Moving together into the future

Our new Strategic Plan will guide the Smithsonian’s future as we work together to achieve greater impact, strengthen audience involvement and focus on important issues affecting our world.


Group in red chairs seated on dais in front of audience.

From left, National Museum of Natural History Director Kirk Johnson, Smithsonian Regent David Rubenstein, Smithsonian Regent Doris Matsui and Secretary David Skorton (back to camera) discuss Smithsonian 2022 at a special event, “The Short Conversation,” Dec. 1, 2017 at the Arts and Industries Building. (Photo by Michael Barnes)

I am extremely optimistic about moving forward with what promises to be an original and far-sighted plan for our future success, Smithsonian 2022. Our new strategic plan was carefully crafted over this past year:  a core committee convened hundreds of staff members from throughout the Institution to share ideas and concerns, developing key concepts, goals and objectives that have been refined and expanded upon by multidisciplinary teams. Ultimately, the plan combines the tremendous assets of the Institution with ideas for reaching broader audiences, at greater distances, in ways that invite public involvement and sharpen our focus on matters of national and global relevance.

In this season of giving and hope, I am grateful for your insights and help in creating Smithsonian 2022, and I am excited about getting more feedback from and working together with you to achieve the plan’s exciting objectives over the next five years.

Our first goal, “One Smithsonian,” embodies a key tenet of the initiative, working together, which so many of you identified during the development process as essential to success. In order to strengthen our brand, maximize impact, create partnerships, and become more efficient, the plan is based on a willingness to understand and support one another to accomplish common objectives.

Moving forward as “One Smithsonian” will rely on convening groups and engaging in conversation to identify the most effective collaborative approaches to promoting our strengths, such as research, collections, and exhibitions. This will benefit individuals and communities, within our buildings and beyond them. The model of collaborating to succeed will be just as important to internal initiatives as to external ones. Your ideas for developing stronger, modern, and more coordinated systems helped shape the plan and will be essential to producing a unified mission-enabling infrastructure.

A stronger emphasis on technology will enable us to reach more people through the amazing array of digital opportunities people expect today. It will be a challenge to identify and support cutting-edge, compelling ways to share exhibitions, programs, and the diverse array of artifacts, specimens, works of art, and archival materials in our ever-growing collections. Working together, internally, and with partners in technology development and digital communications, will be key to making this a viable enterprise over the next five years and beyond.

Today, James Smithson’s words—“the increase and diffusion of knowledge”—have potential our founding benefactor could not have imagined, but his democratic, visionary mandate provides a perfect foundation for Smithsonian 2022. We are privileged to care for an unparalleled collection of scientific, artistic, historical, and cultural treasures, continually adding to the body of knowledge that forms the basis for all that we do. We work together to share these assets through marvelous exhibitions, programs, media offerings, and activities. In the years ahead, we will explore more wide-ranging ways to have greater reach, relevance, and impact.

As we move forward with Smithsonian 2022, we are on firm footing. Over the past year, you have produced incredible exhibitions, important discoveries, and exciting programs in our museums, the Zoo, research facilities, and cultural centers. The five Grand Challenges that so beautifully define our priorities will continue to guide our future work.  And each of us, in how we approach our work each day, are crucial to enabling the words of the strategic plan to become a reality.

My gratitude and optimism for the Smithsonian’s future is based on the extraordinary work we do and plan to do, the support of our volunteers and donors, and the guidance of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents. In the spirit of the season, Robin and I extend our warm wishes for Happy Holidays to all the members of the Smithsonian family.

Posted: 8 December 2017
About the Author:

David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. A board-certified cardiologist whose specialty is congenital heart disease and cardiac imaging, Skorton is also an avid jazz musician and a passionate supporter of the arts and humanities.