The DPO staff have been thinking and talking with our colleagues about how digitized collections can affect lives in significant and measurable ways by:
- Showcasing examples where digitized collections have initiated creativity, innovation and change in some area of human endeavor;
- Exploring ways museums, archives and libraries can maximize the impact of their digitized collections; and
- Investigating ways museums, archives and libraries can measure the impact of their digitized collections.
Why “impact”? Cultural heritage institutions know how to make their digital collections accessible. Our new challenge is demonstrating how they can shape lives, society and the large issues of our time.
Why digitize? The Smithsonian’s collections are vast! We have 156 million museum objects, artworks and specimens; 156,000 cubic feet of archival holdings; and 2 million library volumes, but less than 1% of our collections are on display in our 19 museums, 9 research centers and National Zoo. Mass Digitization (digital photographs of flat and non-flat objects) and 3D Digitization (virtual and 3D printable models) gives us an opportunity to bring the remaining 99% of the collection to the public.
Although our holdings are greater than most, the Smithsonian is not alone in facing physical space limitations that restrict the amount we can display. Most cultural organizations have a similar situation. By digitizing our collections, cultural institutions expand their capacity and ability to make their collections more accessible. But making collections accessible is only part of the process. We are exploring how we can make our digitized collections meaningful, inspirational, and significant: in other words, digitizing for impact.