- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Spencer R. Crew, director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History for the past nine years, announced yesterday that he is leaving by mid-November.

"I am very excited about the new opportunity, but of course sad about leaving the Smithsonian since it's been my home for a long time," Mr. Crew said.

Mr. Crew, who began his career at the Smithsonian as a historian in 1981, is leaving to become executive director and chief executive officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Marc Pachter, director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, has been named acting director of the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian will conduct a national search for a new director.

The museum leadership has been criticized for allowing museum donors such as Catherine B. Reynolds, who donated $38 million earlier this year to have too much say. Critics say donors have insufficient academic or scientific background to make decisions about what belongs in exhibits.

Mr. Crew is the fourth director of a Smithsonian museum on the Mall to announce his departure from the institution this year. The others are Milo Beach, director of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Jim Demetrion, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and Robert Fri, director of the National Museum of Natural History.

Mr. Crew said his decision to resign did not relate to Smithsonian Secretary Larry Small's leadership. The secretary has come under fire primarily from scientists at the Natural History Museum, who say he has failed to consider their concerns in financial and other decisions.

Mr. Crew said he is leaving because "Cincinnati was very convincing."

Under Mr. Crew's tenure, the museum's attendance rose from 5.6 million in 1992 to close to 6.5 million in 2000. The museum also received some of its largest donations during Mr. Crew's time, including an $80 million gift from Kenneth E. Behring last year.

The museum also acquired many objects under Mr. Crew, including a section of the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth lunch counter that was the site of a 1960 student sit-in and puppeteer Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog.

In his new job, Mr. Crew said he will be able to focus on black American history, his academic specialty.

But while excited about the new job, Mr. Crew said he deeply will miss the Smithsonian.

"Absolutely. I will probably have withdrawal symptoms for quite some time," he said.

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