G. Wayne Clough, the Smithsonian’s 12th secretary, announced that he will retire in October 2014.
“I am confident that with our initiatives underway in bioconservation, education, digitization and fundraising, this is the right time to announce my plans for next fall so that an orderly transition can begin,” said Clough, whose six-year tenure has included millions of dollars in fundraising as well as the recruitment of new leadership to the Smithsonian’s museums and research facilities.
Clough oversees a budget of $1 billion that includes federal and non-federal funds, 6,400 employees and more than 6,200 volunteers. He has brought in more than $900 million in contributions to the Institution and hired top leadership, hailing from major research organizations across the country, including new directors for the National Zoo, the American History Museum, the African Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Archives of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
In 2008, when the regents tapped the former civil engineer and president of Georgia Institute of Technology for the post, Clough shared his vision for the organization with Smithsonian.com. “I think that the Smithsonian has huge assets and resources that can be used in different ways that can be shaped to address issues in a way not possible if everyone stays confined in one space. It’s not a question of changing what those assets are; it’s a question of looking at them in a different way.”
His signature project, or the Grand Challenges, organized under the umbrella of four themes—Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe, Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet, Valuing World Cultures and Understanding the American Experience—has expanded funding for scientific and cultural research, interdisciplinary collaborations, as well as for collections and conservation. In his most recent publication of the e-book, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, he addresses the future of museum scholarship in digitizing artifacts, crowdsourcing research and opening up collections for public interpretation and consumption. “Looking down the road,” he says, “we will see people engaged in the creative activities of the Institution. In the past, the creative activities were entirely behind the walls of museums and collection centers. The public only got to access that through labels in exhibitions, which told them what we thought. Now, in this new world, people actually will help us design exhibitions, and it will be interactive.”
Coming from a background in education, the Secretary has also forged a uniquely new relationship between museums and the classroom. In November, a new education facility, Qrius, will open at the National Museum of Natural History. A mashup between a children’s museum, a classroom, a field research station and a scientific lab , Qrius will feature visits and interactions with the museum’s scientists and researchers. Clough been at the forefront of bringing Smithsonian scholarship to teachers and providing resources that are linked to state standards. Within the Institution, the secretary has also promoted educational opportunities for hundreds of fellows, interns and research associates.
The search for a new Secretary will be conducted by a committee of the Board of Regents.