Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Smithsonian explains merchandise selection

By Jacqueline Trescott
The presidential statuettes.

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.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | 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  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Banksy may be revealed
Next: Gray asks cultural groups to keep the arts accessible


If the Senator has such a problem with this, then perhaps he can free up some money for the Smithsonian budget so they can afford to buy American.

I'm also curious if he's managed to discover if the gift shops for the House and Senate have gone back to selling items with a high lead content, now that no one is looking.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 19, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

He will probably find the same thing if he checks out the Capitol gift shops...or National Archives, or Library of Congress, etc.

Posted by: bmp246 | January 20, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Why is this Senator spending so much time on a $20 gift item. I'd rather have him spending the time reading Vanity Fair article on how pharmaceutical companies are using third world countries to test the drugs that Americans take. Isn't our health more important than some stupid gift that most anyone will give to Goodwill in a few years?

Posted by: ohburg | January 25, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company