Smithsonian: the curator as dictator

The Smithsonian has taken a big step towards the privatization of public documents and artifacts.

Documentary makers seeking access to Smithsonian holdings must submit scripts for review and approval. The Institution reserves the right to disallow production arrangements and shoot the script itself, if it’s a good one. (Say hello to your uninvited production partner.)

The Smithsonian also reserves the right to prohibit access to the materials, based on what it sees in the script – or in case you refuse to partner with it.

Ken Burns, for one, doesn't like this. He thinks this gives Showtime, the Smithsonian’s partner, a view into other people's documentary projects. That's hardly my concern.

I see it as a move towards speech and information restriction. The Smithsonian's flack proudly boasts that "since the current process went into effect, 24 out of 26 projects have been approved." Put another way, in the last six months they have killed two projects that were none of their damned business.