Wayne Clough’s Plans to Keep the Smithsonian’s Head Above Water

Staying with museums for a minute more, the LA Times recently spent some time with the Smithsonian‘s new man in charge, Wayne Clough, talking to him about how he’s planning to keep the storied institution afloat in these rocky economic times. In trying to distance himself from his spend-happy predicessor, Lawrence Small, Clough tells the paper that he’s now intent on focusing the Smithsonian’s efforts to help figure out what they do best and doing more of that, instead of wasting away resources at a time when “nobody has enough money.” What’s more, he’s interested in pushing for digitizing collections in an effort to get all the research performed throughout the institution out and into the public’s hands. Here’s a bit of that:

“The Smithsonian at heart is an educational institution, but it’s been doing all this with one arm behind its back,” Clough says. “It had to have somebody show up or deliver a traveling exhibition and hope that somebody would show up. If we enable our curators to take part in the process, we can digitize our collection of 137 million objects [including artworks, artifacts and scientific specimens] in an informative way that people can use.”

The key, he thinks, is to use the collections to tell stories about important issues. “The story of American ingenuity, for example, cuts across disciplines,” he says. “Telling that story is something we can do that nobody else can.”