Closing parts of Smithsonian
aschiff at u.washington.edu
Thu Apr 12 10:52:14 PDT 2001
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SMITHSONIAN UNVEILS FUNDING CUTS, CLOSURE PLAN
By Michael Kilian
Smithsonian Institution on Monday announced it is closing its
world-famous zoological research center and making other major
cutbacks despite record amounts of private donations and a $50 million
increase in its White House-approved budget.
Nearly 200 jobs will be cut.
The taxpayer-funded Smithsonian is the world's largest museum,
education and research complex, with 16 museums in Washington and New
York and six research centers, including the zoological center.
The announced cutbacks come amid complaints from Smithsonian
scientists and scholars that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small is
bent on curtailing research in favor of building projects and more
Small, a former investment banker and the first non-academic to head
the Smithsonian, said the redirections are necessary to update it and
"support the institution's stated priorities of improved and expanded
public impact, focused scientific research, management excellence and
He also announced plans for an institution-wide consolidation and
streamlining of science and research programs, which he will submit to
the Smithsonian's Board of Regents next month. He would not reveal
details of the consolidation.
The cutbacks and closures must be approved by Congress.
"We must update much that is old in our exhibits and buildings, while
simultaneously increasing our connections with citizens across the
country," Small said. "Facing certain budget realities may not be
easy, but it is nonetheless necessary if we are to keep our commitment
to the American public."
Small acknowledged that private donations increased from $147 million
in the last fiscal year to $206 million this year--up from just $40
million five years ago. But he said these donations were largely
earmarked for specific purposes and not available for his plans.
The White House has approved an increase in the Smithsonian's budget
from $454 million to $494 million, which would include $67.9 million
for repairs to buildings and another $30 million for construction of a
new National Museum of the American Indian to go on Washington's
Small said he plans to redirect funds to other scientific areas,
notably the Smithsonian's Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts
and Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
The National Zoological Conservation and Research Center, occupying
3,150 acres in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, has served for 26 years
as an international lab and training ground for conservation research,
particularly saving endangered species.
Under Small's proposal, a small part of its work would be transferred
to Washington's National Zoo, but the installation is to be closed and
its animals moved to other U.S. zoos.
In a memo to employees, National Zoo Director Lucy Spelman said the
closure was necessary because "resources were simply not available to
maintain the [center] as a world-class facility and as a
center for scientific excellence."
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), in whose district the zoological center is
located, called the closure "inexcusable" and said he has demanded
that Small reverse his decision.
"The [center] is an internationally regarded research
facility whose work enhances the reputation of the National Zoo," he
said. "Closing the center would be a mistake."
Also to be eliminated are the Smithsonian's Center for Materials
Research and Education; three library branches; the video, audio and
multimedia production center; and its photographic and imaging
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