Smithsonian: ‘Brother, Can You Spare a $2.5 Billion?’

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Elsewhere in the museum world, it looks like the Smithsonian isn’t in the clear just yet. After suffering through all the difficulties of getting rid of Lawrence Small and his money-gobbling cronies, it’s being reported that they’re in a bit of a cash crunch, to the tune of $2.5 billion, largely in needed infrastructure repairs, according to a government investigation. And, of course, they’re desperately hoping Congress to bail them out. So, we ask again, does right now seem like the best time to be trying to expand the Cooper-Hewitt? But we’re not economists, so we’ll just sit and wait to see what happens.

The Smithsonian uses government and private funds to run its 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoo and six research facilities. Yet its current plan for raising the $2.5 billion relies entirely on convincing Congress to appropriate more money, the GAO found.

The Smithsonian’s acting secretary, Cristian Samper, defended that expectation in a letter to the GAO, saying Congress has been responsible since the 19th century for maintaining what was then called the National Collection. He said private donors show little interest in funding new pipes or better air conditioning.