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Historians Protest Smithsonian's Deals
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Expulsions & suspensions; Historians; Archives & records; Commercialization
Author: Trescott, Jacqueline
Date: Apr 26, 2006
Start Page: C.01
Section: STYLE

In recent weeks, the Smithsonian has come under attack from writers, historians and filmmakers. The primary issue is how much access that researchers and producers not affiliated with Showtime will have to Smithsonian archives and the appearance of "right of first refusal" awarded Showtime for any project that has more than "incidental" use of Smithsonian materials.

Last month the Smithsonian announced it had entered a production agreement with Showtime Networks to create the cable channel Smithsonian on Demand. As a result, independent filmmakers wanting to make extensive use of the archives would have to offer their idea first to Showtime. Smithsonian officials have said they are not turning down requests from news, public affairs and educational outlets but did reserve the right to review the ideas from independent producers and probably would continue to approve "incidental" use of materials.

The reason the Smithsonian must raise so much from private sources is basic. Congress does not provide enough money for the Smithsonian's 19 museums and the National Zoo. Last year Congress gave the Smithsonian $615 million. In addition, the Smithsonian raised $159 million from private sources and generated a surplus of $30 million from its business operations. It needed all of that to get through the year and pay for renovations and expansions. In fact, Smithsonian officials have argued that it is falling behind on maintenance.

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