Speaking of museums in these uncertain economic times, the Smithsonian‘s finances are back in the news once again. While having been in some tight spots over the last couple of years, namely the organization finding itself $2.5 billion in debt back in 2007, it seemed as though the hiring of G. Wayne Clough to lead the charge had started to make a difference. Between hiring and raise freezes and extended hours, it looked as though they might make it through these meager years relatively unscathed. But now a task force within the Obama administration, formed to research efforts to curb spending, are proposing that the Smithsonian receive less federal funds and move from being free to charging $7.50 per visitor, to make up the difference from the cut (the Washington City Paper takes this interesting look on how they got to that $7.50 figure). This is not the first time this idea has been raised, as the Smithsonian seems a popular target from time to time. And as it was in the past and is today, we ask, is this really the best idea? If we’re going to tolerate licensing deals with QVC and branded-furniture at department stores by a publicly-funded, legendary cultural institution, isn’t it the least we can do by keeping it free of charge? Better still, maybe just hold an annual employee shakedown, as the last one resulted in more than $12 million in stolen loot. Apologies in advance for that suggestion to any museum employees who happen to read this, but if you’ve been pocketing antiquities or wads of donated checks, now’s the time to fess up. Your country needs you.
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