Smithsonian explains merchandise selection
As a follow-up to a complaint by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) about the Chinese-made products in the gift shop of the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Institution late Wednesday issued its buying guidelines.
The statement said the Smithsonian "has a long-standing policy of buying American-made products whenever possible. Smithsonian buyers only attend American trade shows and contract primarily with U.S.-based companies."
Sanders, who had time on Dec. 22 before his flight home to Vermont, stopped at American History to buy a few gifts. He was "disappointed" to find the miniature sculptures of U.S. presidents were made in China. In a letter, reported earlier today in Arts Post, he asked for an explanation.
"While the Smithsonian makes every attempt to buy American products whenever possible, some of the items offered are exclusively manufactured overseas--certain countries specialize in particular products that are not longer domestically produced. All Smithsonian stores offer options for visitors wishing to buy only American-made products," said the Smithsonian statement.
The museum's director, Brent D. Glass, said Wednesday night "I understand the issue of sensitivity he is talking about. ... We do have a special responsibility to promote American-made products."
However, the decline of U.S.manufacturing has presented some obstacles to this goal. "Some products are no longer made in the U.S. And some products are crafted elsewhere but the design came from the U.S," Glass said.
Glass said there are 400 vendors, all American companies, that work with the museums and Smithsonian Enterprises, the business division of the Smithsonian.
All the replicas of the presidential china are made in Pennsylvania, he said, and the Civil War cannons are also manufactured in Pennsylvania.
As for the miniature busts of the U.S.presidents that Sanders saw, Glass said he is going to look for another source. "I want to see if there are any manufacturers of this particular item in the U.S. who have the product at a price point our visitors will want to buy," Glass said.
Meanwhile, he is writing Sanders to invite him over for a director-led tour of the museum and gift shops.
| January 19, 2011; 7:00 PM ET
Categories: Jacqueline Trescott, Museums, Smithsonian | Tags: Brent Glass, National Museum of American History, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Smithsonian gift shops
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