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Robert Glenn Ketchum: Museum Politics

"I did an exhibit on the [politically sensitive] Tongass rain forest through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service," photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum recalled of a 1994 show. "Then, a few days before the opening, the Alaskan delegates [led by Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who once vowed not to forget who had voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] called the Smithsonian up to say they wanted to review all the texts and change the show. After objecting, the Smithsonian came to me and said, 'They'll kill us [our budget] in Appropriations if we don't cooperate.'

"The changes they wanted were completely absurd. One of the changes, for instance, is that when we were talking about old-growth trees, we couldn't use the words 'primeval' or 'ancient'..."

[Ketchum's response? After making minor changes, he went to The Washington Post, which ran a story the next day, and the politicians backed down.]

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