Elephantine Gift Stirs Museum Debate

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Science  22 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5367, pp. 1186-1187
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5367.1186b

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The National Museum of Natural History, the anchor of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., will soon begin spending the largest private donation it has ever received, but some staffers are uneasy about how the gift will be used. The top brass say they want to spend the money--$20 million, from Kenneth Behring, a real estate developer and former owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team--to clean up the dusty central rotunda, create traveling educational programs, and improve some 40-year-old mammal exhibits. But members of the museum's scientific staff worry that the renovation may result in the trashing of some cherished old exhibits and the relocation of the huge elephant in the museum's entrance rotunda that serves as the museum's icon.