Access to multimodal texts in the Smithsonian Learning Lab

ENGL 621 Technology and Literacy-Final Presentation

While some may argue that the Smithsonian Learning Lab is a database rather than an individual text, I feel this site is appropriate for our purposes in 621 as it is a collection of many different types of texts. Because it allows access to remediated versions of artworks, alphabetic texts, video, and audio, the Learning Lab affords students and teachers the ability to engage with texts that might be otherwise inaccessible. Using theories from the New London Group, Ben McCorkle, Andrew Feenberg, Mary Carruthers, Jay Bolter, Richard Grusin and others, I argue that the Learning Lab serves a valuable role in the secondary English classroom.

Anne Marie Hudak’s 621 Final Presentation

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press, 2003.

Carruthers, Mary. “Memory and the Book.” The Book of Memory: a Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 221–255.

Feenberg, Andrew. Transforming Technology : A Critical Theory Revisited. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Gane, Nicholas, and David F. Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Berg, 2008.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. MIT Press, 2010.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: a Cross-Historical Study. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012

New London Group. “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures.” Harvard Educational Review. vol 66, issue 1, 1996, pp. 60-92.

Plato. Phaedrus. Trans. B. Jowett. Project Gutenberg,

Smithsonian Institute. Smithsonian Learning Lab, 2019,

Published by amhudak

a life-long learner trying something new

Join the Conversation


  1. It sounds like “access” is the keyword here. When we launched the GWU Digital Commons repository, one of the ultimate goals was to provide access for those who could not physically make it to the library, and for researchers in other countries who don’t have access to subscription databases.

    I agree that the ability to access and share images outweighs the limitations.


  2. I think I agree with you on your beliefs that the Learning Lab sort of levels the playing field in terms of access. To me, it’s like an online museum rather than a library. I specifically like the way it breaks down search results even further. I think the limitations that you discuss (Plato’s ideas of non dialogic texts) are valid, though I think that is the nature of some of these texts. Paintings especially. In a museum, you are prompted with an information card for each painting, but after that, you are really on your own to explore the work. Like you say, these digital images are remediations of original works, so it would follow that you still don’t get the author or painter there, standing by your side, explaining their work. But I think that’s part of the fun and experience of museums; that subjectivity is something that make museums worth visiting, and the Smithsonian’s attempts to digitize that museum here are really fascinating.


  3. I really liked your presentation. As someone who has never been to the Smithsonian, I thought the Learning Lab was a cool asset for students. I thought the manipulation you could do with the image, like sharing it or printing it, also added versitility that, as you said, can’t be done with the original painting or original texts. The access to these images and availablity of them for students seems like a massive positive and like it would certainly outweight the limitations.


  4. I appreciate your perspective on this resource providing access. I was in DC last week and loved walking around the Library of Congress and seeing a few other sites I hadn’t on previous trips. However, for people that don’t have opportunity to go to DC explore museums, a site like this one allows people to see most of the same things– though in a different medium as it is on a screen instead of in person. There is something about standing in a gallery in a beautiful building before an original work of art.

    While driving to a conference this morning, I was listening to a BBC Documentary podcast, “Training to save the treasures of Iraq” about the work ahead in restoring and evaluating Iraq’s cultural “treasures” after recent destruction. One of the things discussed was that all of the artifacts destroyed are actually “preserved” through technology: videos, pictures, reproductions, etc. So, archaeologists have to make the decision of what to do with what is left knowing that the real thing will be preserved through technology.


  5. Hello,
    I had never heard of the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Thank you for sharing! I will now be adding this to my list of resources to share with my students. I cannot wait to explore it myself. Thank you for your presentation.


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