tv Smithsonian Institution Secretary Testifies on Museums CSPAN November 19, 2019 7:11pm-8:02pm EST
the committee on rules administration were called to order good morning i want to thank my colleagues for attending and before i go any further, thanks secretary bunch for bringing some of their great collection for us to look at but we are glad to have you and several people from your team here to back you up if you need it but i'm confident you'll be able to be the man at the microphone. this is your first official appearance before the senate rules committee we are grateful to have you with us. secretary bunch appointment is historic and a number of ways. he is the first african-american secretary to lead the smithsonian institution as well as the first museum director later appointed secretary in at least around 75 years. he is a historian something that i really enjoy and he
really understands. it's a great combination of things. this is the fourth position secretary bunch has had at the smithsonian. something i don't believe any of your predecessors could claim in 1978 secretary bunch began his smithsonian career at the national air and space museum as an education specialist 11 years later he joined the national museum of american history. he most recently served as the founding director of the national museum of african american history and culture. as the founding director he led an 11 year effort in constructing the 400,000 square-foot museum and helping raise the matching public-private private funds that match public funds and came up with the museum that tells an incredibly powerful story of that part of our history.
and a lot of our history. congress established the smithsonian in 1846 through uppercrust by a british scientist james smithson who never visited the united states but he generously left his estate to the united states government to found "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge ". now we are almost 175 years later the smithsonian encompasses 19 museums and galleries, numerous research and educational facilities the national zoo. a growing collection of 155 million objects and specimens. secretary bunch years of experience at them smithsonian provides unique perspective of the future of the smithsonian. as the newly invested secretary was inherited the response ability for this vast unique
unmatched collection the secretary also inherited the institution's challenges. the aging facilities and deferred maintenance backlog totaling $1 billion and i'm sure that's going to be one of the topics we talk about today. in the last two decades the smithsonian doubled the square footage while funding remade essentially flat. under any circumstance that's not going to produce a very good result. while doubling the institution added incredible capacity to see what americans count on the smithsonian for it also added a burden that we haven't been willing to meet of maintenance and i know that's one of the things we want to talk to secretary about today and one of the things that he sees as one of his great responsibilities.
when the secretary started his job we were in the middle of a five year strategic plan or at least of implementing a five-year strategic plan creating by his predecessor doctor scoring. i want to discuss with the secretary his thoughts on that plan, his vision on how it needs to change as we look at the reality of many of the obligations and opportunities throughout there before us. mr. secretary, we are glad you are here, i want to call on today's ranking member my good friend senator udall for any comments you would like to make. >> a q very ãbthank you very much chairman block, and for your kind words and interaction. we really enjoyed looking at the display. i'm very pleased to be here this morning to discuss the smithsonian institution and its programs. and to welcome its new secretary lonnie bunch. before the committee for the first time since his
appointment. i'm also proud to have the chance to oversee the institution as both a member of the rules committee here and as the ranking member of the senate interior appropriations subcommittee. in both roles i work to make sure congress is an active partner with the smithsonian institution and provides the resources it needs to meet its obligations to advance specific, educational, scientific and artistic life of this nation. i am here sometimes on weekends and my wife and i go to many of your museums and it is a marvelous display for americans about so many important issues in american life and issues around the world. i'm proud that the senate interior subcommittee has worked to advance an appropriation bill to provide more than $1 billion. this also includes new funding increases for security, facilities maintenance, and 1.7 million in new funding for the
latino center. i look forward to producing a final bill that will give the institution a strong budget for fiscal year 20. i welcome the chance to talk about the opportunities and the challenges of and supporting the great work that the smithsonian is doing here this morning and having a discussion about that. we all know that the smithsonian requires real investments to keep its existing museums operating to expand its collections to tell the story of all americans and to support the reach of its in particular i expect to hear the importance of congress. the capital requirements
clearly. >> secretary bunche, your written statement will be made part of the records but i would like for you to have a few minutes to talk about as much of that is you want to. >> chairman block, senator udall, member of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify today. my tenure as 1/14 secretary of
the smithsonian began just this summer. however, my relationship with the smithsonian spans many generations. i am pleased and humbled to be the secretary of this institution that i love so much. the smithsonian appreciates the ongoing support of congress the administration of the american people and we take seriously the role we play in advancing the civic educational scientific and artistic life of this nation. our collections are vast, representing incredible scope and depth of artistic historical cultural and scientific achievement. we are an internationally respected scientific and cultural institution at the cutting edge research in many disciplines. our 21 libraries ãb
all of our sites the museums the research galleries, the zoo, in addition to the leased spaces, we must care for over 13.9 million square feet of building. with the backlog of maintenance issues, we been reacting to problems instead of proactively maintaining our assets. since becoming secretary, i looked at the backlog with fresh eyes. in order to be more strategic in our approach and vast and directed the staff to begin analyzing projects in a new way. rather than simply seeing the
totality of our backlog i want to analyze our maintenance projects building by building system by system with this approach we are better able to communicate and develop better sense of limited federal dollars are best spent and find opportunities to address maintenance needs as part of our capital revitalization projects. i believe that addressing our maintenance backlog is of paramount importance to the future of the institution. in their wisdom, congress and the administration have recognized the investment in long-term care of our cyst facilities and support steady increase in our maintenance budget. many of our museums will built in the 1960s and 80s and need revitalization. funding preventative care will result in reduced overall maintenance because causing fewer breakdowns, save energy, and decrease unplanned closures. the planning and design funding requested by fy 2020 will begin to address the future of the smithsonian castle and the arts and industries building.
these projects represent the core components of a 20 year plan for the south mall. a series of capital projects required after decades of deferred maintenance. in addition, our ãbover 155 million objects. these objects need to be stored, maintained, cared for, prepared to research and exhibition. to most of our visitors the collections we have largely defined the institution. therefore, our collections are vital national asset. we are always striving to improve storage conditions drinking a balance between reserving the collections and providing access to them. the spaces that house our collections are not immune from deterioration. the maintenance of these areas has been deferred to the point of requiring capital investment. our collection space framework plan outlines a strategy for improving all of our collections facilities. the smithsonian's pressing infrastructure needs need and
demand our immediate attention. despite our best efforts, much of our aging infrastructure continues to be below acceptable standards. we appreciate the support of congress in addressing our most visible project the renovation of the national space museum but just as important, we are grateful for the ongoing support of the day-to-day maintenance need for this institution. finally, let me say a few words about my plans and what i envision to do a secretary of the smithsonian. under my leadership our goal is to reach 1 billion people worldwide. i envision a virtual initiative leveraging state-of-the-art resources and innovative partnerships along domestic and international audiences to experience our scholarship, research, collections in new and exciting ways. if we are fully to serve 21st century audiences we need to be more inclusive, more accessible, and more diverse.
a critical part of making a museum more diverse is to include traditionally underrepresented stories specifically highlighting the stories of asian-american american women latino and asian pacific americans is vital to fulfilling our goal. under my leadership we will make diversity in our collections in our archives and exhibitions and workforce a higher priority. as you know, there are bills to establish latino american and american women's history museums pending before congress. if deemed in the public interest to move forward with these proposals it is important that any addition to the smithsonian are considered in light of our existing priorities. a new museum will need funds for both the creation and long-term operation of the facilities, the care and preservation of our collections and of course the ongoing success of the museum. our work is also increased knowledge is never ending. as we continue to make new
discoveries we kinda share them with future generations. therefore i plan to reimagine the smithsonian's role in lifelong learning by making the institution a leader in k-12 education. finally, what i want is i want people to see the smithsonian as a resource to help them better understand their lives, universe, history and our shared future. it's incumbent upon us to be a more universal voice one that earns the american people trust in us and leverages the great convening power to increase our relevance and research. we want to be the place that matters for all americans. thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you today and i'm happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you, as i said before, were so delighted you hear and look forward to the unique set of capacity and ability and understanding you bring to the smithsonian. he mentioned that congress had provided money for maintenance and i think you are may be
generous and have you describe that but looking at the maintenance numbers in front of me we don't seem to increase that very much. we are sort of about what from 75.5 million to 76 million the next year and then a pretty good increase to 79 million in the year we just completed. we are hoping to get to 85.5 million in this budget. that's your request for this budget. we are not where we ought to be with getting the appropriations finish. clearly that is not doing the job. why don't you talk a little bit about your sense that going through every building, looking at the building systems, looking at building by building requirements how you think that will help you prioritize and am i right in believing that the number you are working with in deferred maintenance is right
at $1 billion now? >> yes. our deferred maintenance is that $1 billion and i think we got really several important ways to address this. one is there is always a need to increase the amount of money we have for maintenance. we do right now about one percent of what we said that we really need to spend 2 to 3 percent to be able to not only stop the backlog but reduce it. in the meantime, what i realize is that by being more systematic we cannot only understand where the needs are we can anticipate future needs. our goal is to have the knowledge and then do several things, first of all really utilize the fact that the key to our success is to use both maintenance budget and capital budget. to be able to do things like we done with the air and space museum. we were able to reduce and really address over $200
million of deferred maintenance at the air and space museum. we want to look creatively about how we put together capital project needs with deferred maintenance. one of the key that is clear to me is that we need to spend our time focus our attention on preventative maintenance. we want to make sure that by looking more systematically we can anticipate what issues we may be able to defer based on actually doing pre-preventative maintenance on that. my hope is that we will continue to grow our budgets we will need the support to do that.we will be much more systematic and direct ties what we need to do and then religious make sure that we are using every opportunity we can to leverage the resources to address that backlog. i would assume there are some places where addressing one problem prevents the second problem from either occurring or getting worse.
hvac system that's not working can create all kinds of other problems in the building is that the kind of thing you're looking at? >> exactly. if you look at, for example, as we think about what we need to do with the castle and arson industries if we can create a central utility system services all that it solves a lot of problems, it makes it easier for us to maintain. we are looking at how to be more creative, how to really use the best technology to come up with solutions to problems we face. >> and my right in the castle and the space in the display space because of it hba system you're really not able to use that space for what it was designed for? >> what we have to do with the arts and industries building especially, that is a building that we spent a lot of money to stabilize. the exterior is strong, the roof is good but there's millions of dollars that need to go into turning that into a space that is usable for the
public. while we, for example, use that space for my installation we really are going to have to do new systems we have to fit out the spaces so it works for the general public. in essence, part of the challenge of the master plan is to look at both the whole notion of the castle as well as the arts and industries and how we use those better to serve not just office space but serve our visitors and public. >> great. i'm sure we will have time for second round of questions and senator udall also is the ranking member on the authorizing committees so you can get a couple of double strokes down here today by talking about the authorizing issues and not just looking at those as appropriating issues. >> we work together on the appropriations committee. he is a cardinal, i'm just a cardinal in ãbut chairman
blunt, senator cortez musto has another hearing some and allow her to proceed with questioning at this point. >> thank you. thank you chairman and ranking member, i appreciate the opportunity. obviously i have concerns about the maintenance backlog. we want to do whatever we can to assist and give you the resources you need to address that. i do want to ask a question about, you talked about having, is it 155 million objects? >> 155 million. >> he talked a little bit about how the storage and then it's necessary to have a plan for that and he mentioned a collection space framework plan. can you talk a little bit more about that are there challenges that you are facing and what we should be aware of? >> as somebody who was a curator, a director of museum, i realize that the only thing that's permanent in the smithsonian are its collections. everything else is fleeting. it's crucially important for us to preserve those collections
but also realize that we have to continue to build those collections. as new stories are told in the research is done. what we have looked at is creating this collections framework document in 2015 with was so important because it was the first time it gave us an accurate sense of exactly what the conditions were. in all the spaces all the buildings were kind of equipment we had and that is now giving us the strategic opportunity to really move creatively to address the issue. clearly it's a long-term issue it could be decades to do this but because of the support we received we been able to do some things that are really important we been able to look at the sites that were the worst that had great deterioration that had decontamination's we been able to decontaminate all those artifacts looking at new ways to move them to support we been able to build new spaces told artifacts both at dulles and at
the main campus. with that allows us to do is allows us to to address the most serious problems but also allows us to have the kind of swing space we need as for example we move the air and space museum we have to move artifacts away and ultimately that will give us the kind of storage we can use down the road. >> thank you. he talked a little bit about new opportunities here and i want to take advantage of you being the founding director of the smithsonian national museum of american african american history and culture because i'm a big supporter of the national museum of the american latino and my question is to you what opportunities do you foresee in establishing the national museum of the american latinos that we can start working on now to bring this to fruition. >> if there's one thing i know how to do is to build a museum. the challenge is to recognize
the build collections but also to make sure that we are bringing resources into the smithsonian so that we can handle our deferred maintenance. i think that there are many issues to think about. issues that if you build a latino museum how does the money get allocated? when we built african-american museum there is no mechanism to be sure when federal money would come and that made it hard to strategize and plan. i think it's also crucially important to realize that if you're going to build new museums and also has a major impact on the central services of the smithsonian. security, maintenance, we got to realize that there's got to be resources put in those areas of work and be able to do a museum that's worthy of the smithsonian. with the right resources and the right commitment clearly we can do the museums that will make people proud. >> thank you.
thank you secretary bunch and the staff at the smithsonian. thank you for all the good work. really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> on that topic, are you suggesting if we were going to do another private public partnership that we could do a better job as you are raising that money knowing what points you need to make one public money would then follow that. >> exactly. i think even if there was a mechanism that said it was a one-to-one match or that you knew that at certain points along the construction process that you could count on a certain moment federal money, what we had to do is every year obviously come back and some years we did well on capital, some years we did it and that made it difficult to actually move the museum along as quickly as i would like. ãtook us 11 years it's moving pretty quick in the federal system but in some ways i think there are things i've learned that we can shortcut that a little bit. >> thank you, senator capital. >> thank you mr. chairman and
thank you secretary. kind of along the lines as senator cortez musto not on the latino museum but at the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving the women the right to vote. i wanted to highlight efforts we made here and you mention this in your statement. on the smithsonian american women's history museum act, which is a cosponsor, obviously you talked a little bit about building a museum from the ground up, and wondered, you mentioned the perspective in terms of financing, i don't know if you have perspectives here on if this act were to pass how that would come to fruition? >> i think there's a couple thing to think about. it's so important that if we do
a museum on the history of american women it's important to recognize wells both the story of individual women is a story that's a lens that help us understand what it means to be an american. we have to frame it in a broader way so that it's a story that shapes everyone. i think what i'm very proud of is the fact that the smithsonian has this american women's history initiative which is allowing us to do important work that crosses throughout the smithsonian. it allows us to look at what are issues that could be explored in a museum, how do you build collections, what kind of staff do you need? in a way, the americans women's history initiative is a commitment that the smithsonian makes regardless of what happens in the future that we will make sure those stories are told in a way that is meaningful and accessible. >> thank you. i'm very much interested in that.the other thing coming from a rural state not too far away, west virginia, the smithsonian's reach as broad into all 50 states and probably globally as well.
could you talk a little bit about what the efforts the smithsonian's make to make sure you don't have to come to washington dc although that would be great, to enjoy the gifts that the smithsonian can give. >> i think you framed the exact right way. the wonders of the smithsonian deserve to be something that touches every school and touches every american home. in order to do that, we got to build on the things we do traditionally been better. we have to think about how you create the virtual smithsonian. how do you take the collections committee expertise in the smithsonian so that people are coming just to see the virtual museum of american history at but the wonders of the smithsonian. in ways that help them understand history art and science that help them understand broader issues like identity and globalization and technology. what i'm committed to doing is really looking at how do we
create that smithsonian ãhow do we bring in partners around the country so that we can have the reach because i think it's important that the millions of people globally who want to come to the smithsonian should have access but the other side of that is to do even a better job with our affiliates program, do a better job with our travel expedition service. to make sure we reach out in a very direct ways to community small and large. >> we had the carla hayden library of congress here last week i believe and a lot of what the direction they are moving is digitization of their collection all collection. you are talking about a virtual museum, are you working with the library of congress? it's gotta be a lot of intersection there of all kinds of not just history but documentations and other things. >> we started to work more effectively with the library of congress. i partnered with them when i
was director of the museum. i think tomorrow i think the library of congress and the ãb and myself are sitting down to begin to look at what are things we can do in common. >> the national archives does have an exhibit on the ratification of the 19th amendment it's very good. i know they put a lot of resources into that. i'm not going to ask you the resource question because i know that's the big question. you can do anything if you have enough time money and resources. i appreciate what you are doing. with the resources you have and thank you so much for being here today. >> senator udall. >> thank you chairman blunt for the recognition and welcome again. i'm going to focus and follow up a little bit on senator cortez musto's question on the latino museum. latinos have played an important role in the history of our nation for over 500
years. my home state of new mexico that history and ongoing influence is celebrated. it's time for our national institutions to also recognize and lift up the important contributions made by latinos and latinos in our country. our heritage or history or cultural tapestry. self identifies hispanics and latinos currently make up nearly a fifth of our population and represent the largest ethnic group in the united states. that's why i've cosponsored senator menendez's bill to establish the smithsonian american latino museum. i also support an amendment during floor consideration of the interior bill which would provide an additional $1.5 million for the latino center and expand programming for existing museums. if the final bill includes that increase, what do you plan to do with the additional funding and more broadly, what steps are you taking to ensure that
the smithsonian is including the latino experience in all of its museums? >> one of the things i'm proudest of is been the fact that during my entire career at the smithsonian we created the latino center. what that latino center has done has transformed the smithsonian. as you know, the real power in the smithsonian museum directors are secretaries curators. it's people who do the research bring in the collections and what the latino center has allowed us to do is embed curators who have the expertise in the museum of american history and african american museum or art museums so we want to build on the and that my sense is that any support we get will allow us to continue to hire people that will help the center do its work but also
one of the things that's really important to us is the latino center is now following the pattern we did with the american american museum which is the create a gallery in the museum of american history that would allow you to do expeditions, allow you to hire staff allow you to build collections so i think any of the resources we have will also go into that. i think it's really important for us to be able to demonstrate in very concrete ways here is a space where that important story is always told. >> thank you secretary bunche. obviously i hope the work that the latino center is doing will now lay the groundwork for the passage of the legislation to create a new latino museum. i think it's critical that congress take action not just to support your existing facilities needs but also to build this new museum. when you and i last met we talked about the importance of you meeting with the museums advocates groups like the national association of latino arts and culture the national council of la raza and the friends group working in support of the museum creation and many others.
debbie had the opportunity to meet with these groups and what are you hearing from them? >>. >> have had opportunities to talk with individuals not elected groups. what i'm hearing is, a commitment for people to realize and recognize that the smithsonian cares about the subject and wants to do even more and there is a great deal of interest in having me come talk to people about how do we build african-american museum? what are the steps on the challenges. so what i'm hearing is great excitement. i think that what i want to make sure is that as we share that excitement we also make sure that we are doing very concrete things that people can see today that lay a foundation for the future. what is the smithsonian doing with current resources to celebrate and deepen the
public's understanding of the contributions of american women how would the additional $1.7 million be used to expand that and prepare for a permanent museum? >> much like the latino center, being able to explore this history of american women really allows us to build collections which are key to building a new museum. we are about to do an exhibition on girlhood which will allow people to understand the lands to adolescents and women. it's really important for us to say that i want to be sure that curators throughout the smithsonian have the guidance and the resources to make sure that issues of gender are explored in every museum. >> thank you mr. secretary. >> thank you senator udall. i think there have been 12 bills filed in this congress
for looking at the potential for different museums or emphasis in museums. today you mentioned asian americans, asian-pacific americans, latinos, latino americans and women's museum all part of this discussion. what would our plan be on all those areas for the coming decade no matter what we decide to do in terms of a facility
for one or more of those other important components of who we are? >> my career has been about expanding the canon. making sure that we understand the rich diversity of america, not to explore just the particular community but help us understand who we are as americans. i'm bringing that commitment to the rest of the smithsonian. it's my expectation we will build on the work of the asian american pacific center that's really doing important work helping us find new collections and new stories. i'm thinking about how as we create the virtual smithsonian these issues should be at the hearts of people will be able to tap that virtual presence and understand latino issues, african american issues, issues of gender. were not waiting at any museum to be built.we are committed to making sure the smithsonian represents america and gives
all its visitors a better understanding of who we are by looking at us through a different lens were getting very close to the beginning of the third century of the smithsonian there looking more at about private efforts. we got to watch this closely at the arch which after 60 years would need a number of things done became a huge local and individual donor involves some naming rights that have not been part of the park service in the past. but it really produced a result that we wouldn't have been able to produce otherwise are you thinking about that potential and though there are parts of the smithsonian already that have had a sponsor when they were built or an exhibit that has a sponsor is there any capacity there for us to do some fundraising that would
allow maintenance it's really been able to find new partners who have brought resources to allow us to tell different stories and more important stories. my goal is to continue to build that public-private partnership to do the fundraising but also where there are opportunities, for example, we are looking at what could be the philanthropic support for fixing castle in the arts and industries. there such historic buildings. maybe there's philanthropic
support leaking yet. were looking to find support wherever we can. >> and was university president for four years and nobody wants to give money for the electrical system. on the other hand, if you get money for the electrical system and part of the understanding is one of the things we will do is working to rewire the theater, which is currently has no patron, i think it is something we ought to be thinking about. when you do think about that the public-private partnership we just have with this private partner and source of revenue but there has to be some collaborative discussion as to what that partner would hope to have happened in our commitment to be a part of it. just something to think about. i know i'm confident based on your past experience you are giving that some thought and i'm telling you i think you would find support for that and encouragement of that in the congress if you go in that direction. senator capital?
>> senator udall. >> thank you for the recognition mr. chairman. secretary bunche vice chairman of the senate committee on indian affairs i strongly support the tribes inherent right to exercise self-government which includes their ability to protect and maintain tribal cultural patrimony such as ceremonial and religious event recordings. many museums and universities including the smithsonian currently hold these recordings in their collections. under current law it's possible those culturally sensitive recordings could be released to the public domain which is a major concern for tribes across the country. last week i brought this issue up with the library of congress in a hearing before the committee and i was told that the library is working with the smithsonian on tribal engagement. can i get your commitment to working with the library of
the rest of the smithsonian to look at it to have a policy that shapes the entire smithsonian. >> thank you very much that covered, he was looking ahead and he covered my other question without answer so i would just say in summary that i'm really a stand in for the ranking member senator shar and she's very proud of this collection and the idea that the prince qatar and items from minnesota are displayed here today. and i know that the chairman is also very proud of what's happening with missouri. thank you for bringing those today i really appreciate it. >> i think i had my microphone as we are talking about the original panel. >> said i think i have that exact same page. >> i think we all did. we decided everybody has a panel to be used or not. >> i have a couple quick
questions. one is senate interior appropriations bill senator udall was very familiar with included a provision to permit you to move forward with your proposal to purchase a building to service consolidated administrative headquarters is that language do what you need to do to get that done? as i recall, we talked about that and there's a foundation involved which might've circled back to my public-private partnership efforts so how will that work and do you feel like the language as you see it is adequate for you to do what you'd like to do? >> i think the language is adequate. i will sort of ask my staff to go back and make sure that there are not issues i don't know about but i think it's crucial for us to be able to think in an innovative way. an unorthodox way to solve some of the problems that we have. and by consolidating all these leases we have by being able to
use the federal grant support to basically help us pay down that debt it will allow us ultimately to save an awful lot of money from the federal government as we move forward. very excited to doing that. i really appreciate the language you put in to help us do that. >> the last thing i will ask is in terms of the plan secretaries korten worked on and you are a contributor of that plan you feel like that plan is headed in the right direction and any modifications that you had time to look at it that you think you might want to make? >> by focusing on the educational piece and looking at the virtual smithsonian also by realizing we can be the institution for 21st century we want if we don't fix some of
the problems we have with our processes, hr, contract and the like. for me with the framework of the strategic plan is something i will build on. i'm just tweaking it to focus on education and the virtual smithsonian. >> great. any other comments from the senators here? secretary bunch thank you for joining us this morning. we look forward to your leadership. you come with the unique background and unique gifts for this job and i hope we can continue to be in communication about them. the record will be open for one week from today the committee is adjourned. [inaudible background conversations]