At about 6:40 pm EST Smithsonian secretary G. Wayne Clough sent this email out to staff. Sounds like the Smithsonian is trying to get ahead of Clough’s first post-censorship public appearance on Thursday by talking with a few hand-picked, friendly-to-the-Smithsonian journalists.
I’ve put the most notable takeaway in boldface. I’m looking forward to hearing Clough explain how he did what was in the best thing for the exhibition…
I am writing to share a brief update regarding developments pertaining to the “Hide/Seek” exhibition. Today I met with a few reporters for a series of interviews on the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I spoke plainly about why we mounted this important exhibition, and why I decided to remove one video from the exhibition.
I continue to believe that my decision on the video was the best thing for the good of the exhibition and for the Smithsonian. As Secretary, it is my responsibility to consider the Institution as a whole in making difficult decisions.
To be candid, I have learned a few things in the past few weeks and will use this experience to improve the process for dealing with difficult issues. I am committed to improving the way we communicate and consult with our internal and external stakeholders, especially our board leadership, our directors and curatorial community.
There are three specific steps I plan to take that I would like to highlight. First, we will engage other cultural leaders to help us plan a public forum with stakeholders to continue an important dialog about the role and responsibility of publicly supported museums to educate and inform on complex and sometimes sensitive topics. I will provide you details when they are available.
Earlier today I formed a new Directors Advisory Group (DAG) for the purpose of providing me and other senior leaders agile advice on a variety of management topics. The framework for the DAG includes flexibility to expand as situations dictate or when I need advice from a particular segment of our unit leadership.
Finally, Richard Kurin has proposed to tap our directors and curatorial staff on a rotating basis to insure that arts perspectives are well represented in decision-making.
This week, I am traveling to California to speak at the Los Angeles Town Hall on Thursday, and I will address this issue there. I anticipate tough questions and protests, and I welcome the opportunity for debate and discussion about this controversy. I am proud of the Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian – the only museum to mount the “Hide/Seek” exhibition and provide an opportunity for thousands of people to learn from it.
I look forward to speaking with you during our next all-staff meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 2.