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Smithsonian Bars All Public Access to Nude Photos of Elite Collegians

January 21, 1995|From Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Smithsonian Institution has cut off all public access to a collection of nude photos taken of generations of elite college students, some of whom went on to become leaders in U.S. culture and government.

The pictures at first were taken to study posture. Later they were made by a researcher examining the relationship between body shape and intelligence.

All freshmen at at least some of the colleges involved--Ivy League and other prestigious schools--were required to pose in the buff.

Among those subject to the ritual were First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and ABC-TV's Diane Sawyer, who attended Wellesley, and former President George Bush and New York Gov. George Pataki at Yale University. However, it was not immediately known if their photos are at the Smithsonian, which has never displayed the pictures.

"There are the rights of the subjects to consider," Ildiko P. DeAngelis, assistant general counsel at the Smithsonian, said Friday.

The pictures will be off limits pending an internal investigation of how the Smithsonian acquired the photos and whether it has rights to them, she said.

The frontal and profile "posture" photos were taken beginning in the early 1900s as part of physical education classes.

Later, the photographs were taken by W.H. Sheldon, who believed there was a relationship between body shape and intelligence and other traits. Sheldon's work has since been dismissed by most scientists as quackery.

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