Frozen Smithsonian

You never forget your best moments in life (hopefully). I have many fond memories from all the places I’ve worked, including Smithsonian magazine.

Just read about how the new Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough, was officially installed earlier this week in a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian. Clayton Old Elk, a member of the Crow Tribe (and a health system specialist with the Indian Health Service) performed a welcoming prayer.

In his speech, Secretary Clough touched upon three great challenges faced by the Smithsonian: American Identity & Diversity, Education and Climate Change & Biodiversity.  Ironically, he’s a member of the international advisory board of the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Saudi Arabia.  He’s careful with his words all right:

Through the long-standing efforts of our scientists, the Smithsonian has been among the leaders in understanding climate change and biodiversity issues. Now we need to take two more steps. The first recognizes that these problems are not simple, and that communicating the complex science behind the dynamic processes is difficult, but necessary. Now is the time for the Smithsonian to extend its reach by communicating the research in such a way so that our political leaders and the public can understand it, so that global action can be mobilized to help our planet become more sustainable. This will position the Smithsonian to increase the impact of the remarkable efforts of our scientists. The second step is to bring our world-wide commitment to sustainability to our doorstep. We will commit to an overarching approach to sustainability for our museums and facilities here on the Mall and wherever in the world the Smithsonian has a footprint or a building.

The Washington Post chose to lead with the Smithsonian’s hiring freeze and banishing of bonuses:


The newly installed secretary of the Smithsonian Institution announced yesterday that he has implemented a hiring freeze and eliminated salary increases and bonuses for one class of its highest-paid employees. G. Wayne Clough has also asked several departments to reduce their current-year budgets by 5 percent to 8 percent.

The action, taken because of the decrease in the Smithsonian’s endowment by 25 percent last year and the uncertain economic future, follows a similar hiring ban, started last October, in the ranks of employees who are paid by the federal government. The Smithsonian, the largest museum and research complex in the world, is financed through private money and public appropriations from Congress. Public funds account for 70 percent of its $1 billion annual budget.

“We are concerned about our financial situation,” said Clough, who after six months on the job was officially installed yesterday as the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian. The freezes went into effect Jan. 16, and involve 67 staff members paid by private funds rather than taxpayer dollars. The departments asked to reduce their budgets are not federally financed and include the central development office. They do not include the museums.


Yes, its newsworthy, but I’m getting tired of reading about “the economy” and how bad things are getting. When will newspapers begin printing some good news on their pages?

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