Smithsonian Focus of House Oversight Hearing

On March 28, the Committee on House Administration held an oversight hearing on the Smithsonian Institution. The brief, 40 minute long hearing focused mainly on Smithsonian’s strategic planning and the institution’s maintenance backlog.

Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) spoke to the value of the museums. “The Smithsonian Institution plays a critical role in collecting and preserving our nation’s history and culture … and advances critical scientific discovery and research.” He also raised the challenges the organization faces, including a growing maintenance backlog, balancing new strategic initiatives with available funding, and broadening public access to collections in person and digitally.

Dr. David J. Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian, spoke about the long-term value of Smithsonian collections. “Your investment in the Smithsonian is an investment in the civic, educational, scientific, and artistic life of our nation.” Skorton also highlighted the need to “greatly increasing digital access” to collections. To date, 29 million items have been digitized from Smithsonian’s collections of 154 million items.

Another issue raised during the hearing was the need to pay attention to “graying of the workforce” in curatorial and scientific ranks. Skorton stated that Smithsonian needs to be ready to hire a “renewed workforce.”

Representatives Robert Brady (D-PA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) also attended the hearing.