My Smithsonian, Your Smithsonian
Every day at the discussion stage (The Commons) of the Smithsonian Inside Out program we have a session called "My Smithsonian."
These sessions so far have featured long-time or recently retired Smithsonian staff, directors of some museums and units, and even the three Under Secretaries. Today, as I sat listening to part of a session on changing technologies at the Smithsonian, and looked around some of the displays and activities in the tents, it occurred to me that there was an emphasis on "your Smithsonian," that is, how members of the public can share in the future of the Smithsonian through their feedback.
For instance, in the American Experience tent, a team from the National Museum of American History headed by colleagues Rayna Green and Paula Johnston solicited ideas for future programming around American food. Visitors completed a short survey, placed in a big stew pot symbolizing a rich blend of opinions and ideas, and also posted their "food thoughts" on a large bulletin board. In the Tending and Mending tent staffed by personnel from the Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations,visitors have been leaving their ideas for "greening the Smithsonian" on slips of paper to fill the branches of a "sustainability tree." Most of these have been written by children.
In the technology session, Michael Edson, director of Web and New Media Strategy at the Smithsonian, and the other panelists discussed how the public can get involved in shaping the future of the Institution through such means as the Smithsonian 2.0 project. The Smithsonian is entering a brave new era, and you are invited to participate. Come to the Smithsonian Inside Out program and share your ideas with Smithsonian staff, then continue the conversation through the avenues being created via the Web!
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Betty J. Belanus is the curator of the Smithsonian Inside Out program at the 2010 Folklife Festival.