The ill-advised plan to replace the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s superb IMAX theater with an expanded cafeteria shows that this grand institution needs new leadership [“Natural History Museum drops Imax,” Style, July 26]. The IMAX films bring messages home in stunning, unforgettable fashion. To replace the IMAX experience with an expanded “burgers and fries” experience runs so counter to the educational mission of the Smithsonian Institution that it almost sounds like a joke — a very bad joke. Please, shelve this idea and head back to the drawing board to develop another plan that does not yank the beating heart out of the museum. We don’t need a McSmithsonian.
D.A. Campbell, Annandale
As the driving force behind the development of the IMAX theater at the National Museum of Natural History starting in 1984, I later wrote justifications to the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents that also made their way to Congress. Primary among our visions was to show films of natural history and cultural interest from around the world. We also wanted to produce our own films and promote them worldwide as part of the Smithsonian’s educational mission. Our “Galapagos” signature film was shown in 77 countries, I believe, surely a good promotion of the museum and its scientists as well as its values.
Rather than demolish the theater, consider its potential to be among the very best public relations vehicles for the museum. If the theater were full because people were charged three or four bucks a head, all the better. Most families can’t afford the current rates, hence the low attendance. At lower rates, imagine 500 people an hour marching out of the theater with smiles on their faces, feeling grateful to the Natural History Museum and thankful for their learning experience, and making them want to return.
Larry O’Reilly, Arlington
The writer is a former assistant director for exhibits and public spaces at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.