Smithsonian gets dedicated funds for digitization and new media

The Smithsonian Institution expects to spend $8.7 million to engage in digitization, social media, mobile and Web efforts in fiscal 2012, according to an agency official.

That represents roughly a $500,000 increase to be spent on those efforts this fiscal year, in comparison to fiscal 2011, Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian spokeswoman, said on Jan. 12 in an interview with Federal Computer Week.


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This is the first year that the Smithsonian’s budget report to the Office of Management and Budget has created a line item for digitization, which shows an increase to $8.7 million, from $8.2 million in fiscal 2011. Comparisons to additional prior years are not available, she said.

“We have been digitizing for years, but now we are putting it in a separate category,” St. Thomas said. Most of the funding goes for salaries, she added.

The digitization and new media account is tied to the Smithsonian’s strategic plan, which calls for broader access to collections, exhibitions and outreach programs. The goal is to help accomplish the broader access through digitization of collections, new media and use of social media networking tools.

Of the total year-by-year increase in the fund, $400,000 is allocated for digitizing collections and $100,000 for Web and new media projects.

In recent months, the Smithsonian’s new media projects have included Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, blogs, mobile, podcasts and virtual reality.

For example, the Smithsonian has worked with Google to illuminate details in 100 paintings from the Freer collection. It collaborated with Facebook and Pheon.org for a museum-based game, and with Second Life to create an avatar-based virtual environment.

Overall, Congress provided $811.5 million to the Smithsonian for fiscal 2012, which was $52 million more than the fiscal 2011 appropriation of $760 million.

Congress appeared to be compensating for the drop in the museum agency’s budget last year, from $762 million in fiscal 2010.

The fiscal 2009 allocation was $756 million, including $25 million that came through the economic stimulus law.

The Smithsonian operates 19 museums, the National Zoo and nine research institutes.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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