Canton Repository

April 12, 2006

Regula studies Smithsonian policy on access to archives

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Ralph Regula’s initial reaction to reports that the Smithsonian Institution is limiting access to its vast archives for many filmmakers was negative.

But a week later, Regula said he is still studying the issue and may not have more to say about it before an upcoming meeting of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents on June 12.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, is a congressional member of the policy-making board of the nation’s museum system. The board has the authority to reverse staff decisions.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the Smithsonian had inked a deal with Showtime Networks, which would offer film products available on demand to 25 million of its cable subscribers.

But as a result, other filmmakers who want to do an in-depth project using the museum’s materials or experts would first have to offer the idea to Showtime, according to reports.

“This came as a surprise,” Regula said when he first heard of the new policy last week. “I basically think the Smithsonian is a public agency and the resources should be available to everyone.”

The museum announced the venture in March, and said programming would become available in December.

On Tuesday, Regula said he was still looking into the issue and did not have any further thoughts.

“I need time to look at this,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker said he hasn’t heard any talk about the deal among fellow board members since leaving for a two-week congressional break last week.