US: Smithsonian's access limiting deal

Jacqueline Trescott, Historians Protest Smithsonian’s Deals, Washington Post, April 26, 2006.


The Society of American Historians, a group that promotes excellence in historical writing, has suspended Smithsonian Books from its ranks in protest over the Smithsonian Institution’s “increasingly commercial approach to its mission.” The suspension itself will have little impact, but it is the latest symptom of friction between the Smithsonian’s top managers and many of the nation’s scholars. The latest criticism follows a month of public debate over partnerships the Smithsonian made with commercial businesses and the change in policy about access to its archives. In a resolution passed by the historical group’s executive board yesterday, the society raised questions about the deal with Showtime Networks to create a series of 100 programs a year based on the Smithsonian collections and experts. But the historians also raised questions about a second contract, this one a publishing pact with HarperCollins….

In recent weeks, the Smithsonian has come under attack from writers, historians and filmmakers. The primary issue is how much access that researchers and producers not affiliated with Showtime will have to Smithsonian archives and the appearance of “right of first refusal” awarded Showtime for any project that has more than “incidental” use of Smithsonian materials. “The Smithsonian is an institution that involves public money and public trust and is a public archives,” said Elizabeth Adkins, president-elect of the Society of American Archivists. “It should follow the general guidelines of equal access. We are distressed.” The exact nature of the agreements are secret. The Smithsonian contends they are proprietary and not subject to freedom-of-information laws that require most federal contracts to be available for public inspection. However, a Smithsonian directive states that “the institution follows the intent and spirit of the [FOIA] as a matter of policy.”…Last week, about 215 filmmakers and historians asked the Smithsonian to reconsider the deal. Ken Burns, one of the country’s best-known documentary filmmakers, called the Showtime terms a mistake. The Society of American Archivists also asked the Smithsonian to reconsider the Showtime arrangement. “We urge the Smithsonian to revisit the agreement and to abandon those portions that limit either access to the archives or distribution of a researcher’s final results,” said the society’s president, Richard Pearce-Moses….The American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries asked the Smithsonian for a copy of the contract with Showtime. The two organizations argued that the “mission of the Smithsonian militates toward full disclosure of this document.” They argued that as a public institution, the Smithsonian had a responsibility to let the taxpayer know about its business dealings. “The public interest in disclosure here is clearly high in light of the unique nature of the agreement and its potential impact on public accessibility of Smithsonian resources,” said the organizations in a letter to the Smithsonian.

See also:

UN stamp archive selloff scandal

UN stamp archive selloff scandal

Can you imagine the US Government selling off whole collections from the Smithsonian? Or the UK sending the British Library to Christie’s? Far fetched, indeed: yet the UN, that great upholder of international law, did pretty much exactly that a few years ago in selling off its philatelic archive lock, stock, and barrel — and for cheap. Read all about it here:

Auditors from the U.N.’s investigative arm, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), are currently putting the last touches on an investigative report that has taken months to complete, and that aims to determine exactly what happened — and why — to the U.N.’s rare and much-admired collection of materials that belong to the United Nations Postal Administration. . .

One thing that investigators know for certain about the archive: In a discreet but historic auction carried out in a quiet suburb of Geneva, Switzerland, all of it — more than a metric ton of prized material, dating from as early as 1951 — was sold off to a single bidder on May 12, 2003. The collection included original artwork for U.N. stamps, unique so-called die proofs to test the faithfulness of design reproduction, printing proofs and other rarities, along with hundreds of thousands of other stamps, reflecting many of the most colorful aspects of U.N. history.

As the article notes, there were and are strict rules that one would have expected to bar such a selloff outright. One gets the impression that this was in essence a theft in broad daylight, though it is not yet clear how those who profited from the sale and those who orchestrated it might be connected.

The auction itself was carried out in entirely legal fashion.

Excepting, of course, the rather serious matter of title.

The price it fetched — $3,068,000 — was hailed on a variety of stamp collecting Web sites as a world record price for a single lot sale at a stamp auction. . .

But for the U.N., it was no coup, even though, according to officials familiar with UNPA finances, the UNPA netted “some $2.5 million” from the Swiss auction deal.

Not clear here if the $3,068,000 figure represents the hammer price or the net paid with buyer’s premium tacked on. In any event, the UN’s net seems low. I’m not familiar with the stamp world, but normally the big auction houses waive seller’s commissions for large, important consignments from governmental and nonprofit institutions, and will usually pick up the costs of photography and catalog production as well.

This whole affair is certainly a huge black eye for the UN. They must be just tearing their hair out at UNESCO . . . .

Source: Cronaca

Älteste Luftbilder Deutschlands entdeckt?

Sind diese Bilder gemeinfrei? Leider gewinnt immer mehr das schädliche urheberrechtliche Schutzrecht der editio princeps an Bekanntheit, das wohl auch hier einschlägig sein dürfte:

Wem gehört Vivaldi?, fragte die WELT anlässlich der Eröffnung des Hauptverfahrens um die Vivaldi-Oper, die von der Berliner Sing-Akademie beansprucht wird:

Rundfunkanstalten mauern

Ein Beitrag aus INETBIB:


Catalog of nearly 1 million BBC programs online

The BBC has posted an online interface into catalog of 946,614 BBC radio & TV programmes, dating back 75 years — searchable by category, cast and crew:

Die BBC hat den Katalog ihrer Programme (knapp 1 Million) in einem
Prototyp online gestellt. Das reizt zu einem Kommentar über die
deutschen Verhältnisse: Hierzulande weigern sich die von öffentlichen
Mitteln finanzierten Öffentlichrechtlichen Anstalten (!) nach wie vor,
ihre Nachweismittel öffentlich zugänglich zu machen, obwohl sie (nicht
nur) zur wissenschaftlichen Arbeit dringend gebraucht werden. Dass die
Allgemeinheit und die Wissenschaft sich dies seit langem unwidersprochen
gefallen lassen, zeigt, in welcher mentalen Verfassung sich dieses Land
befindet. Um die Begründungen der Sachwalter dieser Anstalten näher
kennenzulernen, bzw. um zu verstehen, warum es eine Initiative wie die
der BBC in Deutschland nicht gibt, empfiehlt sich dieser sehr
interessante Tagungsband:

Mediensammlungen in Deutschland im internationalen Vergleich.
Bestände und Zugänge

Viele Grüße
Peter Delin/Videolektorat

Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin

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