Smithsonian Denounces AP Story on 2006 Arctic Exhibit

From the release:

    The Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution today denounced a May 21 Associated Press story that erroneously reported the Smithsonian had “toned down” and changed text for an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic, due to political pressure. The AP story was based on an erroneous allegation made by a former Smithsonian employee who was neither a scientist nor a curator.

    “For decades, the Smithsonian has been conducting research on the impact of climate change on biological communities over millions of years,” said Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary. “Therefore, we would never alter an exhibition on global climate change that would contradict our own knowledge and research, and that of other leading scientists around the world.” Samper said at no time did anyone from the Congress or the White House comment on the exhibition.

    The seven-month exhibit, “Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely,” was on display at the National Museum of Natural History from April 15 through Nov. 30, 2006. The exhibit showed the impact of global warming on the Arctic ecosystems through scientific data and testimonies from Native peoples.

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    In writing the text for the exhibit labels, the Smithsonian consulted research from a number of scientific organizations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    The AP chose to ignore an interview with anthropologist William Fitzhugh, director of the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Fitzhugh, co-curator of the exhibit, told the Associated Press there was no political pressure from the Bush administration or any member of Congress to alter the exhibit labels.

    “We presented exactly what we wanted to present in that exhibit, which was not to explore carbon dioxide and the ’cause’ of arctic/global warming, but to look at the environmental socio-cultural changes and impacts,” Fitzhugh said.

    Daniel Rogers, chairman of the museum’s Department of Anthropology, was closely involved with the exhibit’s planning and development. He said the final script for the exhibition reflected the intent of the curatorial team: “Not one item in the presentation was altered due to supposed internal or external political pressure, as has been erroneously suggested by an Associated Press news story . The popularity of the exhibition and widespread praise for its content are indicative of the integrity that went into mounting this important exhibition.”