Smithsonian: On the Road to Tomorrow
David Skorton became the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on July 1, 2015. A board-certified cardiologist who previously served as president of Cornell University, Skorton entered the institution at a time of transition and renovation, with new museums like the National Museum of African American History and Culture slated to open soon and major overhauls on old favorites like the Castle and the National Air and Space Museum waiting on the near horizon. The Smithsonian is founded on what Skorton calls “the principle that education empowers a person, and therefore, a nation.” After a year on the job, he will discuss with David Rubenstein what lies ahead for the world’s largest museum and research complex.
Ever since an initial endowment by a private citizen in 1835 created what became the Smithsonian Institution, the financial and administrative stewardship of the Smithsonian has rested with Congress. According to David Skorton, the current Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, that’s a model that’s both worthwhile and practical. It creates a cycle wherein private donors who add to Congress’ funding are reassured by government financial backing, who in turn signal to Congress that the Smithsonian is an entity genuinely valued by the public.
By the numbers
James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, believed in creating an institution for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” The Smithsonian takes that mission seriously to this day. Listen to David Skorton talk about why he and his colleagues think their involvement in research is invaluable:
While the Smithsonian has made a concerted effort to diversify both who comes to work at the Smithsonian and who comes to visit, Skorton says there’s still work to be done. Listen to how he responds to an audience question about diversity at the Smithsonian: