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Smithsonian Overhaul Ushers in Change at Institution

Recent outrage over the Smithsonian's management practices tarnished the cultural and scientific giant's image. Days after its National Museum of American History reopened in Washington, Jeffrey Brown reports on changes that are underway and new funding challenges.

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    And finally tonight, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, it reopened this weekend after major renovations. Jeffrey Brown reports.


    It has 137 million artifacts, everything from Dorothy's ruby slippers and the Hope Diamond to full-size dinosaur skeletons and works of art from the world over, and 19 museums, including Air and Space, the most visited museum in the world, and other large and small gems gathered around the National Mall in Washington and beyond.

    Overall, some 24 million people come each year to the many parts of the enormous cultural and scientific enterprise known as the Smithsonian Institution. And, like them, the new man in charge, Wayne Clough, is often in awe.

    WAYNE CLOUGH, secretary, Smithsonian Institution: Standing next to the desk that Jefferson designed, the writing desk, and on which he wrote the Declaration of Independence, that's an authentification experience. And I think every American wants to have that kind of experience.


    You're kind of a national storehouse in that sense, or attic, I guess?


    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.


    But while addressing the future of the 162-year-old institution…


    These are real fish, and a collection of reef fish…


    … Clough must also deal with its immediate past. The Smithsonian's reputation was severely tarnished in recent years, beginning with charges of excessive personal spending by previous Secretary Lawrence Small, questions of his pay and that of other top officials, and much more that led to congressional outrage over the institution's management.

    An independent panel concluded that the Smithsonian was suffering a governance crisis and 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."


    Being around these young people and seeing what's going on…

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