Cold-Shower Time at the Smithsonian

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  • Article gives a portrayal of Secretary S. Dillon Ripley and focuses on actions taken and innovations made by him as head of the Smithsonian Institution since 1964. At the time the article appeared in 1977, Ripley had been accused of a variety of personal delinquencies, such as conflicts of interest, and for raising the ire of U. S. Congressional members responsible for overseeing the Smithsonian's finances, thus prompting congressional hearings and investigations from other quarters. Ripley described himself as a populist, but his style and personality made him seem aristocratic and snobbish to some; the author writes that the ultimate source of Ripley's troubles is his independent executive style and disregard for appearances.
  • The origins, development and expansion of the Smithsonian Institution are discussed, with particular attention given to programs begun, and museums planned and opened, during Ripley's administration. He introduced the Carousel to the Mall, produced the Festival of American Folklife, started the Smithsonian Associates program, established the Smithsonian Research Foundation (being phased out when the article was written), and launched the Smithsonian Magazine. Ripley had a hand in the Patent Office Building conversion that reopened as the National Collection of Fine Arts and the National Portrait Gallery, and was instrumental in adding the Renwick Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the National Air and Space Museum to the Smithsonian museum complex.


  • Hirshhorn, Joseph H
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Smithsonian Magazine
  • Smithsonian Associates, The
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
  • Board of Regents
  • United States Congress
  • United States General Accounting Office
  • Smithsonian Research Foundation


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Contained within

Fortune Vol. XCVI, No. 3 (Journal)

Contact information

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


September 1977


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Public relations
  • Animals
  • Controversies
  • Congressional Hearings
  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Finances
  • Birds
  • Budget
  • Merry-go-round
  • Federal Government, Relations with SI
  • Biography
  • Ornithology

Physical description

pgs. 132-153

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