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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 29, 2014

let’s source the crowds

While it may seem like a contemporary term, many museums, including the Smithsonian, have been using crowdsourcing as a strategy for years.  At the Smithsonian, we’ve been at it since 1849, when the first Secretary, Joseph Henry, used 150 weather observers all over the U.S. to contribute data, an activity that led to the formation of the National Weather Service.

The Smithsonian still sources the power of our audiences today on topics ranging from tree leaves and gardens to immigration and stories from rural America.  We’d love to hear from you!  Please contribute your voice, or let your visitors know, about the projects below.  Do you have a crowdsourcing initiative you’d like to share?  Let us know in the comments.

SI Transcription Center– Crowdsourcing transcriptions of primary source documents https://transcription.si.edu/

Leafsnap – Crowdsourcing tree images for mobile app http://leafsnap.com/

worksgarden

crowdsourced image of kohlrabi growing in the garden of The Works, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Newark, Ohio.

Encyclopedia of Life – Crowdsourcing species-related media http://eol.org/info/contribute

Our American Journey (National Museum of American History) – Crowdsourcing oral histories of American experience of migration and immigration  http://my.si.edu/oaj/story

Community of Gardens (Smithsonian Gardens)- Learn from the ways that gardens and gardeners of all backgrounds have shaped America’s landscape.  https://communityofgardens.si.edu/

Agriculture Innovation and Heritage Archive (National Museum of American History) – Think about how transformations in American agriculture have affected you, your family, your community, and the environment.    http://americanhistory.si.edu/agheritage/how-to-participate

Stories from Main Street  (Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service)– Crowdsourcing stories about rural America  – http://www.storiesfrommainstreet.org/

Ask Smithsonian (Smithsonian Magazine) – Try to stump us with a question about anything.  Really, anything.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/ask-smithsonian/ask-form/?no-ist

Will to Adorn (Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage) – Listen to and contribute your stories about the choices you make everyday when you dress for school, work, fun, or special occasions. http://www.festival.si.edu/2013/Will_to_Adorn/GetTheApp/

eMammal (National Museum of Natural History) – Work with researchers to document mammals using camera traps. http://emammal.wordpress.com/about/

Finally, here’s a look at some spectacular online exhibitions created by crowdsourcing:

from the crowdsourced exhibition, A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America

from the crowdsourced exhibition, A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America

A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center) – The first crowdsourced gallery of the Asian Pacific American experience around the world as lived on one day.  http://smithsonianapa.org/life2014/

My Space Shuttle Memories (National Air and Space Museum) Did you ever see a space shuttle launch or land in person?   http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/moving-beyond-earth/memories.cfm

Portraits of Planet Ocean (National Museum of Natural History) – Stunning photo gallery of the world’s magnificent oceans by oceanographers and enthusiasts.   https://www.flickr.com/groups/portraitsofplanetocean/

 

 

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).

HistoryCObison

“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

pobiner-webcast-smithsonian

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.

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

February 23, 2014

Latino Young Ambassadors + Affiliates = next generation of leaders

The Smithsonian Latino Center’s Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) is a national program for graduating high school seniors aimed at fostering the next generation of Latino leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities via the Smithsonian Institution and its partners. YAP is a college preparatory and leadership program encouraging participants to explore various academic and career opportunities through the lens of the Latino experience.

young-ambassadors-program-sealStudents are selected to travel to Washington, D.C. for a week-long seminar at the Smithsonian, followed by a four-week  internship in museums and other cultural institutions in 17 cities across the United States and Puerto Rico, including 10 Affiliates.

Do you know a Latino teen who aspires to be a leader in the arts, sciences or humanities? 

Who? Graduating high school seniors with a commitment to the arts, sciences, or humanities as it pertains to Latino communities

What? Week-long, all-expenses paid training and leadership seminar and a four-week internship with a $2,000 program stipend

Where?  Washington D.C. and internships in 17 cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico

When? June 22-August 1, 2014

Why? Opportunity to explore various career paths, embrace your own cultural heritage, and gain practical and leadership skills and intellectual growth

Application deadline: April 7, 2014

YAPFor more information, to view the promotional video, and to apply visit: http://latino.si.edu/programs/youngambassadors.htm

With questions: Email SLCEducation@si.edu

 

 

And thanks to the 2014 YAP Affiliate partners!
Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
California Science Center (Los Angeles, CA)
Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach, CA)
Chabot Space and Science Center (Oakland, CA)
Miami Science Museum (Miami, FL)
Adler Planetarium (Chicago, IL)
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (San Juan, PR)
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Fort Worth, TX)
International Museum of Art and Science (McAllen, TX)
The Museum of Flight (Seattle, WA)

 

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