Museums (good museums, that is, not trashy sideshows like Ken Ham’s rubbish in Kentucky) have a real problem: they’re expensive to maintain. They aren’t dead piles of old bones, but are sites of active research, and they have to employ knowledgeable people to do the science that goes on there. It takes lots of money to keep one going.
But along comes a dilemma. Who has great big piles of money? Unfortunately, money tends to concentrate in the hands of assholes. And one thing many assholes would like to do is buy respectability and influence from more prestigious institutions…like museums. Some of the biggest, most assholish, ignorantest rich people are the Koch brothers, and the Koch brothers have been very generous in promoting their agenda by throwing money at museums.
Some people have had enough. There is an open letter signed by many scientists to encourage museums to divest themselves of the taint of Koch.
We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.
For example, David Koch is a major donor, exhibit sponsor and trustee on the Board of Directors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. David Koch’s oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Mr. Koch also funds a large network of climate-change-denying organizations, spending over $67 million since 1997 to fund groups denying climate change science.
I have to agree that it is unprincipled to accept money from people who actually undermine your mission of promoting good science. But I feel for the museums, too — it’s easy for us to say, “You shouldn’t accept that million dollars from this bad person!”, but then, what are we doing to help the museum replace that money?
Sign the petition. But maybe also, if you can, send a few dollars to the museums you care about. Or buy a ticket and spend a day appreciating what they actually do.
(via Greg Laden)
In case you’re wondering if maybe having a big-money donor fund exhibits as long as there are no strings, read this article about Koch funding for the Smithsonian. There are strings. There are always strings.