Partnering with the Smithsonian
In 2013, the Smithsonian hosted three Presidential Innovation Fellows, technology entrepreneurs recruited to the public sector with the help of private support. The fellows helped digitize more of the Smithsonian’s 137 million objects and make them easier for searchers to locate. Sarah Allen and Jason Shen played key roles in the launch and rapid expansion of the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where more than 1,000 volunteers worldwide now lend a hand by transcribing handwritten or typed archival documents, such as diaries, field books and specimen sheets, making them searchable. Diego Mayer-Cantu, meanwhile, explored ways to increase the rate of digitization and collaborated with private companies to develop novel ideas and processes for the Smithsonian. The trio also convened a “civic hackathon” at the American Art Museum and engaged the public in reimagining the Luce Foundation Center for American Art’s digital kiosks.