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WASHINGTON - Democratic senators accused the Smithsonian Institution on Tuesday of self-censorship because it moved a photo exhibit of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a basement hallway between a loading dock and a freight elevator.
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small defended the changes. As a partially government-financed institution, he said, the Smithsonian is obligated to avoid partisan politics "at all costs."
The photo exhibit opened May 2 at the National Museum of Natural History. When the exhibit was accepted, it was to have been shown off the museum's main-floor rotunda. Instead, the 48-photo exhibit is in a basement hallway. Terse descriptions of each photo's subject and location have replaced freelance photographer Subhankar Banerjee's expansive descriptions.
Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, called Banerjee an agent of environmental groups and said: "These people tried to use the Smithsonian. I congratulate your staff for recognizing political advocacy when they see it."