This new Smithsonian document “describes a transformational change for the Smithsonian, which will have impact on the Institution’s culture, operations, allocation of resources, talent recruitment, and priorities. This strategy can only become operational with adequate resources, and will require the Smithsonian to rethink the ways in which it generates revenues and prioritizes how resources are allocated to programs.”
A key part of the strategy is to create a Smithsonian Commons “dedicated to the free and unrestricted sharing of Smithsonian resources and encouraging new kinds of learning and creation through interaction with Smithsonian research, collections, and communities” but it will also “Use the commons to attract the funding necessary to update the Smithsonian’s Web and New Media operations and business models.”
The report notes that:
Attempting to directly monetize access to, and use of, museum content does not appear to be a sustainable business model. Through these low-margin business practices, we alienate users, perpetuate the practice of institutions charging each other, discourage research and publications, and undermine our civic mission. The commons presents an alternative: gradually reduce our dependence on access and use fees by aggregating larger number of visitors under a strong brand supported by sponsorships and other value-added products and services. It is likely that the Smithsonian will make more money by promoting “free” resources to a large audience than it can make charging small amounts for small transactions to a small audience, and it is a much better fit with the mission.