Where do museums fit? Are they economic endeavors? Or are they Political Operations? A: Today, they are largely political. Even the Smithsonian Museum is a showcase to the wonders of Government. This was not true in 1964. The Wright brothers have been banished to the broom closet, keeping company there with Charles Lindberg. You can see the Spirit of St. Louis hanging about 4 stories above you. Nowhere to be found are Lindberg’s flight suit, flashlight, log book, etc---- Items of prominence back in 1964. The Wright brothers display shows nothing of their calculations, none of their test data from wind tunnel experiments, no castings and molds for building engines. Instead there were some pictures taken at Kitty Hawk, and a full-scale model once again suspended overhead, about four stories up. Then, of course, scattered about were Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules and a 20-minute movie on the space program. The emphasis on government programs was unmistakable. We are to suppose that NASA invented the airplane. The designer of the exhibits was probably thinking: “Individual developments in flight and space were accidental and not worthy of honor in this hallowed place. The real conquerors of flight and space were engineers at NASA and politicians on ‘the hill’ that funded NASA.”
Two museums that dropped off the face of the earth: Gettysburg (Rosensteel), and the Smithsonian. Sure there are buildings there that purport to be museums, but they are buildings with a few cutesy, politically correct, meaningless objects. Those old display cases jam-packed with genuine rusted, bent, stained pieces that actually were caressed by the hands of explorers, warriors, and inventors are gone. Just like the Cherokee fiddle and the fool who played it: gone.
When I took the wife and kids to Gettysburg in 1989, I kept telling them about this great museum with all this stuff that really gave an idea of what happened in certain parts of the battlefield. I told about the heaps of human bone fragments taken in the vicinity of the stone fence on cemetery ridge, at the top of the hill where Pickett’s charge was stopped. Why, there was even on display seven pairs or bullets that had collided head-on in mid air and had fused together. Much to my surprise, the Rosensteel museum was gone. There was a visitor’s center run by employees of the Federal government. The old scale model of the battlefield was set up there, but the thousands of genuine pieces from the battle were gone.
Similar to the museums, private foundations, funded through private endowments are now controlled by political operatives. Henry Huntington and Alfred P. Sloan surely are having heartburn down in their graves. Mr. Huntington carefully and specifically stated in his will( a document that must have been reviewed by the best legal minds available) that his estate was to be enjoyed by others (the general public),in perpetuity (forever, sin fin), free of charge. But, guess what? Today’s administrators are enjoying revenues from admission tickets. The excuse is the Trust needs money to make additions. But in all truth, the appearance is that the trustees needed new boats and cars.