Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers – New York Times

Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers (New York Times, free registration required)

I had been hoping this was an April Fools joke, since I first heard about it on that day, but no such luck. The news has actually been around since early March.

The Smithsonian- a public archive and museum- is making an exclusive deal with Showtime. Documentaries that feature exhibits or personnel from the Smithsonian will have to be shown on Showtime first, and not PBS or other forms of distribution. Officials say that the deal “was not meant to be exclusionary,” but that’s completely untrue. They’re using public resources to sustain themselves in an exclusionary manner. While finances are obviously an issue- and not just for the Smithsonian, but museums and archives in general- this type of abuse of public goods has some pretty terrible implications. We’ve seen this type of behavior from museums and archives before, particularly when there are monetary problems, but these types of actions tend to defeat the purpose of why we have these public services in the first place. Without public access, public institutions are not serving their purpose.

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