Library Delays Freud Exhibit amid Criticism

Article excerpt

THE LIBRARY of Congress, facing budget pressures and sharp criticism from an angry faction of academics, has postponed by at least a year a major exhibition examining Sigmund Freud and his sweeping impact on 20th-century society.

The library, repository of the world's largest collection of papers and artifacts from the father of psychoanalysis, had planned to open its vaults and mount "Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture" next December.

But with Freud and his model of human behavior under fierce attack in academia, with psychoanalysis in decline under the new regime of managed care, and with museums facing ever-closer scrutiny of their versions of history, the library found itself accused of lending its prestige to an exhibition that, as one critic said, "promises to be uninformed, uncritical and unacceptably partisan."

Officially, the library blamed the delay on shaky funding in a difficult budget climate. "We're short about $352,000" for the show, which is expected to cost about $1 million, said library spokeswoman Jill Brett. But she said that besides finances, librarian James Billington and other officials Monday discussed recent reports in the academic press of protests by Freud critics. Congress did not cut the library's $352 million budget this year, but Brett said the library must cope with rising costs.

Other library officials said criticism of the exhibit's content was the primary factor in the decision Monday night.

"We discussed everything from postponing to cancellation to going ahead as planned," said Irene Burnham, director of the library's interpretive programs. "I know the implication is that we are recasting it to meet the critics' objections, but the postponement is to give us time to develop the exhibit fully along the lines already defined."

Peter Swales, a historian of psychoanalysis who is leading the opposition to the library's show, said: "How can they allow themselves to be so disingenuous as to say this is about money? This exhibition needed to be discredited as something conceived in bad faith. …

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