Secretary Bunch’s Reflections on Smithsonian Open Access

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February 25, 2020

By Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III

What a grand and glorious evening! I can’t tell you how proud I am to be part of the Smithsonian, because what you’ve done today, what you opened today, is transformative.

As a kid in love with history, I cherished every moment I got to spend at the Smithsonian. My parents would bundle us in the car and drive down from Jersey to come here almost every quarter.

I was lucky that my family made the trip as often as we did. Millions more will never have that opportunity.

Since I’ve taken the job of Secretary, I’ve often spoken about the importance of expanding our reach, both in person and digitally… how important it is to invite new audiences in the door and encourage them to experience all our offerings.

Today we are throwing the doors wide open. We are inviting millions around the world in, not just to experience the wonders of the Smithsonian, but to make those wonders their own.

Open Access makes 175 years of science, art, history, culture, technology, and design available for anyone, for any purpose, for free. This initiative makes good on our promise to be a vital public resource, accessible to everyone everywhere.


In a broad sense, these efforts are crucial to our ongoing transition to a virtual Smithsonian. Open Access will help us touch every home in America; it will help us engage and inspire audiences across the globe.

But this is about more than access. We’re empowering our audiences to remix, repurpose, reimagine all the richness we offer. We’re inviting viewers to become collaborators–to engage critically, to think expansively, to imagine freely. We’re welcoming every person to create and share something of their own.

Our collaborators have already launched some thrilling projects: college students designing textiles, electronics, and artwork based on our collections… sculptures inspired by a 3D scan of a dinosaur skeleton… machine learning used to uncover hidden stories of Smithsonian women in science…

You’ll learn about all these projects and many more this evening. And this is just the beginning of the creativity we hope Open Access will ignite.