January 26, 2009

Smithsonian 2.0

I was one of the outside participants at a think-apalooza about the future of the Smithsonian Institution. The two-day event was well covered by Joel Garreau.

It was very clear to the scholars, consultants, and dot-com experts who had been invited to spend time at the museums and collections that the Smithsonian is wrestling with the same questions every organization confronts in this new information and communication ecology: How do we further our mission in this radically different environment?

I took the minute I had in my remarks at the plenary session to pass along a message I often deliver to those who lead libraries, non-profits, and government agencies: You have people on your staff who have already thought about this and have solutions to offer.

The Smithsonian is a case in point. I read from a paper written by smart Smithsonian new-media strategist Michael Edson.

My point about empowering motivated staffers was more smartly framed by my friend Larry Irving, who quoted his old boss telling his staff: “You should try to accomplish your mission however you like as long as it is not illegal, immoral, or fattening.”