Publication Date

November 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


Impact of September Tragedy on Cultural Institutions

The recent terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. have dramatically changed the American political and cultural landscape. By one count, in New York City 42 museums, 57 libraries and archives, and some 245 outdoor sculptures have possibly been touched by recent events. Thankfully, staff, for the most part, are accounted for and safe. Regrettably, however, the Grey Art Gallery reports that one of its installers died in an art studio on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center when the building collapsed.

At this writing, news of physical damage in museums remains spotty, but we can report the following. Not only were the offices of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council housed in the World Trade Center, but one of the towers also served as the temporary warehouse for several archeological and historical documentary collections including those associated with African American burial grounds and the recent court house excavations.

The National Museum of the American Indian (located just a few blocks from Ground Zero) is covered in a few inches of ash. The offices of the New York Council for the Humanities, located 200 yards from Ground Zero reports that all staff escaped without injury, but the council’s phones were knocked out. The New World Art Center suffered water damage that affected at least two cases of prints. The Associated Press reports that some $10 million in art works including sculpture and tapestry works by Calder, Nevelson, Lichtenstein, and Miro that were on display at 2 World Trade Center have been damaged or destroyed.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the South Street Seaport Museum both remain closed. It also appears that the Museum of Jewish Heritage may have to replace its HVAC system that was clogged from the dust and debris. The National Park Service reports that the HVAC system at Federal Hall is also full of soot and the structure may have suffered unspecified structural damage caused by vibrations when the World Trade towers collapsed. Like thousands of other buildings, Castle Clinton also is covered with concrete soot.

One bit of good news comes from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: The Heye Center and Museum’s objects were not affected by dust and soot. Conservation staff report that there was no damage to objects on display. Apparently the museum’s air handling system shut down after the blast. The museum is again open to the public and has resumed its normal hours of operation.

As far as the Pentagon disaster is concerned, the curator of the army art collection reports that at least three paintings have been totally destroyed and numerous other pieces of art located throughout the building have suffered some type of damage due to water or smoke. The Pentagon library was also damaged in the attack and its aftermath. Since the library is considered part of the crime scene, no one has been allowed into the area for an assessment. Water damage is expected to be significant.

The greatest continuing threat in New York is the dust and ash that still blankets much of the city. Reportedly, the dust is granular and greasy and may scratch delicate surfaces. Untold number of books, delicate fabrics, historic photographs and prints, as well as art works may need careful cleaning and conservation. Finally, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has initiated the “September 11, 2001 Documentary Project” and is calling upon folklorists across the nation to document on audio tape the thoughts and feelings expressed by citizens and others following the tragic events of September 11. The center will collect and preserve the audiotaped interviews that present the personal experience stories in the wake of the terrorist attack. The recordings and supporting documentary materials will become part of the center’s Archive of Folk Culture. To receive copies of interview release forms or for further information, contact the American Folklife Center at (202) 707- 5510; e-Mail:

Bills May See Dramatic Modifications

In light of recent terrorist attacks the necessity of having to quickly address pressing national security issues has made it difficult for Congress to attend to the more routine legislative business such as consideration and enactment of the 13 appropriations bills that fund the activities of the federal government. Without a doubt, the battle over the federal budget has been dramatically reshaped as Congress begins to pour money into the fight against global terrorism, providing funds for an economic stimulus and several industry bailouts.

Leaders of the House and Senate also agreed to jettison all but a few of their earlier legislative priorities in the hope of avoiding partisan debates. President Bush made his desire known, however, for Congress to finish work as quickly as possible on his education reform (S.1) and one or two other measures.

Agencies are now being asked to begin to formulate budget numbers for fiscal 2003. For virtually all agencies (the Department of Defense probably excepted), fiscal 2003 promises to be unusually tight. Budget representatives of several agencies inform the NCC that they are being asked to assemble agency budget proposals with starting budget figures less than those advanced by the White House for fiscal 2002.

Both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the education bill. On Tuesday, September 25, conferees met to ratify various provisions that staff have worked out over the last couple of weeks. Negotiations, however, are far from over.

The House and Senate have also passed their respective versions of the Treasury /Postal appropriation measure (HR 2590) which includes funding for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), but conferees have not yet met.

The Interior and Related Agencies appropriation bill (H.R. 2217) that provides funding for the National Park Service and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, has also been passed, but conferees have yet to meet. When they do, managers will reconcile the differences between the House bill that gives the NEH a $3 million increase versus the proposed $5 million increase in the Senate bill. Of concern to historic preservationists are funding levels in the Interior bills for historic preservation. Fiscal 2002 funding levels are substantially down-the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) is $20 million lower in the Senate version of the bill from the fiscal 2001 enacted level of $94 million; the Senate appears prepared to fund the HPF at $74 million while the House has allocated $77 million. State and tribal programs are also down $7.5 and $2.5 million respectively over last year’s funding levels.


Authorization Bill Setbacks

Another result of the September 11 terrorist attacks is Congress’s decision to put on hold a number of legislative proposals that were high on the domestic agenda before the attacks. Among the bills put on hold (probably until next year), are the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 2001 (H.R. 701; CARA), the National Monument Fairness Act (H.R. 2114), and the E-Government Act of 2001 (S. 803).

CARA, legislation that sought to make changes to the use of funds derived from offshore oil and natural gas revenues, had cleared the House Resources Committee by a 29 to 12 vote and had over 240 co-sponsors. The Senate was to consider two competing versions of the measure, one (S. 1328) introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the other (S. 1318), by Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The Monuments bill seeks to make sweeping changes to the 1906 Antiquities Act. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), seeks, among its various provisions, to curb presidential designation of national monuments and requires consultation with governors and congressional delegations prior to presidential action. Following contentious debate, the bill passed the House National Parks subcommittee in August.

The e-government legislation promised to bring a degree of coordination and discipline to the way federal agencies made use of information technology. Introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the measure was to allocate $200 million a year to encourage the development of interagency e-government projects. The Administration wants to spend far less. Attempts to reconcile disagreements have not moved beyond low-level discussion by staff.

Sweeping Personnel Changes for the Endowments and Smithsonian

New NEH Management Team Takes the Helm

On September 14, 2001, by unanimous consent, the United States Senate quietly approved the nomination of Bruce Cole to become the new chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Cole is a distinguished professor in the Henry Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University at Bloomington. He is expected to begin his term in early December.

Author of 12 books, Cole is a highly regarded art historian. During the administration of George Bush, Cole served on the National Council on the Humanities. He has also been a recipient of an NEH grant. In a statement, Cole said, “I am eager to participate in the endowment’s vital work of the study, preservation, and dissemination of the humanities to all citizens.” Cole also praised NEH staff and said that he looks “forward to working with these fine colleagues” when he moves to Washington.

In a related development, Lynne Munson, the former special assistant to Lynne V. Cheney, when she was the chair of the NEH from 1986 to 1993, will serve as deputy chair under Cole. Munson followed Cheney to the American Enterprise Institute and also served on the Department of Education transition team. Munson will have responsibility for managing the day-today operations of the Endowment.

Hammond to Head the NEA

The White House announced that it intends to nominate Michael Hammond, dean of Rice University’s school of music, as a new chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Hammond, a composer, conductor, and scholar in medieval and Renaissance music as well as the music and culture of India, will succeed current chair William Ivey who retires at the end of the month, eight months before the formal end of his term of office. Ivey has won praise from leaders of Congress for broadening the endowment’s support of arts programs especially in rural states.

Moran to Head the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities

President Bush has selected Henry Moran, current head of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, a private, regional multistate arts organization, as executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. At Mid-America, Moran was responsible for greatly expanding the availability of cultural programming in the Mid-West. He is well known to colleagues in cultural organizations across the United States, including Staff at NEA, NEH, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Moran’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Spencer Crew to Leave Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Spencer R. Crew, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for the past nine years, announced he is leaving the Smithsonian by mid-November to become executive director and chief executive officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Crew is the fifth Smithsonian museum director to leave since Lawrence Small became Secretary of the institution some 21 months ago.

As head of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a national educational center scheduled to open in 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River, Crew will be returning to his home state of Ohio. In the new position Crew will focus on African American history, an academic specialty and a subject he taught at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, before joining the Smithsonian. “The focus of the Freedom Center is a very exciting one; it uses the stories of the Underground Railroad to create an understanding not only about the past but what our values of freedom, justice and equality mean today,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenge and I look forward to making the center a place where people can talk about the need for collaboration and cooperation in a free society.”

Crew held a number of positions at the National Museum of American History during his 20-year career at the Smithsonian. He joined the staff in 1981 and served as the museum’s acting deputy director from 1991 to 1992. In 1992, he was named acting director; two years later he was officially appointed director. Crew will remain a member of the Smithsonian’s Blue Ribbon Commission, which earlier this year began developing recommendations that will help shape the National Museum of American History well into the 21st century.

Marc Pachter, currently director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, has been named acting director of the museum. Sheila P. Burke, under secretary for American Museums and National Programs announced plans to conduct a national search for a new director with a committee that she will chair. The NCC has contacted Burke’s office and offered assistance in providing names of historical and museum professionals who could assist in her committee’s search.

Leak Statute Provision Defeated

Owing to White House concerns, Justice Department objections, and stiff opposition from media and historical organizations, the controversial “leak statute”–a legislative provision that would have made it a felony to disclose certain types of classified governmental information—was withdrawn on September 4, 2001, from further consideration as part of the fiscal 2002 Intelligence Authorization Act.

Although the scheduled hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was technically “postponed,” Capitol Hill insiders report that the measure, in its present form at least, is dead. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), however, vowed that “this bill is going to be back in the hopper, if not by me then by others … This legislation is not going away, because the problem [of leaks] is going to get worse, not better.”

If the measure had been enacted, it would have put in place a broad prohibition on the disclosure by government employees of “properly classified” information. Specifically, it would have sanctioned the criminal prosecution of any government official who violates the law’s provisions through disclosure of unauthorized information to anyone. Historians and journalists would have potentially been especially vulnerable to prosecution. For violating the Act, they could have been subjected to interrogation, jail sentences, and stiff fines. President Clinton vetoed the measure last year. In his veto message, Clinton characterized the legislative measure as an excessive instrument for curbing unauthorized disclosure and believed the language in the bill would “chill” legitimate efforts to report on government activities.

As reported in the NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE (see Vol. 7., #37, August 31, 2001), the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, the AHA, and several other historical groups requested they be allowed to testify on the scheduled hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in order to register concerns regarding the proposed statute. That request was never answered by the committee. Should the measure be resurrected, the historical community will again request that its views be heard.

House Passes El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Act

On September 10, 2001, the House of Representatives acted on a July 1998 National Park Service feasibility study and passed legislation (H.R. 1628) introduced by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) to designate the El Camino Real de los Tejas as a National Historic Trail. The 2,600-mile trail served as the primary route between the Spanish viceregal capital of Mexico City and several Spanish provincial capitals. In later years, the Old San Antonio Road carried immigrants from the east. The legislation directs the secretary of the interior to coordinate an international effort between Mexico and the United States to recognize the significance of this trail. The bill sets forth specific protections for private property owners, including that privately owned real property or property interests may be acquired only with the owner’s willing consent. The House bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for action.

Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

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