- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Tucked into an emergency-appropriations bill for homeland security is $2 million to ensure the safe storage of the Smithsonian's National Worm Collection and other specimens preserved in alcohol.
The little-noticed provision was added to the pending Senate bill, which President Bush requested for the war on terrorism. Smithsonian officials said they need a safe place to store their collections.
"We think of it in terms of providing the necessary security for the museum," said Randall Kremer, spokesman for the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. "Of course, alcohol is flammable. We should be as careful as possible."
The measure would fund construction of a three-story building at the Smithsonian's Museum Research Center in Suitland to keep the worms, plankton and other pickled specimens at a climate-controlled 65 degrees all year long.
Mr. Bush submitted a request in March for $28 billion, about half of which would go to the Pentagon. But the bill has grown to more than $31 billion, and yesterday the president urged lawmakers to hold down the costs.
"The supplemental shouldn't be viewed as an opportunity to load it up with special projects," Mr. Bush said. "We'll be looking forward to working with the senators, to explain to them that the supplemental ought to focus on emergency measures, measures that are needed to fight the war, to button up the homeland."
Smithsonian officials acknowledged that the need for specimen storage did not result from the terrorist attacks on September 11.
"It predates September 11," said Jerome Conlon, assistant director for facility operations. "It certainly has been on our wish list, yes."
Also added to the appropriations bill are provisions such as $2.5 million for the mapping of coral reefs in Hawaii. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that approved the spending bill last week.
The measure also contains $16 million in economic assistance for New England fishermen and $100 million to build a depleted-uranium plant in Paducah, Ky., when the Department of Energy has an identical plant in Ohio.
Mr. Bush urged the Senate to act quickly on the bill when lawmakers return next week. He said it's important to approve a bill "that doesn't bust the budget."
The House approved the emergency appropriations last week.
Mr. Conlon said the Smithsonian's storage building has not been designed yet, but would probably total about 108,000 square feet. He said researchers could retrieve the jars of preserved sharks, gorillas and other animals, some of which date to the 1840s, for "dissection or what have you."
Keeping the specimen jars at 65 degrees reduces the need for maintenance because the cool temperature limits evaporation, Mr. Conlon said.
"You don't have to keep putting more alcohol in when you're not having the evaporation," he said.
Most of the items that the Smithsonian seeks to store in a new facility are currently kept at the Natural History Museum on the Mall.
Mr. Kremer said the museum's collections in alcohol are world-renowned.
"Our worm collection is second to none," he said.


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