Modal close

Hi there,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This month, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.

Donate

Saving Private Ryan, Or Serving Private Power? Corporate Money and Public History at the Smithsonian

Default content image
Listen
Media Options
Listen

Yesterday the Director of the National Museum of Natural History, Robert Fri, announced his resignation, the latest sign of the discontent among researchers, curators and scholars with what some regard as the increasing corporatization of the most trusted museum in America.

Much of the controversy surrounds Lawrence Small, a former executive with Citibank and board member of Marriot International and Fannie Mae, who took over as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution last year -the first non-academic to run the museums in 150 years.

One of his first acts was to cut short an exhibit on the folk singer and activist Woodie Guthrie in order to install one on the Presidency sponsored by Cisco Systems and Chevy Chase Bank in time for last year’s election. In April Small attempted to close a branch of the National Zoo which conducts internationally renowned research into endangered species, then reversed his decision after widespread public criticism.

But it is the influx of corporate cash tied to specific projects that has upset many of the museum’s scholars and curators. Perhaps the most controversial is a donation of $38 million from businesswoman Catherine Reynolds for a “hall of achievement,” which would honor “the power of the individual to shape American life and impact the course of history. Among the people Reynolds has proposed honoring are figure skater Dorothy Hamill and television news celebrity Sam Donaldson.

Last week a group of curators and scholars at the Museum of American History circulated a letter accusing Mr. Small of jeopardizing the integrity of the Smithsonian and ignoring the museum’s decision making process. Some Smithsonian employees have even pasted stickers saying “dump Small” on their jackets, and on bulletin boards and elevators.

At stake, many say, is not just the integrity of the Smithsonian, but the very idea that public history should serve the public good.

Guests:

  • Barbara Smith, curator, National Museum of American History, specializing in Social History.
  • Dr. Barney Finn, curator National Museum of American History working in Electrical Collections.

Related Story

Video squareStoryMay 20, 2015Sgt. James Brown, 26, Survived Two Tours in Iraq Only to Die Begging for His Life in Texas Jail
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop