May 16, 2011, 9:44 AM — You don't usually associate the Smithsonian Institution as being overly digital, or overly contemporary, despite its effort to promote its association with both Steven Colbert and The Simpsons.
Online you're more likely to find The Mystery of the Singing Mice, or Who Had the Best Civil War Facial Hair? than you are to find something that reflects the tremendous change in communications, art and computing during the last 10 or fifteen years.
Various groups within the institution are trying, however – in one case so successfully it makes the whole institution seem as current the most recent iPhone scandal.
And even though some of their efforts seem a little behind the times, others hit its educational mission and the capabilities of contemporary technology just perfectly.
Ten Unforgettable Web Memes, for example, seems more the kind of thing you'd see on Cracked.com (and not as one of the site's surprisingly funny bits), than highly promoted as clickbait on Smithsonian.com.
It makes Smithsonian magazine seem a little bit desperate, though it does make one nostalgic for the mild shame of having once laughed at I Can Haz A Cheezburger? or thought RickRolling was less stale that the song into which it has breathed unnatural life.
The iPhone app Leafsnap, on the other hand, hits both Smithsonian's targets – the need to educate, and the need to do it in ways that will engage a population more eager to see fictional displays come to life in ,a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1078912/" target="_blank">Night at the Museum II than to see the real ones in person.