Clough Formally Takes Charge of Smithsonian
Follow-up to the NewsHour’s recent story about major overhauls at the Smithsonian Institution: On Monday, G. Wayne Clough was formally installed as the institution’s 12th secretary.
(Chief Justice John Roberts handed over the ceremonial key to Clough. Relieved not to have to recite another oath, Roberts said, “I don’t know who was responsible for that decision, but I like ‘em.”)
As Jeffrey Brown and producer Anne Davenport reported in late November, the Smithsonian’s reputation had been severely tarnished in recent years, beginning with charges of excessive personal spending by its previous secretary, Lawrence Small. There were also questions raised about his and top officials’ exorbitant salaries, which led to congressional outrage over the institution’s management.
An independent panel later accused Small of creating an “imperialistic and insular culture.” It also criticized the institution’s governing body, the Board of Regents, for “failing to provide badly needed oversight of Small and operations at the Smithsonian.”
As reported, the Smithsonian has already seen several changes under Clough, who’s actually been on the job since July. Management has been reformed, access to the collections improved and a commitment to research and technology reinforced.
“Long-established institutions are disappearing because they could not adapt at this crucial time in our nation’s history,” Clough said Monday, adding, “Our job is to authenticate and inform the significance of the collections, not to control access to them.”
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements has been access to the massive collections. More than 1,000 of the Smithsonian’s images can be viewed on the photo-sharing Web site, Flickr. (The Smithsonian has nearly 137 million artifacts, including 13 million photos, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.) Last week, the institution held a symposium, Smithsonian 2.0, focused on trying to reach younger audiences though the Web and new media.
And that goes to the heart of the institution’s mission: “The increase and diffusion of knowledge.”
Here is that piece from November: