If this blog had such a category, this post would fit in the “Are you KIDDING me?!” category. From Tatiana Lau at moreover:

Insufficient funding at the Smithsonian museums has placed collections at risk. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, lack of funds have forced the museums to lay-off security guards and postpone maintenance repairs that now amount to some $2.5 billion. The Smithsonian depends mostly on government funding, which covered 70% of their budget last year. Employees are forced daily to examine pipes beneath the National Zoo’s sea lion and seal pools, where leaks cause an average of 110,000 gallons of water to trickle into storm drains everyday.

You read the last sentence correctly. I dug a little deeper by clicking on the link to Sarah Karush’s AP report:

Among the critical maintenance problems cited in Friday’s report: […]

_ The National Zoo’s sea lion and seal pools lost an average of 110,000 gallons of water a day as of July, with an annual replacement cost of $297,000.

_ Officials at the Sackler Gallery reported a “near miss” in which a major leak occurred in a holding area just three weeks before the arrival of $500 million worth of art on loan.

Good golly! It seems like the Smithsonian is just asking for something bad to happen. It has competitive pressures that require significant fiscal outlays, no doubt, but an aggressive, streamlined budget better be put in place because these are just some of the problems that we know about. The Smithsonian has kept far better secrets in its time and it could do so now. One idea, of course, is to make it more responsive to the consumers, again from Ms. Karush:

The Smithsonian Board of Regents has considered charging admission three times in about a dozen years and always rejected the idea, she said. “It has always been Congress’ responsibility to care for the national collections and the buildings,” Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.

We’re as low as we can go when it comes to responding to what people demand, apparently. The last I saw, President Sarkozy in France was poised to eliminate admissions charges for some of its outstanding museums, most notably the Musée d’Orsay in my opinion, for French citizens who might not otherwise set foot in museums, following the British model.

My message to the Smithsonian: charge people — and they will (still) come.

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