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The fragmentation of this system is notable. 4 The NEH looks for strong educational and humanities components in exhibitions and encourages collaborations among organizations. The Art Institute of Alexander 21 Chicago, for instance, received $290,000 for a traveling exhibition, Taoism and the Arts of China. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog and website, and included a program with the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum on Chinese astronomy for teachers and the public (NEH, 1999). The NEH offers other programs which might incidentally help art museums; for instance, programs for training conservators, developing preservation techniques, and for education projects.

The Smithsonian became enormously prestigious. 18 The Smithsonian Institute is funded by the American government; however, it does not, in a strict sense, constitute a ‘national’ museum. It is, instead, a public institution that receives line-item government funding. It has operational independence and its own endowment. The National Gallery of Art, whose collections span the medieval period to the present, is an independent bureau under the Smithsonian umbrella. Its annual appropriations cover maintenance and the operation of the gallery.

It also argued that the standards for publicly funded art were different from those for privately funded art, in that advisory panel approval would serve to legitimate successful projects not only on artistic merit but also as ‘public culture’. 23 Congress had passed the ‘Helms Amendment’ in 1989 which required that recipients of NEA grants sign a pledge that they would not produce obscene art. This provision was amended in 1990, stipulating that the NEA take into account general standards of public decency in awarding grants.

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