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Smithsonian Update: Report 2002

The commission's vision for the Smithsonian is supplemented with more concrete recommendations for the Institution. Their suggestions regarding the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center (CRC), and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE), are of significance, considering Secretary Small's (April 9, 2001) contentious plan for elimination of these divisions.

The report does not call for the shut-down of CRC, as Secretary Small proposed, but recommends that government funding for this facility (described as having 3,200 acres of land, 20 miles of jeep trail, and 100 buildings) be phased out over the course of five years. If CRC fails to receive funding elsewhere, the Virginia facility will be renounced and CRC research will be subsequently carried out at the National Zoological Park. Regarding SCMRE, the commission encourages it to concentrate on in-house collection conservation, and only secondarily on educational programs. With regard to the Smithsonian Institution, as a whole, the commission advocates for increasing its dialogue with the public, by rejuvenating educational programs.

The emphasis on scientific research outlined in the commission's report contrasts the recent atmosphere at the Smithsonian. Milo Beach, the recently resigned director of the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries (see October 2001) says, in his January 27, 2002 essay in the Washington Post, that when he informed Small of his upcoming research projects, Small told him "not to pursue any of those interests or even think about those topics until after" retirement.

* For the full report, see www.si.edu/sciencecommission.

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© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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