In the ancient, pre-internet days, science graduate students didn’t have our current social media outlets for broadcasting the sort of late night musings that spring into the minds of bright people spending long hours doing hard work. There was no YouTube offering a viral spread of songs about bad projects, so instead one turned to photocopies, and the slow spread of such jokes through personal networks. While I found a copy of Denatured a few years back in an old box, the legend of the Smithsonian Barbie was new to me. Letters Live presented it as an actual historical document, but Snopes offers the real history behind this purported response from the Smithsonian to an amateur paleontologist who had repeatedly donated some interesting specimens:

In the spring of 1994, while a graduate student at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, Harvey Rowe wrote what has become known as the “Smithsonian Barbie” letter. In a fit of creativity, he tossed off this imagined response to a backyard digger, then shared his writing effort with a small circle of friends. One of those friends sent the piece to others, and thus Smithsonian Barbie entered into the world of e-lore.

It’s always nice to see these artifacts preserved for posterity. Keegan-Michael Key reads the apocryphal letter below:

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.