There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In an era of dwindling public funds, the Smithsonian has eagerly embraced such corporate giants as Du Pont, General Motors, and Coca-Cola as exhibit underwriters (see “Consuming Interests,” 11/10/95). But apparently there are some things the Smithsonian won’t do, no matter how much you pay it. The American Chemical Society (ACS) recently gave up its yearlong quest to persuade the National Museum of American History to alter its Science in American Life exhibit. Scientists have charged that the exhibit defames them by focusing on their development of the atomic bomb and pursuit of lucrative patent rights. In December, the Smithsonian offered to make about 35 changes if ACS forked over another $400,000—on top of the $5.3 million it had already contributed to the exhibit. But ACS turned down the offer, and now ACS is warning other would-be exhibit sponsors that they may not get what they pay for. In a recent Chemical & Engineering News editorial, ACS Board Chairwoman Joan E. Shields acknowledges that the Smithsonian controls exhibit content, but as one of its largest single donors, she writes, “ACS did not expect a politically correct, revisionist historical display of science as a litany of moral debacles, environmental catastrophes, social injustices, and destruction by radiation, while at the same time ignoring contributions of science to our lives.CP