January 19th, 2002

Smithsonian Chief Rehnquist Under Fire

By Elaine Dutka

A group of 170 scholars, authors and academics sent an open letter this week to Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, chancellor of the board of regents of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, charging that Lawrence Small, secretary of the museum, was "unwilling or unable to carry out the mission of the Smithsonian, or to safeguard its integrity."

Small, they claimed, is allowing corporations and individuals too much say in the content of exhibits they sponsor and letting them place their logos on Smithsonian buildings, exhibition halls and other spaces. The museum receives about 70% of its budget from the federal government and must remain independent, critics say.

The letter, reported in the Washington Post, originated with Commercial Alert, a watchdog group devoted to keeping commercial culture "within its proper sphere." Ralph Nader is chairman of the advisory board.

What prompted the letter was a $10-million gift from General Motors for the General Motors Hall of Transportation at the Museum of American History. Since Small’s arrival in January 2000, Fuji has given $7.8 million for an exhibit and Kmart had its corporate logo emblazoned on a show devoted to African American music.

Rehnquist could not be reached for comment but Small released a statement. "The Smithsonian regents and staff control, without limitation and question, the institution’s activities," he said, reiterating his commitment to "maintaining the integrity of the Smithsonian and the public’s trust."

January 19th, 2002

Smithsonian Chief Rehnquist Under Fire

By Elaine Dutka

A group of 170 scholars, authors and academics sent an open letter this week to Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, chancellor of the board of regents of Washington’s Smithsonian Institution, charging that Lawrence Small, secretary of the museum, was "unwilling or unable to carry out the mission of the Smithsonian, or to safeguard its integrity."

Small, they claimed, is allowing corporations and individuals too much say in the content of exhibits they sponsor and letting them place their logos on Smithsonian buildings, exhibition halls and other spaces. The museum receives about 70% of its budget from the federal government and must remain independent, critics say.

The letter, reported in the Washington Post, originated with Commercial Alert, a watchdog group devoted to keeping commercial culture "within its proper sphere." Ralph Nader is chairman of the advisory board.

What prompted the letter was a $10-million gift from General Motors for the General Motors Hall of Transportation at the Museum of American History. Since Small’s arrival in January 2000, Fuji has given $7.8 million for an exhibit and Kmart had its corporate logo emblazoned on a show devoted to African American music.

Rehnquist could not be reached for comment but Small released a statement. "The Smithsonian regents and staff control, without limitation and question, the institution’s activities," he said, reiterating his commitment to "maintaining the integrity of the Smithsonian and the public’s trust."

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