Public Engagement

The Smithsonian shares knowledge with the public through compelling exhibitions, educational programs, and media products—strengthening the world’s social and intellectual capital by telling the American story, sustaining and celebrating diverse cultures and communities, revealing the natural world, and showcasing American intellectual and technological achievements. We measure public engagement in three interconnected realms—onsite (visits to Smithsonian museums, Zoo, and research centers); across the nation and world (traveling exhibitions and our network of Affiliate museums, zoos, and other cultural organizations); and digitally (Smithsonian websites and social media). 

Visits to Museums & Zoo

Visitors in Rotunda, Natural History Museum

A standard measure of museum and program success is the number of people who “vote with their feet.” Collectively, more people visit Smithsonian museums than any other museum complex in the world. Visitors to the nation’s capital can tour our museums and the National Zoo 364 days a year free of charge, and visitors to Manhattan can see two museums: the George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.  Learn more about visiting the Smithsonian.


266 Exhibitions On Display Fiscal Year 2016
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room, Hirshhorn Museum

The number of new exhibitions in a given year and total on display at the Smithsonian are measures of our research productivity and public access to the collections. Roughly, two-thirds of exhibitions are “permanent” or long-term and one-third are “temporary” exhibitions that showcase collection items not regularly on display. About two-thirds of exhibitions are classified as “major”; the other one-third are generally small cases or single special exhibit items. Explore our exhibitions.

Educational Programs

6.0M People Served by Educational Programs Fiscal Year 2016
kids participating in educational program

Attendance at Smithsonian educational offerings is an indicator of educational access and quality. Educational programs range from on-site offerings such as docent-led tours, to digital learning opportunities, to special events such as the annual Folklife Festival on the National Mall. Visit our education page for more information.

Website Visitors

134M Website Visitors Fiscal Year 2016
78.2 Website Satisfaction Score as of September 2016 home page

The number of visitors to the Smithsonian's public websites is an indicator of our online presence and access to our digital resources. The number represents data for over 200 websites. The Website Visitor Satisfaction Score derives from a random survey of website visitors across Smithsonian sites that represent more than 90 percent of its web traffic, and are benchmarked against an index for other nonprofit and education websites.

Social Media Engagement

91.2M YouTube Views Fiscal Year 2016
11.0M Facebook/Twitter/Instagram Followers Cumulative Total thru Fiscal Year 2016
Man taking selfie at Wonder exhibit, Renwick Gallery

The number of “followers” on social media platforms is an indicator of audience engagement, and the Smithsonian has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms.

Smithsonian Affiliates

209 Affiliate Members at end of Fiscal Year 2016
46 States plus Puerto Rico and Panama at end of Fiscal Year 2016
Schoolchildren at Superman exhibit, Ohio History Connection.

The Smithsonian partners with a national network of over 200 museums, science centers, universities, and other arts and cultural organizations. These Smithsonian Affiliates extend the reach of the Smithsonian by touching millions in their local communities. The mutually beneficial relationships include sharing collections, expertise, and collaboration on education and research projects. Visit Smithonian Affiliations to learn more.

Traveling Exhibitions

4.5M Estimated Attendance Fiscal Year 2016
SITES exhibit Jim Henson's Fantastic World

The extent to which the Smithsonian shares its collections and expertise through traveling exhibitions is another measure of outreach. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) develops and circulates an extensive range of exhibitions about art, science, history, and popular culture to exhibitors across America, from major urban museums to small rural community centers. Visit SITES for more information.