With more education opportunities online, one of the world's largest educational facilities has been slow to embrace the evolving nature of the web. Just as the rest of us embark on web 3.0, the Smithsonian Institution has proudly announced that they are now entering Smithsonian 2.0.
And it will be no small feat. Recently, the Smithsonian Institution convened a meeting of 31 brilliant minds of the digital age to talk with (what the Institution hopes are) its most energetic thought leaders.
At hand, is a way to put the institution's 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo online in a way that gives online visitors an interactive and educational experience similar to the one received by millions of visitors who regularly visit Washington, D.C.
However filling the web void is a matter of innovation not content. The Institution boasts more than 137 million artifacts and 13 million photos. How to exhibit and display it all is among the questions explored at the meeting.
Among those invited to advise the curators and historians was Wired's Chris Anderson, who used his concept of the Long Tail to explain the museum's role in a world of unlimited abundance offered on the Web. While it can be overwhelming to be one of many, it also provides a unique opportunity for those wanting to connect on smaller levels. As Anderson put it, "The Web is messy, and in that messiness comes something new and interesting and really rich."
Yet, messy is the exact opposite of the white-gloved environment in which curators and art historians thrive. To be able to showcase all of their artifacts without being able to assert an authority over all them is what the Smithsonian will have to come to terms with. To relinquish their Britannica status for one resembling Wikipedia may be the key to finding themselves online.