Museum exhibition toned down to avoid government censure

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The Smithsonian Institute's Museum of National History in Washington DC 'toned down' an exhibition on climate change to avoid offending senior politicians, Time magazine has reported.

Robert Sullivan, a former associate director at the museum who was in charge of exhibitions, told reporters that the official script for the exhibition was rewritten to reflect the 'uncertainty' of climate change and the relationship between human emissions of carbon dioxide and global warming.

Sullivan added that graphs were altered 'to show that global warming could go either way,' and that any attempt to represent 'solid science' in the exhibition became an exercise in 'tooth-pulling':
'The obsession with getting the next [grant] allocation and appropriation was so intense that anything that might upset the Congress or the White House was being looked at very carefully,' he said.

The changes were requested by museum director Cristian Samper and his superior David Evans, the former government Undersecretary for Science. Samper told Time that the museum's role is to 'present the facts, but not advocate a particular point of view'.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007