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August 29, 2014

where the buffalo roam

On Saturday, August 30, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will bring back the American bison in a new exhibit and habitat.  Zora and Wilma are not only beautiful animals, but they also serve as an important reminder about conservation and the Zoo’s inception. In 1887, American bison wandered the National Mall, helping to bring awareness to the endangerment of the species. Two years later, Congress passed legislation to found the National Zoo, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Bison roam around the Smithsonian Castle

Bison roam around the Smithsonian Castle, 1887-89

At Affiliations, we are wallowing in the excitement of welcoming these magnificent animals to Washington. So we decided to scan our herd of partners, to see where else the mighty American bison are roaming among Affiliate plains. We found a virtual stampede of bison content in Affiliateland!

– It seems appropriate to start in Wyoming, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. After all, it was “Buffalo Bill” Cody who offered the Smithsonian a herd of 18 bison in 1888. Painfully, the gift had to be refused for lack of space on the National Mall.  But today, you can find plenty of bison material at the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody. The Center’s museums house an impressive collection of art depicting “Nature’s Cattle,” including beautiful Audubon prints as well as Native artifacts made from the bison, and natural history specimens.

"Scout" at the Durham Museum in Omaha.

“Scout” at the Durham Museum in Omaha

– It was a Nebraska rancher who donated the very first bison to the Smithsonian’s collection, so it seems natural to travel on to Omaha to visit “Scout,” the beloved bison on view at the Durham Museum. At 7 ½’ high and 10’ long, this magnificent specimen helps to tell the important story of the Midwest’s history with the bison. As part of their bison interpretation, the Durham Museum uses the online resource Tracking the Buffalo from the National Museum of American History. Go ahead – take the site’s interactive test to guess what you could make from all the parts of the animal.

–  Some bison though, were revered beyond all that they could provide for Native people. A white bison is extremely rare, appearing once in approximately five million births. For this reason, these animals are considered sacred and possess great spiritual power to Native and non-Native people alike. Given this extreme rarity, where could you ever see one now?! The Montana Historical Society in Helena displays “Big Medicine,” a white buffalo who died in 1959. With blue eyes, tan hooves, and a brown topknot, there’s still plenty of reasons to revere the beauty of this extraordinary specimen today.

"White Medicine" on view at the Montana Historical Society

“Big Medicine” on view at the Montana Historical Society

– As rare as Big Medicine is, perhaps no bison has the hometown spirit of “On the Wind,” the massive bronze bison who greets visitors to the History Colorado Center in Denver. He’s been seen wearing bandannas when the stock show comes to town, a Broncos jersey during football season, and even a bike helmet during the recent Pro Challenge cycling race through the state. He’s also an important reminder of the stories told inside the Center about the historic relationship between bison and the peoples of the West.

– To travel even further back in time, check out the archeological remains of a gigantic Ice Age bison at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Excavated from the Colorado Rockies, this iconic specimen and its neighbors represent one of the most significant fossil discoveries ever made in Colorado.  How gigantic was it?  Twice the size of a modern bison!  How do we know?  It had a horn spread more than 7’ wide (compared with the 2 ½’ spread of the modern buffalo).

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“On the Wind” in Denver reflects the community

– If you’re finding it hard to imagine the size of a modern bison without actually seeing one, the South Dakota State Historical Society can help you out.  They’ve devised a fun 30-page coloring sheet called How Big is a Buffalo. Bison make quite an appearance in the Society’s education kits, which include objects, lesson plans, worksheets and ideas for additional activities. The Buffalo and Plains Indians, Lewis and Clark, and Archeology kits are just a few that explore all facets of this great American species.

– Lest you think the Affiliate bison only roam west of the Mississippi, think again.  The Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut is currently displaying The Bison: American Icon exhibition, which explores “the dramatic changes that occurred to the bison and its habitat, and to the people who depended on it for their daily existence.” At the end of September, the Museum invites visitors to take the Bison Challenge – an outdoor activity that will test your speed, strength, and senses against the performance of a bison.  Good luck!

Bison: American Icon exhibit on view at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum

The Bison: American Icon exhibit on view at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum

As the song goes, “oh give me a home… “  It’s gratifying to see how many Affiliate “homes” across America celebrate the iconic bison, and that the Smithsonian will soon provide two of them a home in the nation’s capital.

How does your museum interpret the mighty bison? (We’re looking at you Idaho and Oklahoma)  Tell us your stories!

 

(Footnote:  “bison” and “buffalo” are often used interchangeably.  Culturally this is correct; scientifically it is not.  Technically, bison and buffalo are not the same animal. Click here to compare their differences.)

 

buffalomeThe author is a National Outreach Manager in Smithsonian Affiliations, and a long-time buffalophile.

 

August 26, 2014

Smithsonian Science How Online Resources

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Smithsonian physical anthropologist Dr. Briana Pobiner with the skull of a sabertooth during a Smithsonian Science How webcast. Live webcasts are offered every month during the school year on Thursdays at 11 and 2 PM eastern time. Smithsonian photo by Wei Qian.

Smithsonian Science How is back!  Following a successful partnership with six Smithsonian Affiliates earlier this year, the popular webcast has returned with new dates and new topics.  These free, interactive, TV-style webcast programs will introduce middle school students to core science concepts through the lens of Smithsonian research and experts, providing students with positive STEM role models and a connection to science in their lives.  Explore the topics in the schedule by presenting a webcast at your location, using the classroom activities, and connecting the discussion to your own collections.

A schedule of the programs and list of the topics that will be presented is available here.

If you are a staff member at a Smithsonian Affiliate who would like to offer the program, please email us at affiliations@si.edu to sign up and receive resources, including strategies to share this program on social media.  Affiliate partners will be asked for information about their audiences, numbers of attendees and which webcasts will be offered.

July 29, 2014

Need an Exhibition Now?

Filed under: Behind the Scenes,Exhibitions,General,Resources,You Heard It Here First — Laura Hansen @ 12:18 pm

Sometimes the best laid plans change. If you need to connect with new audiences, bring back regular visitors, or generate press coverage, the following traveling exhibitions, all with complete promotional , registrarial, and educational support, are available soon:

 X-ray Vision: Fish Inside Out

August 30 – November 23, 2014

wideamericanearth

 

I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story

September 20 – November 30, 2014 and

December 20, 2014 – March 1, 2015

 

Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America

December 13, 2014 – February 8, 2015 and

February 28 – April 26, 2015

 

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Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight     3/28/15 to 6/21/15

 

The Evolving Universe      4/25/15 to 7/5/15

 

Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964      6/6/15 to 8/16/15

If you are interested in booking or getting more information on any of these exhibitions, please consult SITES website at sites.si.edu or call 202.633.3140 or email sites_schedule@si.edu

May 28, 2014

The Evolution of a Dino Hall

Photo courtesy Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian Institution.

Photo courtesy Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian Institution.

On April 28, 2014, the National Museum of Natural History’s Fossil Hall closed to the public to begin a 5-year renovation. The Hall will undergo the largest and most complex renovation in the Museum’s history. The new exhibition will showcase the Museum’s unrivaled fossil collection and present the most current scientific research.

New fossil displays and scientific stories, informed by the most current research, will give fresh meaning to ancient life. And new techniques for fossil display and collections management enable researchers to tell new stories with historic specimens. Visitors to the new hall will explore how life, environments, and ecosystems have interacted to form and change our planet over billions of years.

Many museums are in similar situations when determining how to upgrade a popular exhibition space. Meeting 21st-century technology demands, presenting the most current scientific research as well as incorporate the latest educational programs in an inviting and accessible way are all things to consider when reinvigorating an exhibition space.

At the 2014 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, Affiliate attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the NMNH staff organizing and executing the Fossil Hall renovation. Those in attendance will share their own experiences and take away ideas for reshaping a new story in old exhibits.

The session, The Evolution of a Fossil Hall: Bringing a Modern Lens to an Ancient Story, takes place at the National Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, June 25. All registered Affiliate attendees are welcome to join.

The panel consists of:
Kara Blond, Director of Exhibitions, National Museum of Natural History
Kathy Hollis, Paleobiology Collections Manager, National Museum of Natural History
Steve Jabo, Fossil Preparator, National Museum of Natural History

There’s still time to register to attend the Affiliations National Conference and discover something new!

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, or have an application in progress and would like to attend the Conference, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee for more information.

This exhibit sketch featuring a Triceratops and soaring pterosaur brings the world in which the T. rex lived to life, and is just one possibility of what visitors could see after the museum’s largest, most extensive exhibition renovation is complete. The Nation’s T. rex arrived at the National Museum of Natural History on April 15, and will be the centerpiece of the museum’s new 31,000-square-foot dinosaur and fossil hall, which is slated to open in 2019. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

This exhibit sketch featuring a Triceratops and soaring pterosaur brings the world in which the T. rex lived to life, and is just one possibility of what visitors could see after the museum’s largest, most extensive exhibition renovation is complete. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

February 25, 2014

Take Off with Shuttle Programs

The era of the space shuttle may have drawn to a close, but shuttles are finding new life in education at museums across the country. The retirement of the shuttle fleet presents unique educational and collaborative opportunities for a greater community of organizations to explore space history through STEM programs.

The Smithsonian and Smithsonian Affiliations community represent, in collections and educational programs, the entirety of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program, from its inception, through the history of its flights, to the commemoration of its triumphs and tragedies.  The National Air and Space Museum is home to Discovery, Smithsonian Affiliates California Science Center hosts Endeavour, and The Museum of Flight displays a full scale test shuttle to its visitors.  Several more Affiliates have significant collections related to the shuttle program; five are home to Challenger Learning Centers.

As so many Affiliates are working to interpret space history and the shuttle program, we’re facilitating projects to bring this group together to encourage sharing information and materials. To begin, we’re hosting a session at the Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums conference, April 11-14, 2014. In this session, three museums will present case studies demonstrating unique exhibition and educational plans for the retired space shuttle fleet with the goal of sharing experiences and resources that would benefit other museums interested in using the space shuttle program in their educational offerings.

California Science Center will discuss plans for the new facility that will house Endeavour and the immersive experiences intended to encourage creativity and innovation. The Museum of Flight will share the hands-on experience (not possible with decommissioned orbiters) that visitors have when they climb into the three-story full-body trainer at the museum. The National Air and Space Museum will talk about the installation and exhibition of Discovery at the Udvar-Hazy Center. We hope a lively discussion at Mutual Concerns will lead us to future collaborations. We’d like to hear our Affiliates ideas on how to connect: should we support a trip to Washington or connect digitally? Is this a topic that would resonate with museum visitors or spark imaginative school programming? Please contact us to take part, or join us June 23-25, 2014 at the Smithsonian Affiliations conference to continue the discussion.

September 24, 2013

Affiliates hear it first from SITES!

Celebrate your special connection to the Smithsonian. SITES is offering Smithsonian Affiliates first dibs on booking these BRAND NEW exhibitions before we market them widely. Contact us today to reserve your preferred booking period.

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project 

Credit:  Flip Shulke, South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, June 1973. DOCUMERICA Photography Project. National Archives.

Credit:
Flip Shulke, South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, June 1973. DOCUMERICA Photography Project. National Archives.

 Images of everyday life in 1970s America: disco dancing and inflation, protests and bell bottoms, gas shortages and suburban sprawl.  At a time when war and scandal wore on the national psyche, a burgeoning movement to protect our natural environment was gaining force. 

In 1971, inspired by the Farm Security Administration’s photography project of the 1930s and 40s, the newly established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the DOCUMERICA Photography Project to document environmental troubles and triumphs across the country.  About 70 photographers, including Flip Schulke, John Corn, Danny Lyon, and John H. White, were urged to capture “the human connection” to the environment, from small towns in coal country to urban streetscapes.  What emerged was a moving and textured portrait of America.  Capturing a rapidly changing world with surprising resonances to the present, DOCUMERICA culls some of the most striking photographs from a trove of thousands.

This unique exhibition is a collaboration between SITES and the National Archives and Records Administration which now holds the original DOCUMERICA photographic materials. You can browse through thousands of DOCUMERICA images on their website and Flickr.

90 color photographs, text panels, labels, and video
$7,000 per 10-week slot plus outgoing shipping
Approximately 350 running feet
Moderate security
Tour begins: As early as February 2015
Contact: Minnie Russell, 202.633.3160


Patios, Pools, and the Invention of the American Backyard

Benton Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1950. Archives of American Gardens

Benton Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1950. Archives of American Gardens

The suburban backyard is so familiar it feels like a permanent fixture of American life.  But it’s actually an invention of the 1950s that grew up along with the Baby Boomers. Produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens, Patios, Pools, and the Invention of the American Backyard is a fun, retro look at the concept of “outdoor living” that was created in post-World War II America.  From the mid-century rise of the suburbs and changes in home design to the popularity of DIY,  barbecues, and tiki parties, the exhibition explores trends in society that were reflected in the typical American backyard.  Topics include post-war garden design such as the Western, New Canaan, and Japanese styles, and the role of female landscape architects and tastemakers.  Patios, Pools, and the Invention of the American Backyard documents the new technologies and materials that led to inexpensive home pools and aluminum patio furniture, as well as the use of chemicals such as DDT and the resulting nascent environmental movement.  From Levittown to Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, don’t miss your chance as an Affiliate to reminisce about the American backyard.

Six double-sided, freestanding structures with reproductions of garden designs, vintage photographs, advertisement art, and text
$5,500 per 10-week slot plus outgoing shipping
1,000-1,500 square feet
Limited security
Tour begins:  March 21, 2015
Contact:  Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142

 

Beyond Bollywood:  Indian Americans Shape the Nation

A celebration of Hindu marriage vows renewal. Photo: Preston Merchant.

A celebration of Hindu marriage vows renewal. Photo: Preston Merchant.

 From builders of the first railroads in the American West to leaders of the digital economy, immigrants from the subcontinent of India and their descendants have made deep and lasting contributions to the American story.  Beyond Bollywood:  Indian Americans Shape the Nation, created in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center, explores the Indian American experience and this community’s vital political, professional, and cultural contributions to American life.  Weaving together stories of individual achievement and collective struggle, the exhibition uses photography, vibrant color and design, narrative prose, and engaging interactives, to tell this uniquely American story.  Beyond Bollywood is an inspirational look at the history and contributions of this community that merges India and America.  This exhibition tour is a wonderful opportunity for SI Affiliates to educate, honor, and engage this burgeoning population across the country!

 24 wall-hung panels with text, photographs, charts, maps and graphics; display thalis; audio station; videos on DVD; traveling trunk
$2,400 per 10-week slot plus outgoing shipping
150 running feet
Limited security
Tour begins:  May 2, 2015
Contact:  Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142

 
We hope you’ll take advantage of these early-bird notices only for Smithsonian Affiliates- another benefit of your being a partner to the Smithsonian!

September 6, 2013

Welcome to the Smithsonian, @Plimoth #mishoon

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Hand-made paddles to go along with the mishoon.

Today, September 6, 2013, Smithsonian Affiliate Plimoth Plantation delivered a traditional Mashpee Wampanoag #mishoon to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. (What is a mishoon? Read our previous blogs here and here) In a special ceremony at the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, Plimoth, Wampanoag, and Smithsonian staff came together and celebrated the gift of the mishoon to the collection.

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These amazing guys from the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation created the mishoon that was gifted to the Smithsonian.

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