader audiences that we've been talking about. It's about ecosystem for learning, cultivating that passion. Exercising your curiosity. Our content is eclectic, all over the place. So we can use our content to offer a model to get others excited to want to know more. Diffusion is knowledge.
    • [Following up on the comment about the word, "education." We used to call RAP the "Smithsonian's Center for Lifelong Learning." Maybe some of the online/interactive educational content could be under a pan-Institutional "Smithsonian Online Center for Lifelong Learning." Smoot, 4/29]
  • Look at successful institutions, keeping in mind SI's unique situation.
  • Invest in those who know about educational technology.

Business Models Workshop



  • get the bureaucracy out of the way of doing business. Takes forever to do things. Took us 3 years to work with iTunes. Understand we have to protect brand and names, but need to be faster on feet - more nimble. In digital world, we don't have the time.
    • [Also need accounting systems or sub-systems designed to measure ROI. Those simple business-like tools don't seem to exist, at least on the Trust fund side for non-SE revenue generating units. Or, are the tools out there are we just don't know about them? Smoot, 4/28]
    • [Maybe we should mention that any new revenue generating idea to be tested will surely require a certain amount of business-like infrastructure components, which are probably not in place. Anyone tried to set-up a new merchant account or a PayPal account for accepting revenue? Were you successful? How long did it take? Smoot, 4/28]
  • improve communication across units. Who's doing what, how should we connect? Make Web central part of everyone's work plan.
  • [The] Web [needs to be] part of our overall SI-wide business model.
    • Problem hiring within the federal structure for programmers and developers.
    • Make Web part of our daily work.
  • Make the cost of our IT infrastructure operations more visible to senior management
    • right now it's hidden down in the big budget
  • he's in a great position to inspire the culture of the institution. Need to see from leadership position that collaboration, risk-taking, mistakes made - acknowledged and rewarded.
  • flip the old models on their heads. Anything that worked before, think about it differently, i.e. sponsorship. Why can't our brand be at the Olympic games? Try a different approach.
  • consider the USER, consumer in business model. Whatever we sell to them is part of the overall experience.
    • Make Web part of our regular work - user interaction, evaluation, customer relationship.
  • we don't have the proper internal communication channels to communicate internally with each other. Set up knowledge base. Need to share successes and failures.
  • [Establish a significant central annual budget to develop (not just host and maintain) SI web outreach initiatives and an internal framework for hosting, building, and sharing apps; there's no commitment like funding. Engage the open source community by publishing-posting annotated APIs and SDKs to all such apps/software via creative commons licenses, and encourage users/adaptors to post comments/success stories/wish lists. See, e.g., omeka.org and projectbamboo.org, both of which SI should participate in. Falk 5/6]
  • (Leo) I work with a lot of organizations, and this is the most bureaucratic - - and the most entrepreneurial - - organization I've ever seen.
    • [entrepeneurial down at the rank-and-file staff level.]
    • [Yes, and while some units are trying to generate revenue, other units are distributing the same services for free. Smoot, 5/1]
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Technology & Operations Workshop



  • biggest constraint historical is RESOURCES - people [both webbies and the content developers. PSmith 5/5]
  • listen to your people
  • leadership, and don't stop
  • fix the internal culture and operations and it will shimmer on the outside
  • look forward 80% of the time, and backwards 20% - maintain a lot of legacy things (buildings, collections, cultures), but also look forward how to bring those things into the current environment. Make collections relevant for those who don't come here in person.
  • maintain balance between centralization vs. unit control. Improve cohesiveness among units.
  • be a leader, set priorities, but also provide the resources so that priorities can be met
  • from funding standpoint, emphasis is capturing knowledge about collections. Ways to share, which can be expensive or not. But all of our careers are based on knowledge and preservation of collections.
  • [We need to get back to the basic purpose of our mission "the increase and diffusion of knowledge" when looking at how to best leverage the Web and New Media. What are our needs to "increase and diffuse" and how so opportunities with Web and New Media align with them? Museums were chosen as the means for enabling this mission before the age of the Internet. Yet today the Internet and New Media provide, and will continue to provide, new vehicles that can be very successful in meeting our mission. PSmith 5/5]

Curation and Research Workshop



  • change in balance in terms of prioritization. Web activities are considered less priority - lots done after 5:00 or on weekends.
  • see a strong leadership role with Sec, and unit Directors, telling them it's a priority so that it's not just Sec but he's instilling that in the unit Directors. It's clear it's a priority for everyone, not just the castle
    • agree. Needs to come from new money. Use strategic plan to go to the Hill to increase funding. There's nothing to re-balance in our current budget. Need to bring in new money.
    • disagree. Can do this without new money. Can go out on your own and get new money. Don't need federal funds - can get private funds. We ourselves can take down barriers that stop our way of thinking about things.
    • [If we go for private funds, need to develop a way to recognize donors online for their contributions. PSmith 5/6]
  • biggest constraint historical is RESOURCES - people [both webbies and the content developers. PSmith 5/5]
  • listen to your people
  • leadership, and don't stop
  • fix the internal culture and operations and it will shimmer on the outside
  • look forward 80% of the time, and backwards 20% - maintain a lot of legacy things (buildings, collections, cultures), but also look forward how to bring those things into the current environment. Make collections relevant for those who don't come here in person.
  • maintain balance between centralization vs. unit control. Improve cohesiveness among units.
  • be a leader, set priorities, but also provide the resources so that priorities can be met
  • from funding standpoint, emphasis is capturing knowledge about collections. Ways to share, which can be expensive or not. But all of our careers are based on knowledge and preservation of collections.
  • [We need to get back to the basic purpose of our mission "the increase and diffusion of knowledge" when looking at how to best leverage the Web and New Media. What are our needs to "increase and diffuse" and how so opportunities with Web and New Media align with them? Museums were chosen as the means for enabling this mission before the age of the Internet. Yet today the Internet and New Media provide, and will continue to provide, new vehicles that can be very successful in meeting our mission. PSmith 5/5]
  • (Leo) we have met the enemy and it's us?
    • We're not unique in that we're underfunded. If you're creating an exhibit from scratch, consider the Web in planning.
  • We're short in number of researchers we need. [There have been many cuts over the years.] Need that core [research staff] moving forward.
  • would like to see a revolution here. IT services (technologies) should be aligned with its users.

Directors' Workshop

I encourage you to continue this dialog on the wiki. One piece of homework: we're driving a very focused message to the Secretary. Through this Web and New Media Strategy, we need to talk about the things that need to be changed at the Smithsonian - and the things that should NOT be changed. Give us your top 3 things for each, please.
  • Clearly articulate our mission and strategy for the digital age, both at the Institution-wide and unit level, and separate those goals from individuals, personalities, and their pet projects:
    • An awful lot of energy is spent at SI trying to figure out not necessarily what is best for our customers and what helps us attain our mission, but what our directors and secretary want. In theory those managers are interpreting our mission and strategy for their staff and directing our work that way, but it is not always clear that this is what is happening because the mission and strategy are not clear nor distinct from an ever-changing menu of 'priority projects' which seem mainly to reflect individuals' interests and whims. I often feel I am serving an audience of 1-3 high-placed managers' preferences and proclivities rather than the American people, a global audience, or the Institution's mission.

  • Change: oversight model, thinking of the web as just a distribution channel, public-domain policy [M.E . 5/11/09]
    • Don't change: "innovation at the edges," passion, sense of wonder [M.E . 5/11/09]