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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.

 

 

October 2, 2014

The car of tomorrow… today (at an Affiliate in Pennsylvania)

Smithsonian Affiliations would like to thank Nancy Gates, Director of Marketing & Publicity at the Antique Automobile Museum of America Museum in Hershey, PA for this guest post.

Photo courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum

Image courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum

The enthusiasm and creativity that propelled Preston Tucker and his vision for the Tucker automobile is something that has captured many hearts.   Now, an extensivethe world’s largest- collection of 3 Tucker vehicles and other Tucker automobilia have found their new home at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum [AACAM] in Hershey, Pennsylvania from the David Cammack Collection.

Mr. Cammack, an avid Tucker collector, passed away in 2013 and provided his extensive Tucker Collection to the AACA Museum.  His desire was to have this collection open to the public, and the AACA Museum is honored to be the caretakers of this collection.

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A close-up look inside a Tucker automobile. Photo courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum.

The Cammack collection includes three 1948 Tucker vehicles, the factory Tucker test chassis, thousands of engineering drawings and blueprints, original Tucker parts, several engines as well as other artifacts and displays.   The vehicles include Tucker #1001 – the first ‘production’ prototype; Tucker #1022; and Tucker #1026 – the only existing Tucker built with an automatic transmission.

A total of 51 Tuckers were built by hand in Chicago, of which 47 are known to still exist.  (Even the Smithsonian has one.) Preston Tucker and his story were detailed in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 film, Tucker: The Man and His Dream which certainly helped bolster the public’s intense fascination with the “Car of Tomorrow.”

The Tucker collection is being housed permanently in a dedicated 5,200 sq. ft. gallery that showcases the cars and chronicles Preston Tucker’s life and history.   AACAM will host a Grand Opening on October 8th to debut Phase 1 of the exhibit, and will continue to provide additional interactive elements to enhance the exhibit over time.

“The AACA Museum intends to educate our guests about Tucker’s process and determination to create something special,” stated Mark Lizewskie, Executive Director.   “We listened carefully to input from Mr. Cammack and his family, and we were quite pleased to learn that it mirrored our vision.  The end result needed to be something that would complement the stunning displays that are already on view throughout the Museum.  Being a permanent display, we knew the Cammack Tucker Gallery had to be fantastic right from the start.”

Preston Tucker’s family, including grandson John Jr. and great-grandsons Mike and Sean Tucker, has also endorsed the project, expressing their willingness to act as historical advisors.  Sean Tucker was elated to be a crucial part of the exhibit.  “The effort being put forth by the AACA Museum team in the presentation of the Cammack Tucker collection is not only an honor to the Tucker family but also to the man who had an amazing passion to preserve the history of the Tucker story,” exclaimed Sean Tucker.  “As a member of the Tucker family it is truly a privilege to serve as a historical advisor to this exciting endeavor.”

Take a drive through history!  Tickets for the grand opening are available by calling 717-566-7100 ext. 100 or online at http://www.aacamuseum.org/events/night-at-the-museum/.

Preston Tucker's business card.  Photo courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum.

Preston Tucker’s business card. Photo courtesy of the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum.

 

Click here to read more about the Tucker in Smithsonian Magazine and to see a video with collector David Cammack.

September 30, 2014

another way to bring the Smithsonian to your door

Dr. Kurin visited the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia in November 2013. Photo courtesy NMAJH.

Dr. Kurin visited the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia in November 2013. Photo courtesy NMAJH.

You may have caught him in an Affiliate neighborhood in the past year—he’s been to more than 8 Affiliates—or read his new book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects. But did you know you can now learn from Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture anywhere you can download him?!

Based on Richard Kurin’s popular book, the Experiencing America course—the first in a new partnership between the Smithsonian and The Great Courses—reveals the stories behind iconic American artifacts, including President Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, George Washington’s sword, Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and even the Space Shuttle Discovery. Eye-opening and thought-provoking lectures share surprising takes on both familiar objects and little-known artifacts of profound importance to American history.

“When you’re in intimate proximity to one of these objects…you have a link to that sweeping history. History is not distant. It’s not a stranger.” –Richard Kurin

We are always on the lookout for ways to bring engaging, educational content from the Smithsonian to Affiliate neighborhoods and are delighted that Dr. Kurin has visited so many Affiliate communities. This new collaboration with The Great Courses offers yet another way to experience the Smithsonian.

“It’s been a real treat visiting Smithsonian Affiliates and giving public talks about The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects as well as having quality time to visit with staff . The hospitality of our colleagues and the welcoming audiences have been uplifting. And everywhere I’ve been, from the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, from the Polk Museum of Art in Florida to the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre, among others, I’ve connected Affiliate collections to Smithsonian icons, regional stories to national ones, generating a wonderful response.”

Dr. Kurin gives an animated talk at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh in March 2014.

Dr. Kurin gave an animated talk at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh in March 2014.

Affiliates interested in bringing Dr. Kurin to their communities should contact their Affiliations National Outreach Manager for more information.

Additional resources:

September 24, 2014

coming up in affiliateland in october 2014

The air is turning crisp and Affiliates continue to host top-rated programs all over the country.

PANAMA

The BioMuseo, designed by Frank Gehry, is ready to open in Panama.

The BioMuseo, designed by Frank Gehry, is ready to open in Panama.

National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas takes part in the celebration of the BioMuseo, which officially opens to the public in Panama City, 10.2.

TENNESSEE

Smithsonian Associates lead an exclusive tour Inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory featuring two Affiliates, the Museum of Appalachia and American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, 10.4-7.

FLORIDA

The Menello Museum of Art opens George Catlin’s American Buffalo exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Orlando, 10.4.

The South Florida Museum opens SITES The Evolving Universe exhibition in Bradenton, 10.25.

TEXAS

Affiliations director Harold Closter will announce the new affiliation with the Witte Museum in San Antonio, 10.7.

Affiliations director Harold Closter will announce the new affiliation with the Space Center Houston, 10/8.

MASSACHUSETTS

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Several Smithsonian staff members will attend the celebration to open Spark!Lab, an interactive exhibit and activity space resulting from a collaboration between the Berkshire Museum and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in Pittsfield, 10.10.

The Lowell National Historical Park will host an Innovators in Community Engagement Forum, including Sharon Reinckens from the Anacostia Community Museum, and fellow Affiliate, Cassie Chinn, from the Wing Luke Museum, in Lowell, 10.21-22.

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate hosts their first “Smithsonian Speaker Series” with a talk by fellow Affiliate Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Museum will also present public exhibition of student creations as part of the Smithsonian’s Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos astrophotography project, in Greenville, 10.28.

 

 

August 26, 2014

coming up in affiliateland in September 2014

Affiliates are “going back to school” with gusto this September!

VERMONT
Smithsonian Affiliations staff will participate in a ceremony with Senator Patrick Leahy to announce our new affiliation with the Sullivan Museum and History Center, the first Affiliate in Vermont, in Northfield, 9.2.

grizzly

new book by National Air and Space Museum educator

MAINE
The Abbe Museum welcomes Tim Grove, educator at the National Air and Space Museum, for a talk and signing of his new book A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, in Bar Harbor, 9.4.

ALABAMA
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute hosts the Save Our African American Treasures program organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Birmingham, 9.6.

FLORIDA
Chef and expert on Native cuisine Richard Hetzler presents a lecture and cooking demonstration at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in St. Augustine, 9.6.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences presents Septembers with the Smithsonian, which includes a public lecture by Craig Saffoe, Curator of Big Cats from the National Zoo, 9.20; and a concert and student workshops with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, in Daytona, 9.27.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum opens SITES Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America in Clewiston, 9.13.

TEXAS
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science hosts a workshop on Creating Collections with Young Children led by educators from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, in Dallas, 9.11-12.

George Jacob, Executive Director, Ellen Noël Art Museum (Odessa) will give a lecture on the meaning of WPA era murals as part of The Art of Tom Lea: Preserving Our National Heritage symposium hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., 9.24.

visitors enjoy Ramp It Up

Ramp It Up exhibition coming to Florida

ARIZONA
The National Museum of American History collaborates with the Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona State Museum to present the Let’s Do History professional development program for teachers in Tucson, 9.20, 27.

IDAHO
The Idaho Museum of Natural History opens SITES I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story exhibition in Pocatello, 9.20.

PENNSYLVANIA
Renee Anderson, textile conservator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will spend a week at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, in dialogue with staff on conservation projects and future collaboration opportunities, in Carlisle, 9.22-26.

CALIFORNIA
The Riverside Metropolitan Museum presents Smithsonian Week in Riverside featuring talks by experts from the National Museum of the American Indian, 9.24-27.  The Museum also opens Cahuilla Continuum, an exhibition featuring three objects from the National Museum of the American Indian, in Riverside, 9.26

gems

curator Jeff Post talks gems in Illinois

NATIONWIDE
More than 75 Affiliates will participate in Smithsonian Museum Day Live!, offering free admission to their museums, 9.27. Find a list of participating Affiliates here.

ILLINOIS
The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art hosts a talk by National Museum of Natural History curator Jeff Post on A Look Inside the Smithsonian’s Gem & Mineral Collection in Elmhurst, 9.28.

PANAMA
Smithsonian Affiliations staff will attend the opening ceremonies of the new BioMuseo when it opens to the public in Panama, 9.29.

2015 Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program- Apply now!

Since 2002, nearly 50 full-time staff members from Affiliate organizations have participated in the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program (VPP). It’s one of the biggest benefits of being a Smithsonian Affiliate and one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. Not only do our Affiliate colleagues get the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Smithsonian for two weeks, but the whole Smithsonian Affiliations team gets to meet Affiliate colleagues that we may not normally interact with. It gives all of us an amazing opportunity to network with each other and learn about our individual organizations.

Michelle Beumer from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science worked with the Q?rius team at the National Museum of Natural History in 2014.

Michelle Beumer from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science worked with the Q?rius team at the National Museum of Natural History in 2014.

The 2014 cycle of the VPP welcomed 6 Affiliate staff members who started in early April and wrapped up at the end of August. One of the most frequently asked questions is “do I have to be a curator or a senior-level staff member to participate?” and we always smile and reassure folks that any full-time staff member from an Affiliate organization may apply to participate. This year, we accepted six Affiliate colleagues to the program—a group programs coordinator, an assistant executive director, a director of programs and interpretation, a public programs manager, a digital project archivist, and a curatorial specialist. Everyone was looking to learn something different from the Smithsonian to take back to Affiliate organizations.

Here are a couple examples from 2014 Visiting Professionals that were featured on blogs from the Smithsonian offices each worked with:

Melanie Deer: Learning about Barcode Collections

JA Pryse: The Starting Line

JA Pryse from the Oklahoma Historical Society hard at work in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

JA Pryse from the Oklahoma Historical Society hard at work in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Do you have a project you’re working on that could use a little help from the Smithsonian? Is there a skill or subject matter you’d like to learn a little more about? We are now accepting applications for the 2015 Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program. The deadline is November 28, 2015.

Apply online and view the application process here.

If you have questions about the program, the application process or past visiting professional projects, contact Elizabeth Bugbee. If you would like to bounce potential project ideas for a future application, contact your National Outreach Manager.

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

 

blackWings2

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

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