Smithsonian Institution

Engineering the Chaski Relay: A Touchscreen Game at the National Museum of the American Indian

On visiting The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, it is impossible not be taken by the sheer scale of the Inka Road. Qhapaq Ñan, or the Road of the Inka, is a 25,000-mile long road system that fed the rapid expansion of the Inka Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. It connected distant towns and settlements in the Andes, snaking up and down mountains, bridging impossible valleys, and traversing lush agricultural fields and terraces.

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The Smithsonian’s IPOP Exhibition Framework: Lessons for a Human-Centered Content Approach

One of the great challenges in designing a product — digital or otherwise — is stepping outside yourself and climbing into the minds of your users. You love the wonderful new app you’ve designed, but will it appeal to others? Fortunately, the field of user experience design (UX) gives us tools to understand our users through surveys, interviews, card sorting, and user testing. The Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Policy and Analysis has another tool to consider for your UX toolbox: IPOP.

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Crowdsourcing at the Law Library of Congress

The Law Library acquired a large collection from William S. Hein & Co., Inc. to make all volumes of several collections (like the Federal Register) available in open access to researchers. Preparing these files by adding metadata for easy searching takes a lot of work, so this summer we asked law students and library students from across the country to help become our “crowd” in order to crowdsource metadata for a collection of 542 volumes of U.

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Creating Wall-Sized Interaction at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

As any experienced retailer will tell you, the customer experience begins at the store entrance. Note the friendly Walmart greeter, the approachable minimalism of an Apple Store, and the calculated whimsy of Anthropologie. Store designers understand that a customer’s decision to make a purchase is often made within seconds of entering. The same holds true for visitors entering a museum. And while most museums are not expert peddlers of merchandise (though some museum stores certainly are), the savvy ones value the entrance experience and work to iterate and improve.

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Webinar Recap: Snaps and Stripes—Sharing Public Service Stories with Snapchat

What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.

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Gettin’ Giphy With It: NARA Shares Online Library of Animated Gifs

Hi there, DigitalGov! Have you looked in vain for quality animated GIFs from a reputable source? Have your searches left you annoyed and frustrated because you can’t find a GIF with properly attributed and sourced content? Wondering what you can do and where to look? Come on over to the new Giphy channel from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)! We’ve opened our vault to reveal dozens of animated GIFs ready to share and use.

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Smithsonian Learning Lab: Designing for the Classroom

The Smithsonian’s mission statement is wonderfully simple: “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The “increasing” is arguably the straightforward part – the Smithsonian has amassed a collection of over 138 million objects and specimens, and the Institution’s curators and scientists obsessively add to the world’s knowledge base, publishing papers, creating exhibitions, and sharing their expertise. But how can all this informational goodness get passed along to teachers, our nation’s most powerful “diffusers” of knowledge?

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The Data Briefing: Air and Space Museum Launches New Mobile App into the Frontier of STEM Education

The Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum just released a new educational mobile app, Mobile Missions. From the website: “Find out if you are cut out for a career in aerospace with our free mobile app, Mobile Missions. Take our quiz to discover the best aerospace career for you. Explore objects from our collection related to your chosen profession. Answer challenge questions to receive in-app badges and rewards. Document your journey by inserting your selfie into a historical image related to your aerospace career and share with friends.

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Skin & Bones Come Alive with Smithsonian App

The night air is cool and crisp, the autumn leaves are falling, your costume is ready, jack-o-lanterns carved, lights dimmed, candy in the basket—what else do you need to make “All Hallows’ Eve trick or treat” complete? Some eerie music, a spine tingling, blood curdling horror movie? No, no—those are for yesteryears! This Halloween, let’s make the skeletons in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History come alive. Let’s try and capture that vampire bat skeleton that pulls itself off the mount to run away, or watch the horror of an extinct Steller’s sea cow materialize in the flesh.

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Explore Space with Smithsonian’s Chandra X-Ray App

We continue our celebration of American history and legacy this July 2015 with the New Horizons spacecraft’s dramatic flight past the icy dwarf planet Pluto and its moons—momentous in space exploration. Just think about it—New Horizons, a NASA space probe traveled over 3 billion miles to the ninth and final planet, making America the first and only country that has sent space probes to every planet that makes up our solar system.

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2015 Customer Service Trends: a Mid-Year Update

Earlier this year, we published 15 Government Customer Service Trends for 2015. We’re halfway through the year now—how are these trends holding up? 1. Centralized Customer Offices A few agencies have created centralized customer offices, while others question the need for a single organization that focuses on the customer. As the public’s overall satisfaction with the federal government continues to fall, a single organization can monitor customer feedback from across the enterprise to identify and address problems with the customer experience (CX).

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Celebrating American History with Federal Apps

Summer is here, which means it is time for the biggest holiday of the summer—Fourth of July! Independence Day is a happy time of year: BBQs, picnics, pools, sunshine and fireworks. Of course, the foundation of our celebration is American history, and there are plenty of excellent federal apps focused on this area. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 25 overseas military cemeteries that honor the service and sacrifices of U.

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Hear My Tweet: National Museum of American History’s #HearHistory Tweetup

DC was the Silicon Valley of the 1880’s. And Alexander Graham Bell? He was more than just a telephone man. His Volta Laboratory was the premier 19th century innovation center. The work of Bell and his contemporaries is the focus of a new exhibition at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH), “Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound.” Included in the exhibit are never-before-seen lab documents as well as early recording discs.

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Announcing the Winners of the First-Ever White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge

This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House. The halls of the White House are decked out with festive holiday décor and the White House Christmas tree stands tall in the Blue Room. In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs.

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2nd U.S. Public Participation Playbook Draft Responds to Public Contributions

The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.

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Customization is Key to Better Mobile User Experience

Resources like Theresa Neil’s Mobile Design Product Gallery book and Mobile-patterns.com describe, and provide examples of, common features mobile developers can implement and tailored further to satisfy their users. As mentioned in this week’s Trends on Tuesday, customizing apps to meet users’ needs is a crucial part in maximizing user experience. Today, we wanted to highlight how some agencies are implementing search, maps & geolocation and custom navigation to better their mobile product’s user experience.

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This Weekend: Event List for Civic Hacking

Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.

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Tips for Creating Great Video Interviews

At Kids.gov, we noticed a lot of our search terms were for different jobs: veterinarian, teacher, police officer. We offer links to these areas, but thought it would be great if we met and interviewed government employees in the DC area. We started doing videos in 2010 that highlight cool government careers. Some people we’ve interviewed: a White House chef, a zoo keeper and a prosthetist from Walter Reed.

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Trends on Tuesday: Kids are Going Mobile

From the time they can grasp an object in their hands, children are reaching for electronic gadgets of all kinds—particularly our smartphones and tablets. The early adoption of mobile is growing each year as evidenced by this infographic from EveryDayFamily.com. 30 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. already know how to operate a smartphone or tablet computer 61 percent can play a basic computer game.

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To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis Exhibit App

The 2013 JFK Library and Museum exhibit “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis” now has a virtual partner on the iPad. Anytime, anywhere, people will be able to experience this extraordinary moment in history. With “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has made its JFK Library and Museum 2013 exhibit virtual, bringing the app to iPad. This app brings the Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit alive, providing a video series timeline, portraying the events of the historic presidential moments.

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Mobile Gov for Valentine’s Day!

Need a last minute Valentine’s Day gift idea? We’ve put together some last minute anytime, anywhere government Valentine’s ideas for your special someone. Need a card? Send a Valentine’s greeting and a handy health tip (like the one pictured) with CDC’s Mobile Health e-card App! Want to dazzle, but your bank account’s not cooperating? Introduce them to some to the finer things by downloading Smithsonian’s Set in Style app which features jewelry designed for Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.

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Mobile Strategy at the Smithsonian

_Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by the Smithsonian._ _ _ The Smithsonian’s Mobile Strategy is designed to be integral to the overall organizational strategy of the institution. This Mobile Gov Experience is a synopsis of a webinar (PDF, 3.3 MB, 18 pages) by Smithsonian’s mobile director, which gives a more in depth description of their process.

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