Museums and the Web

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click! photography changes everything

Smithsonian Photography Initiative
Night Kitchen Interactive

In early 2008, the Smithsonian Photography Initiative (SPI) inaugurates click! photography changes everything with an interdisciplinary, web-based forum examining the ways photography enables us not only to witness and document, but to actively interact with the world. The website serves as a virtual gathering place for experts, photography enthusiasts, and the general public to engage with click! themes and ideas in advance of publications and on-the-ground public programs. A significant project goal is to have a wide-reaching forum beyond the confines of the National Mall so that SPI can have an early and immediate engagement with its online public for the development of the exhibition. The click! website launches in multiple phases. The first phase, currently in soft launch at (public launch date: March, 2008), is an online forum which offers project participants and visitors the opportunity to explore images and commentaries by experts who write about the ways photography impacts and influences the history and practice of a broad spectrum of disciplines. In addition to Smithsonian curators and researchers, potential and current contributors include professional photographers and artists, sociologists, physicists, psychologists, and musicians and poets. These commentaries are presented alongside images selected from the Smithsonian’s holdings of more than 13 million photographs. The second phase of the click! website (launch date: Summer 2008) invites the general public to actively participate. Visitors to the click! website will have the opportunity to submit photos and commentaries in relation to the six click! themes. These themes are photography changes who we are, where we go, what we see, what we want, what we do, and what we remember. Some public submissions may be included in future publications and public programs, both on-the-ground and online. This phase of the website dramatically alters the traditional one-way, curator-to-visitor dynamic. This is particularly relevant now that global culture is at a turning point in its use of and relationship to images, especially as digital technologies radically alter the form, content, and transmission of camera images. As photography is being transformed, so too is the implicit and often unexamined contract between images, reality, and viewers. Truly representing a history of photography from daguerreotypes to digital files, today the Smithsonian’s vast collections offer a unique opportunity to reassess the history, practice, authority, and extraordinary power of photography. The Smithsonian Photography Initiative is dedicated to a program of interactive exhibitions, publications, and educational activities via its website, SPI exists to broaden public understanding and appreciation of photography at the Smithsonian; enhance the Smithsonian’s public programming and educational outreach efforts in photography; and use innovative technologies to create new opportunities for research and scholarship about the cultural impact of photographs.

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