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Why The Jeffersonian's Operations Make No Sense To Bones Fans

In Fox's "Bones," Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) represent a unique interaction between the fictional Jeffersonian Institute and the FBI. The Jeffersonian itself is a science and research facility that focuses on anthropology, forensics, history, and ancient artifacts. While working at the Jeffersonian Institute, Dr. Brennan often uses her forensics skills to aid the FBI in their efforts in investigations.

As most residents of Washington D.C. surely know, the Jeffersonian is actually based on the real-life Smithsonian Institution. According to its official website, the Smithsonian was founded in 1846 with the aim of increasing and diffusing knowledge. Much like the interactions between government agents and researchers at the Jeffersonian in "Bones," the real Smithsonian has worked with the FBI for the past several decades. In fact, the Smithsonian team of anthropologists and forensic scientists often work in tandem with various federal agents (via Smithsonian), implying that at least some parts of "Bones" are based on a true story.

With that in mind, it seems like several fans have some questions when it comes to the workability of the fictional repository of knowledge and research.

Fans are confused as to how the Jeffersonian stays funded

In a post to the r/Bones subreddit, u/dangerouslyaware began to question the nature of the Jeffersonian Institute. In the post, this user brought up two noteworthy moments in the latter part of the series. In Season 8, Episode 12 ("The Corpse on the Canopy"), Christopher Pelant (aka The Hacktivist) (Andrew Leeds) manages to completely drain the budget of the Jeffersonian Institute. In another scene, scientist Jack Hodgins (T. J. Thyne) complains to Dr. Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor) that he can't keep all of their technology because of a lack of funding. 

For this user, these scenes simply don't make much sense when applied to a research facility with such an interesting history. This user wrote, "Nothing changes after that episode? There are no budget cuts? Everyone stays chill? They continue experimenting? And, in fact, they add a new intern?" Interestingly, this user also pointed out another inconsistency. Three seasons before Pelant steals the group's money, the staff is forced to fire three interns, blaming it on "the economy." However, this storyline appears to ignore the Jeffersonian's largest benefactor, the Cantilever Group.

As a refresher, the Cantilever Group is the Hodgins family's enterprise and the primary funder of the Jeffersonian. According to Hodgins, the group once had a higher GNP than all of Europe. Needless to say, that's a lot of money! Noting this fact, another user wrote that they were also confused by the nature of the Jeffersonian's funding. "I imagine that there would be separate accounts and funds earmarked for the Cantilever Group that Hodgins didn't actually own and couldn't touch," u/smaniby wrote, pointing out a number of logical issues with Hodgins having direct access to such sizable funds.

Understandably, this has caused a number of people to ask about the Smithsonian's actual budget.

The real Smithsonian's budget is also sizable

U/Electronic-Metal-905 also expressed some doubts about the workability of the Jeffersonian's funding. "Cantilever Group was supposed to be something like the third biggest corporation in the country. You can't just say oops it got hacked and closed without it affecting the whole country," they continued. "That's thousands of jobs lost and the stock market gone for a toss and simply can't be done. The Jeffersonian would absolutely be suffering after losing one of its largest donors."

According to Forbes, the real-life inspiration for the Jeffersonian Institute, the Smithsonian, had around $1.7 billion in funds in 2020. This breaks down to around $1.1 billion in government funding, $183 million in donations, and $507 million from additional sources. As clarified by the Smithsonian, 62% of their budget comes from federal funds which include congressional appropriations, federal grants, and contracts. The remaining part of the Smithsonian's budget comes from trusts or non-federal funds like endowments, donations, and merchandise such as entertainment, concession stands, and branded products.

Contrastingly, it doesn't immediately appear obvious that the Jeffersonian receives a similar level of support from the government, a note that probably only serves to deepen confusion about how the fictional facility stays open for so long. Either way, fans of "Bones" are still trying their very best to understand how the Jeffersonian stays operational.