Smithsonian Perspectives: Using and Taking Care of 140 Million Items

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  • In this editorial page entitled "Using and Taking Care of 140 Million Items," Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman writes of the many challenges that confront the Smithsonian Institution in carrying out three major activities throughout its museum system: research, education and collections management. He states that in order for the Smithsonian's vast number of items to be properly handled in the fulfillment of its missions, problems need to be solved in the various museums under its jurisdiction in four areas: setting selection criteria for growth or reduction, securing funds for acquisition, storage and conservation concerns, and accessibility. Heyman offers that not all museums have the same problems, and uses the Freer Gallery of Art as an example of a museum without funding difficulties, but which has strict limitations on display of its objects.
  • As Federal funds for the Smithsonian were threatened and its public education role was being hindered, Heyman views that controversy as involving two fundamental principles of the Smithsonian: freedom from detailed political direction or pressure and fulfillment of its educational responsibilities. He stresses that controversies such as the Enola Gay should be handled by providing information on all facets of the debate and then allow the public to reach their own conclusions.


  • Heyman, Ira Michael 5/30/1930-11/19/2011
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • National Collection of Fine Arts
  • National Museum of American Art (U.S.)
  • National Museum of African Art (U.S.)
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • Freer Gallery of Art


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

Smithsonian Vol. 28, No. 5 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


August 1997


  • Acquisitions
  • Museum finance
  • Smithsonian influence
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Secretaries
  • People with disabilities
  • Museums
  • Management
  • Museum exhibits
  • Museums and people with disabilities
  • Museums--Educational aspects
  • Museums--Acquisitions
  • Management--Museums

Physical description

Smithsonian Perspectives section, p. 10

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