DC Artswatch: FONZ, Smithsonian, Bible Museum, Hal Holbrook


Friends of the National Zoo

Due to COVID-related financial pressures, Friends of the National Zoo and the zoo announced their separation after more than 60 years. In a statement, FONZ — which raises funds, provides education staffing and greeters and runs camps, special events and the zoo’s membership program — explained: “it became clear we didn’t really have a sustainable model for the long term when paired with the Zoo and Smithsonian’s desire to do more of the work themselves.” An independent nonprofit that billed the zoo for services, FONZ, which expects to continue in some form, employs a paid staff, including several administrators with salaries that exceed $100,000.

Kevin Gover. Courtesy Smithsonian.

Museums and Culture Under Secretary

National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) officially took over as the Smithsonian’s under secretary for museums and culture on Jan. 17. Machel Monenerkit, deputy director of the American Indian museum, who became acting director a year ago when Gover became acting under secretary, will continue in that role. The under secretary’s responsibilities had been handled by former Smithsonian Provost John Davis, who moved to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in New York as interim director when Caroline Baumann abruptly left in February of 2020. All Smithsonian museums remain closed, with no reopening date yet announced.

Courtesy Museum of the Bible.

Museum of the Bible

The Museum of the Bible, which opened in 2017 in the former Washington Design Center on 4th Street SW, has repatriated to Egypt “5,000 manuscripts and bits of papyrus” said to have been acquired in 2011 during the Arab Spring, according to the New York Times. Authenticity and provenance issues with the collection of ancient artifacts assembled by the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby and spent a reported $500 million to create the state-of-the-art facility, continue to plague the museum, which remains open Thursday through Monday. Among other examples, tablets and seals were returned to Iraq and the collection’s 16 Dead Sea Scroll fragments declared forgeries.

Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat in “All the President’s Men.”

Hal Holbrook, 1925-2021

Actor Hal Holbrook, who portrayed Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s shadowy source, in the 1976 film adaptation of Woodward’s and Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein’s Watergate book “All the President’s Men,” died on Jan. 23, aged 95. Having begun to impersonate Mark Twain while at Denison University in the 1950s, Holbrook won a Tony Award in 1966 for “Mark Twain Tonight!” and continued to perform as Twain until 2017. Among many roles over his long career, he played Shylock in a Shakespeare Theatre Company production of “The Merchant of Venice” in 1999, also appearing with his third wife, Dixie Carter, in A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” at a benefit for the D.C.-based theater.

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