Daily Video

November 28, 2008

Smithsonian Museum Undergoes Big Changes

The Smithsonian National Museum of History reopened in November after a two-year, $85 million renovation.

This report looks at how the Smithsonian Institution, which houses some of the nation’s most important historical and scientific artifacts, including dinosaur skeletons and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, has tried to reform its reputation after years of controversy and mismanagement.

Previous secretary Lawrence Small was accused of spending excessive amounts of institution money on himself, while an independent investigation said the Smithsonian, which hosts 24 million visitors a year, had a “governance crisis.”

New secretary Wayne Clough is focusing on raising private money and showing that the Smithsonian is an active research institute involved in current world problems.


“We don’t use the word “attic” in the sense that attic implies not too much is happening. It’s dusty and dank and all those kind of things. In fact, our collections are very active collections, and we believe that those collections speak to the future of our planet and our country.” – Wayne Clough, new head of the Smithsonian

“The obvious decision was, ‘Do we resign or do we roll up our sleeves?’ And we chose the latter. And I think the proof is in the pudding. We felt we had been a part of the problem; we ought to be the ones who fix it. And so that’s why we’re all here. – Roger Sant, chairman, Smithsonian Board of Regents

“Now, we haven’t fully told that story yet, but we will be telling that story in the future, and that’s part of the vision, is that this will be an institution that really is a resource to the American people and people who visit here to understand America.’ – Wayne Clough

Warm Up Questions

1. Why do we have museums?

2. What is the Smithsonian Institute? Where is it located?

3. What types of museums have you been to?

Discussion Questions

1. What were some of the problems with the Smithsonian? Should the board have stayed in control after everything went wrong?

2. Have you been to any of the Smithsonian museums? What did you think?

3. Why are museums important? Why do modern societies preserve artifacts?

4. Do you see museums as “attics” or active organizations that are trying to help people learn about the world? What is the difference?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

Smithsonian Institute Web site

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