More than 200 filmmakers and historians asked the Smithsonian Institution yesterday to abandon its production deal with Showtime Networks and reconsider a recently imposed policy that limits access to Smithsonian archives and experts.
In a letter to Secretary Lawrence M. Small, the Smithsonian's top official, the group objected to restrictions on filmmakers and researchers who seek "more than incidental" use of its public archives. After the Smithsonian signed with Showtime to make television programming, filmmakers and researchers whose projects focused extensively on the Smithsonian's holdings or staff were informed that they had to offer their film treatments first to Showtime.
The letter, also sent to members of Congress, criticized the Smithsonian for not releasing its agreement with Showtime and asked for the contract to be annulled because it was not subject to a competitive process and was finalized without public comment. The signers asked for hearings before the Smithsonian took "any further actions that limit access to the collections" or staff at the institution.
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