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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 74 No. 3, p. 697-705
    Received: Jan 10, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): pjd7@psu.edu
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The “Dig It!” Smithsonian Soils Exhibition: Lessons Learned and Goals for the Future

  1. Patrick J. Drohan *a,
  2. John L. Havlinb,
  3. J. Patrick Megonigalc and
  4. H. H. Chengd
  1. a Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Pennsylvania State Univ., 452 ASI Bldg., University Park, PA 16802-3504
    b Dep. of Soil Science, North Carolina State Univ., P.O. Box 7619, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619
    c Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, P.O. Box 28, 647 Contees Wharf Rd., Edgewater, MD 21037
    d Dep. of Soil, Water, and Climate, 1991 Upper Buford Cir., Univ. of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108


The opening of “Dig It!: The Secrets of Soil,” a 5000-ft2 exhibit on soil at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, presented an opportunity to reflect on the development process. The project generated important and new ways of thinking about soils education, and taught the SSSA much about itself and how to manage a project of this size and scope. While early struggles in organization and financing of the exhibit presented challenges never before faced by SSSA at this scale, persistence, flexibility, and some unconventional thinking won out in the end, and SSSA achieved its most significant educational success to date. Most importantly, the process taught many soil scientists that achieving greater visibility for soil science meant partnering with professionals outside of soil science, and trusting that they could convey the message delivered by the exhibit with the same enthusiasm they might have in the classroom. The lessons learned from the project, in the scope of its history, can help others further SSSA, soils education, and soil science as a respected, scientific field. We suggest six goals for the future of soil science that, if embraced with whole-heart dedication and support, can help to embed the importance of soil in world thinking and policy. Our suggested goals are unconventional, like the experiences we faced in creating the exhibit, and thus perhaps will seem beyond the capability of most soil scientists. Hence our reminder: unconventional and bold thinking are what helped create the exhibit and will be what leads SSSA forward as a society best serving the world.

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