August 26, 2016

Kudos September 2016

Congrats to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments!

Funding

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium announced that it has received $20,000 from the Cultural Leadership Partners Program from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Grant funds will support staff and related expenses that are dedicated to implementing the Museum & Aquarium’s strategic plan.

The Rockwell Museum was selected to receive a grant of $19,950 from the Edith Saxton Fund for Steuben County Youth Services, administered through the Community Foundation of the Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. The grant will support the museum’s Great Circle Program, an early childhood artist-in-residence program for first-grade students in the Bath Central School District. The program will be introduced to Bath schools in the spring 2017 semester.

In its 50th anniversary year, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $79 million in grants for 290 humanities projects and programs across the United States including the following Affiliate initiatives:

Colorado Historical Society-$200,000

Project Title: Colorado Digital Newspaper Project

Project Description: Digitization of 100,000 pages of Colorado’s historic newspapers published between 1859 and 1922, as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Arab American National Museum-$45,000

Project Title: The New Face of Arab America: Immigrant and Refugee Communities

Project Description: Research and planning for exhibitions, collections, and programming about Arab Americans’ experiences, culture, and history.

Montana Historical Society-$49,263

Project Title: Analysis and Optimization of the Mechanical Systems for Sustainable

Preservation of Collections

Project Description: Planning for sustainable preservation of art, artifacts, archival materials, photographs, and publications at the Montana Historical Society Museum and Research Center (MHS). These collections document Montana history and culture since 1865.

Ohio Historical Society-$200,000

Project Title: Ohio Digital Newspaper Project, Phase Four

Project Description: Digitization of 100,000 pages of Ohio newspapers, dating from 1836 to 1922, as part of the state’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Ohio Historical Society-$179,596

Project Title: Following in Ancient Footsteps: The Hopewell in Ohio

Project Description: Two one-week workshops for 72 schoolteachers on the ancient

Hopewell Indian culture of eastern North America.

National Museum of American Jewish History-$325,000

Project Title: 1917: Gateway to the 20th Century

Project Description: Implementation of a traveling exhibition and a virtual tour exploring how geopolitical events of 1917 fundamentally changed American Jewish identity.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West-$200,000

Project Title: From Prairie to Palace: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Europe

Project Description: Preparation for publication of materials related to the tours of Spain and Italy by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1887–1906.

February 4, 2016

visiting Affiliate artifacts… in Washington

In Affiliations, we like to say that our partnerships are two-way streets. We learn as much from our Affiliates as we share. Our Affiliate partners lend ideas, energy and expertise not only to the Smithsonian, but to each other. They also lend artifacts, and often, the very best, rare ones they have in their collections.

Recently, I took an afternoon out of the office to visit the handful of loans currently on view from our Affiliate partners to the Smithsonian. What better pleasure to run in to our Affiliate friends across the country than by discovering pieces from their collections here in Washington?!

A case featuring inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

A case featuring inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame

My first stop on this walkabout was the National Museum of American History and its newly-opened innovation wing. The Inventing in America exhibition features a case that honors inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, our Affiliate in Canton, OH. Visitors can marvel at a selection of inventions made by some of the 500 men and women who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and learn about inventions such as the first intravascular stent from 1984, 3M sticky notes, the first digital camera from 1975, and the 1976 Apple computer.

exhibitcase4_atNMAH.Jan2016

Descriptions of the inventions of Hall of Fame inductees

Notably, the case explains the invention of Kevlar, the high strength fabric (used for example, in bullet-proof vests) invented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1965 while she worked at DuPont. Luckily, our Delaware Affiliate, the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, has an extensive collection of material about Kevlar (including Kwolek’s papers) and lent two artifacts from their collection to bring her story to life.

I wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery to see its Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872 exhibition. At one time, Gardner worked for the famous photographer Matthew Brady before casting out as an influential documentarian in his own right. The profound Civil War-era images on view in these galleries are haunting still. Among them are important works from three Smithsonian Affiliates.

at_NPG2.Jan2016

Field of Antietam photo book on loan from the National Civil War Museum

The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA lent a photographic book titled the Field of Antietam from 1962. Before photomechanical reproduction, books like this one were made by printing each of the original photographs by hand, adhering them to mounts, and binding them as a book. Knowing this process makes the book feel all that more special.

Our Affiliate in Indianapolis, the Indiana Historical Society lent chilling images of the executions of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Notably, Alexander Gardner was the only photographer allowed to document the hangings, and his position on the wall of the prison grants a panoramic view that is searing and unforgettable.

Sketchbook of the War, on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society

Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society

Finally, the Western Reserve Historical Society, our Affiliate in Cleveland, OH also lent several works to the exhibition, including what feels like an incongruous view of a picnic in the woods. Alas, one discovers its main subject is Walt Whitman, who lived in Washington, D.C. for part of the war, writing letters for injured soldiers. It’s an unsettling yet bucolic image among the battlefields represented on the walls around it. Another impressive loan is Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War in two volumes. This large-scale folio published in 1866 features 100 images from Gardner’s vast collection that successfully distill the chronological narrative of the war in a meaningful and emotional way.

Finally, I ended my excursion at the Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian. This retrospective – her first major one – traces the artistic journey of WalkingStick, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Emerging from the art world of New York in the 1960-70s, the show traces her 40+ year career from early figurative work through her famous diptychs to recent paintings of monumental landscapes with symbolic references to their Native links.

Three Affiliates are represented in this exhibition as well. One of our newest, The Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY lent a diptych, Letting Go/From Chaos to Calm from 1990. These rich paintings of mixed dry media on sculptmetal juxtapose the figurative and abstract, the visual and visceral in stimulating and thought-provoking ways.

Visitors can leaf through a touchable version of WalkingStick's artist book, on loan from the Heard Museum.

Visitors can leaf through a touchable version of WalkingStick’s artist book, on loan from the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ (where the show will travel after Washington) lent two works. One canvas, Cardinal Points from 1983-85, uses acrylic paint and saporified wax to achieve a textured and active surface that rewards prolonged study. Her artist book on loan from the Heard contrasts depictions of herself with the kinds of stereotypical comments about her identity that continue to plague Native people. (Flip through the book here.)

Finally, the Denver Art Museum lent a commanding diptych of a different style, Farewell to the Smokies from 2007. This oil painting on wood blends two views of a majestic mountain landscape, with silhouettes of figures walking across their base. It’s a powerful reminder of Native history, and at the same time, of the indelible legacy of Native peoples on the American landscape.

Thank you Affiliates, for all the ways that you enrich the Smithsonian!

Farewell to the Farewell to the Smokies, 2007. Oil on wood panel, 36 x 72 x 1 in. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2008.14. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

Farewell to the Smokies, 2007. Oil on wood panel, 36 x 72 x 1 in. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2008.14. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

 

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January 27, 2016

Let’s welcome the Smithsonian’s newest museum to the family

Scheduled to open on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be the Smithsonian’s newest addition to its campus on the National Mall.  Activities to commemorate and welcome the new Museum are being planned around the Smithsonian, to include special events and exhibitions that celebrate the African American experience.  We’d like to get Affiliates in on the action too!

NMAAHC, November 2015.

NMAAHC, November 2015.

Is your organization planning anything special in September that might coincide with the celebration?  We’ve also been brainstorming additional ideas for Affiliates – could you host a speaker (even via webcast?), display African American objects from your collection, display a banner or postcard, help us blanket social media channels?  What other activities might be meaningful to your community that we can provide, or collaborate on, to make the opening of the Museum unforgettable?

Please send your ideas to affiliates@si.edu and thank you in advance!

March 24, 2015

A First Look at New Traveling Exhibitions from the Smithsonian

singerAmong other benefits, Smithsonian Affiliates learn about new Smithsonian traveling exhibitions first!  We’re pleased to bring you two exciting new exhibitions that will travel.  The first, Armchair Archaeology: Paul Singer’s Search for Ancient China from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery details the amazing story of collector Dr. Paul Singer, a psychiatrist by trade who amassed a wide-ranging Chinese art collection, now part of the Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian.

He collected most aggressively after he immigrated to the United States in 1939, making discoveries at art dealers, auction houses, and thrift stores alike. A self-taught, amateur scholar-collector who never learned the Chinese language, Singer managed to secure a research appointment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art due to his remarkable visual memory and extensive experience in the field.

singer2fsga The exhibition examines both archaeology and miniatures through topical groupings of objects dating from the Bronze  Age (circa 1800–300 BCE) to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644.)  In addition to exploring form, function, and meaning,  the ninety-five objects in the exhibition also represent a range of media, including jade, marble, fluorite, bone,  ivory, amber, gold, silver, bronze, and ceramics from earthenware to porcelain. This breadth reflects Singer’s  ambition to amass “a sequential development in all the materials worked by Chinese artists.”  For more information  and a pdf with an overview of the exhibition, Please email us.

BIG_11EDI_6621F310_13rz copy Across the Mall, from National Air and Space Museum, comes Art of the Airport Tower.  The exhibition is the  second to feature photographs from Museum Specialist, Carolyn Russo. The first, In Plane View, traveled to  many Affiliates over its multi-year run, and is currently on view at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  Both exhibitions feature stunning photographs of their subjects; Art of the Airport Tower shows these often overlooked utilitarian structures as beautiful art in our everyday lives.   It is a photographic journey to airports in the U.S. and around the world.
DXB_8150F2rz copy

Russo documents these important architectural structures to bring a heightened awareness to their simple beauty and call for their preservation.  She is available for lectures and public programs to venues hosting the exhibition.

Art of the Airport Tower includes historic towers such as the Ford Island Tower, which stood the day of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, as well as today’s heavily trafficked airports such as London’s Heathrow Airport. International towers–including several of the world’s tallest towers, one of which is the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand–are also highlighted. Captions describe the airport and the towers’ significance, and an introduction by F. Robert van der Linden tells the history of airport towers to contextualize Russo’s work.

This exhibit will attract a diverse audience, appealing to anyone with an interest in aviation, aerospace, art, photography, technology, history, culture, and architecture. Please let us know if you’re interested!

 

February 25, 2015

Brand New Exhibitions from SITES

Special thanks to our friends at SITES for this update.

SITES has been busy planning several new exhibits to meet the needs of our diverse host venues. Whether you are looking for a unique and affordable photography exhibit or an epic blockbuster, we’ve got the show for you. Here’s what’s new:

Apart_BikeV2_7x9Things Come Apart
Through extraordinary photographs, disassembled objects and fascinating videos, Things Come Apart reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions.  Images of dozens of objects explore how things are made and how technology has evolved over time.  For example, the exhibition juxtaposes the components of a record player, Walkman, and an iPod.  As a visual investigation of design and engineering, Things Come Apart celebrates classic examples of industrial design, technological innovation and more recent ideas about re-use.  The exhibition explores STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) concepts and provides an ideal environment for hands-on investigation.

Contents:  ~40 framed photographs, 4 disassembled objects, video content, and educational component
Fee:  $9,900 per 12-week slot plus outgoing shipping
Size:  200-250 running feet
Security:  Moderate

Tour begins: fall 2016

Contact:  Ed Liskey, liskeye@si.edu, 202.633.3142SWcostumeSITES

Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Warsâ„¢ and the Power of Costume
Presenting 60 of the finest hand-crafted costumes from the first six blockbuster Star Wars films, the exhibition uncovers the challenges, the intricate processes and the remarkable artistry of George Lucas, the concept artists and costume designers. Featured costumes include the robes of Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker; the yak hair and mohair costume of the Wookiee Chewbacca; the elaborately detailed gowns of Queen Amidala, and many more of your favorite Star Wars characters. Learn more about Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen  here.

NARA-cars Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project
Modeled after the Farm Security Administration’s photography project of the 1930s and 40s, DOCUMERICA was launched in 1971 by the newly established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to document the environmental troubles and triumphs across the country.  What emerged was a moving and textured portrait of America in a rapidly changing society. Includes  90 framed, color photographs and a video. Learn more about Searching for the Seventies here.

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard
From the beauty of postwar garden design to the history of the rise of the suburbs and the environmental movement, Patios & Pools is a groovy look back at how the mid-century backyard became an extension of the house: a “room” designed for relaxing, recreation, cooking, and entertaining. Featuring period photographs, retro advertisements, pop culture references, and influential landscape designs. Learn more Patios & Pools  here.5-farnham2

Looking to fill an opening in your calendar? These exhibitions are available for immediate booking:

IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas
Available: 7/25/15-10/4/15 (reduced fee:  $2,000) and 10/24/15-1/3/16

The Evolving Universe
Available: 10/3/15-1/31/16 and 2/20/16 to 5/15/16

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard
Available: 12/19/15-2/28/16

I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story
Available: 12/19/15 – 2/28/16 and 3/19/16 – 5/29/16

Contact us at sites_schedule@si.edu or 202-633-3140.

October 29, 2014

call for ideas for the 2015 Affiliations Conference

Affiliate staff enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour at the 2014 Affiliations conference.

Affiliate staff enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour at the 2014 Affiliations conference.

Mark your calendars now for the annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, June 15-17, 2015.  The conference strives to engage Affiliate and Smithsonian colleagues in dialogues about current issues, best practices and collaboration potential.

Most conference sessions feature both Affiliate and Smithsonian staff, and highlight timely and relevant topics facing the field today.  The staff of Affiliations is in full planning mode now, and would love to hear from you.  Below are some topics we have been discussing as possible sessions and/or tours.  What would you add to the list?  Can you lend expertise or perspective to any of the topics?

Thanks in advance for helping us plan the best conference possible!

Ideas under consideration as tours or sessions:

  • Millenials – how to attract and engage them, and make them members.
  • Branding – Ideas for Affiliates as brand ambassadors, and as SI highlighted content
  • Visiting Professional alumni – what did they do with their SI experience?
  • Music Initiative – what SI and Affiliates are doing, and how can we do it together?
  • Connecting art and science
  • Mentorship writ large
  • Cocktail history as a hot new programming tool
  • Crowdsourced projects – can we grow them together?

If you have other ideas to share for the 2015 conference, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee at bugbeee@si.edu.

October 6, 2014

let’s think like inventors

Smithsonian Affiliations would like to thank Kate Preissler, Digital Media Marketing Manager at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for this guest post.

On October 11, the Berkshire Museum will become the fourth museum in the nation to host Spark!Lab, an exhibition developed at the Smithsonian Institution by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History (NMAH). By opening Spark!Lab we are joining with the Smithsonian in a nation-wide initiative to engage young people in acts of invention.

Staff at the Berkshire Museum get a chance to test out the Spark!Lab activities during a special training with Lemelson Center colleagues.

Staff at the Berkshire Museum get a chance to test out the Spark!Lab activities during a special training with Lemelson Center colleagues.

To prepare, colleagues from the Lemelson Center in Washington D.C. joined the Berkshire Museum staff for several days of training. A significant portion of the training had our staff trying out the activities that will be available in Spark!Lab. These activities, primarily engineering and design challenges, pose problems from the real world for visitors to solve. There are no right or wrong answers to Spark!Lab’s challenges; you may invent a solution that is completely different from my solution, yet we have both succeeded by solving the problem. These activities show young people that every brain is capable of creating something totally new and that by coming up with new ideas, we can make the world a better place for ourselves and each other.

As we tried out wind tunnels and tipping tables, it occurred to me that everyone, not just young people, probably craves opportunities to be inventive all the time. Individuals from all departments– marketing, security, visitor’s services, education – became deeply absorbed in the challenges presented. The mood in the room ran the gamut from laughter during experimentation to intense concentration on final designs, and many people had to be torn from the stations when it was time to move on. When we tested the activities with kids, the results were the same – no one wanted to leave!

The author can't look at her desk anymore without seeing all of the inventions that people devised to make life easier.

The author can’t look at her desk anymore without seeing all of the inventions that people devised to make life easier.

Until I encountered Spark!Lab and the Lemelson Center, ‘inventive creativity,’ especially as a skill set that could be learned, practiced, and honed, was not an idea to which I had given a lot of thought. So although learning about the activities and understanding what will be physically happening in our new space was valuable, it was the other aspects of our training that helped me to really understand the potential that Spark!Lab holds for altering perceptions and empowering the young people who visit the Museum.

During training we learned about many different inventors; inventions which have changed the course of history; and inventions which have made our lives a little easier in subtle ways. I spent the next few weeks seeing inventions everywhere. For instance, I sat at my desk and couldn’t help but notice that each of the items in front of me represented an idea from an actual person who saw a problem in need of a solution. And I don’t think I was the only one. My colleague Lesley Ann Beck came back to the second half of the training with a story about opening a pizza box and realizing that someone, somewhere, had gotten so frustrated with squished pizza and cheese stuck to lids, that they invented a small, round piece of plastic to keep the box lid from denting in, saving the pizza from damage. Once we started thinking about inventions, we couldn’t stop.

Spark!Lab under construction at the Berkshire Museum - a space which took inventive thinking to develop.

Spark!Lab under construction at the Berkshire Museum – a space which took inventive thinking to develop.

As construction of our Spark!Lab space in the Museum takes shape, this new lens has allowed me to see how our architects and staff have used inventive thinking to create a space that has to adapt to different needs, different audiences, and changing activities. It’s exciting to have a space for Spark!Lab that is the result of the creative inventiveness we’re trying to instill there.

We also had a discussion about ways to reinforce inventive thinking in kids, which gave me the chance to think back to my childhood and especially to my father, who built my sisters and me a workbench and encouraged us to create using wood scraps from his own projects. For years I used a Walkman held together by a wood nail because he loved to fix things instead of throwing them out. I thought about the pulley system he had rigged for our birdfeeder, which made it easy to fill but hard for squirrels to get to. I realized that my dad is one of those people who travels through the world with the eyes of an inventor. I also realized that not everyone has a person in his or her life to model and encourage these traits – but that by opening this space and staffing it with trained facilitators, our Museum could play that role for many.

You might now be asking, what do you mean when you say “the eyes of an inventor”? In the training, I wondered that too, and for me the best answer came from one of our facilitators, Michelle DelCarlo, Spark!Lab National Network Manager. She described inventors as people who encounter a problem and react by thinking “I can make this better.” With the mindset of an empowered inventor, problems become sources of motivation, not roadblocks or excuses to give up. So with that thought, I can’t wait to be a part of Spark!Lab because, really, what a wonderful world we could live in if each of us approached our days with inventors’ brains – not just seeing the problems, but feeling confident in our ability to solve them.

Spark!Lab will provide a space for young people in the Museum's community to think like inventors.

Spark!Lab will provide a space for young people in the Museum’s community to think like inventors.

 

 

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