Wednesday, January 28, 2009

President and Mrs. Obama and the Oriental Institute

Because the guy isn't getting enough press, I offer the following tidbit. I have been staggered by how many people have asked me whether President Obama was involved with the Institute.

There is no public record of the Obamas having been members of or donors to the Institute. This claim is based on donor/member lists published by the Oriental Institute as well as by the tax records released by the Obamas. It is possible that they made an anonymous contribution which they did not claim on their taxes (for the years released). If I knew of such a contribution, I couldn't and wouldn't disclose it. It is also possible that they tossed a few bucks into the donation box on a visit to the Institute. Largely so I could say I called the White House to ask about making this post, I called the White House to ask about making this post. They were cool with it. Rest assured I did not ask that the President or one of his many peeps comment. Rest further assured that thousands of Hyde Parkers, not presently occupying the White House, have never given the Institute a plug nickel, which is entirely their privilege. Rest finally assured that the Institute has done very well by thousands of other Hyde Parkers. There... am I covered?

Speaking of which, I am not aware of any reliable report (or certainly photographic evidence) of either of the adult Obamas ever having visited the place. Having said that, it would be a bit weird for two people who spent so much time in Hyde Park never having popped in for a look-see, even once--it has an impressive collection, is free, and has reasonable opening hours. Having said that, the Institute's galleries were fully or partially closed for most of the Obamas' many years in Hyde Park. Having said that (and I am aware that I am on the third or fourth "other hand" by now), the Institute's Museum Education Office had a large number of family events (typically free and not requiring registration) both at the Institute and on the road, and it is entirely possible that one or both of the Obama girls took part in one of those.

A special note: the Institute's public outreach efforts have a long and pretty goll-durned impressive history. Outreach was one of Breasted's apparently-infinite highest priorities which combined to land him on the cover of Time magazine. When Michelle Obama was Michelle Robinson, a girl from Chicago's South Side, it is entirely possible, and I would think likely, that there was either a school trip or a family visit to the Institute or perhaps a visit to a classroom in which the Robinson children would appear to have been paying attention, given the career paths of both the First Lady and her brother. I toyed with contacting the Office of the First Lady to ask as to whether she had any recollection of the Institute, and may still do so, but I need to think about it.

I think I've exhausted this topic. I know I've exhausted myself, and fear I've exhausted you, dear reader.

1 comment:

heidi said...

So, the summary is, that the Obamas may, or may not have, visited the Institute. :)