If you’ve ever spent more than a day in Washington, DC, chances are you also spent some time in at least one of the many museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution.

So, what did you think of that experience?

The people running the Smithsonian wanted to know as well and recently completed the “first in-depth research in almost 20 years” to determine how visitors viewed the 165 year old organization.  Researchers found their name recognition was way down and that people used words like “elitist” and “antiquated” to describe the institution. I think “boring” and “lacking involvement” also apply.

It would be wonderful if the Smithsonian took those findings (and maybe a few of my suggestions) as a great opportunity to improve their exhibits, presentations, and activities. A chance to update their educational mission out of the 1950’s lecture/demo, static display approach they are currently so fond of.

However, this is Washington, and around here, we don’t improve the product, we work on making better public relations.

According to an in-house document obtained by The Washington Post, a branding campaign was ordered “to help us change the way people see us. And to place more emphasis on what we do instead of on what we have.” The branding idea was an outgrowth of a strategic plan developed last year. The Smithsonian spent $1 million for research and creation of the slogan.

That new slogan? “Seriously Amazing”

Seriously? You paid one million bucks to arrive at calling yourselves “seriously amazing”?