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Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in the Digital Age [Kindle Edition]

G. Wayne Clough
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, asks museums a fundamental question: "How can we prepare ourselves to reach the generation of digital natives who bring a huge appetite-and aptitude-for the digital world?" His thoughts on how the Smithsonian is tackling this issue and how others have fared in museums and libraries around the world are the subject of a new e-book, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age.The e-book begins with a summary of what has already taken place in libraries and archives-documents once available only in the stacks or back rooms are now available, often for free, through the Internet. The Library of Congress and the National Archives, along with thousands of local libraries around the country, have led the way in digitizing two-dimensional objects.For museums, the digital world presents a bigger challenge. Clough cites several reasons for this. First, and most obvious: Producing images of three-dimensional objects is more complicated than taking a picture of a page and adding some data. Most museums, including the Smithsonian, previously have not had high levels of technical expertise and equipment. Adding to the challenge is the simple fact that collections are built with exhibitions in mind rather than open access on computers.With 137 million objects in its care, how did the Smithsonian begin the process of digitizing its vast collections to make them accessible to the millions of people who do not visit the museums in person? Clough describes the journey that began in 2009 with setting priorities for what would be digitized-a total of 14 million objects."The physical museum offers visitors the opportunity to experience the real object and share their impressions with family and friends," Clough said. "Digital access can then provide limitless opportunities for engagement and lifelong learning."Museums do not give degrees but they do provide informal education through their research, scholarship and exhibitions, both real and virtual. Clough sees museums gradually moving beyond showcasing collections to engaging the public online where the "visitors" can sort out and access the objects they find most interesting and then interact directly with the museums.Education has always been at the core of the Smithsonian. Today, the Smithsonian offers materials and lesson plans that meet state standards for K-12 curricula; online national summits for teens on subjects such as the 1961 Freedom Riders, the environment and the 1930s Dust Bowl; the Collections Search Center website; and apps such as Leafsnap that allow people to take a picture of a tree's leaf and have it identified in seconds. One of the most visible examples of informal education is the Smithsonian's website,, which draws people in with fun questions and, with another click, takes them deeper into the subject. For example, when the question "What European colonizer is still invading the U.S. today?" is clicked on, the answer, earthworms, appears along with further in-depth information on worms from environmental researchers.Museums have moved slowly-frequently project by project-into the brave new digital world, according to Clough. There are many good reasons for this cautious path, but "the time for toe-dipping is ending for museums, since they cannot stand aloof from the rising tide of information convergence."Clough concludes his 75-page online book with this thought: "While digital technology poses great challenges, it also offers great possibilities. For the Smithsonian and our nation's other museums, libraries and archives, today is a time when we can serve the role our founders envisioned for the educational systems of our republic. We can help all the people,

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Wayne Clough is the 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Clough has launched a new era at the Institution, expanding the Smithsonian’s global relevance and helping the nation shape its future through research, education and scientific discovery on major topics of the day.

One of his first initiatives led to a new strategic plan that speaks to four grand challenges that will bring together the diverse resources of the Smithsonian’s museums and science centers through interdisciplinary approaches.

Ensuring that the Institution’s vast collection is accessible and available to everyone is a priority for Clough and the new strategic plan. Efforts are underway to digitize millions of objects in the collection.

In February 2012, Clough joined President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, founding Director Lonnie Bunch and many key contributors for the groundbreaking of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open in 2015. In April, Clough oversaw Space Shuttle Discovery's dramatic flyover around Washington and final landing in its new home at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport.

Since Clough began as Secretary in July 2008, he has overseen several major openings at the Smithsonian, including the reopening of the National Museum of American History, the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins and Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History.

Before his appointment to the Smithsonian, Clough was president of the Georgia Institute of Technology for 14 years. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech in 1964 and 1965 and a doctorate in 1969 in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Product Details

  • File Size: 11306 KB
  • Print Length: 130 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (September 17, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EVT2XG0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,129 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read October 26, 2013
don't let the fact that this is free make you think it is not worth reading. every museum director will find thoughtful and insightful thoughts here about the new directions being taken at places like the Smithsonian, places that are taking these issues seriously and thoughtfully. the museum world is changing..
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all lovers of the Arts January 31, 2014
By Alitage
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A fascinating look at the future of museums, libraries and archives. Clough has written a thoughtful analysis of how these institutions can increase their public engagement in new and creative ways.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great view on the future of the Smithsonian October 14, 2013
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Secretary Clough, the head of the Smithsonian Institution, has written a book that both shows where the Smithsonian is today and where it should and can be in the future.
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star November 12, 2014
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I do not recommend this book
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars September 22, 2014
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