G. Wayne Clough had it pretty easy when he took the job of Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in the summer of 2008. Larry Small, his predecessor, had been run out of town for overspending and undermanaging. The institution could only go up, and Clough had a reputation from his days running Georgia Tech for being a good manager. But so far, it looks as if he's doing just half the job -- managing and expanding the science side. The museums are suffering from what looks like benign neglect.
At their recent annual public meeting, which I wrote about here on my ArtsJournal blog, the Regents approved Clough's plan to create four new "centers" to explore "the universe and climate change on Earth, world cultures and the American experience."
Clough wants to "help scientists and curators foster new research." He plans to start a capital campaign to raise $1 billion for it, even though donations are down this year. Meantime, he's working to forge a research collaboration deal with the University of Maryland and has done a deal with George Mason University to pair students with researchers at the National Zoo.
Often, in interviews, the only reference he makes to the art museums under his wing is one about using technology to share the Smithsonian's 137 million artifacts and specimens with the public. To culture vultures -- or even appreciators -- this lack of attention is starting to be worrisome (more here).
Topping it off, today the Smithsonian began a "voluntary" buyout program to reduce staff. Let's hope the takers are not overwhelmingly from the museums. But with Clough pushing to expand the Smithsonian's science side, I wouldn't be surprised if they were.