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April 28, 2011

Think Globally

Smithsonian Affiliations staff recently met with Heather Berry, manager of International Programs at the American Association of Museums to learn more about their Museums and Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA.) MCCA is a program that connects US communities with people abroad using museums as the catalysts and facilitators for connections and collaborations.

The projects are proposed by participating institutions with their international partners and matching funding is available. Heather agreed that working with Smithsonian Affiliates is a wonderful opportunity. “We think Affiliates, which are found all over the country, would make great partners. The diversity of the Affiliates’ missions and collections would be a great fit for international collaboration.”

While visiting the Toh-Atin art gallery in Navajo Nation. US and Taiwan team members talk about weaving techniques

Previous partners  include the World Awareness Children’s Museum in Glens Falls, New York who worked with counterparts at the Museo de la Ciudad in Ecuador. The middle schoolers involved used art and video conferencing to explore challenges faced by their own communities. They produced “traveling culture kits” which can be shared with other middle schools.

The National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City worked with the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder to develop an online application that will provide improved access to collections of tribal objects. The application, iShare, enabled both groups to provide additional information about the objects, information not traditionally captured.

To her colleagues from the National Taiwan Museum and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Navajo Nation Museum Curator Clarenda Begay explains the use, meaning, and reasons she selected certain items to be included on iShare

“Forging cross-cultural ties is critical to creating a sustainable, prosperous world,” said AAM president Ford W. Bell. “Museums, in partnership with their local communities, are taking a leading role towards that end thanks to the MCCA program and our partners in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”

To learn more about how Affiliates can take part in this program, AAM staff will be available at this year’s Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference. Or you may contact MCCA staff at mcca@aam-us.org to be added to the emailing list for the next cycle. For more information, visit http://www.aam-us.org/mcca/ or follow MCCA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mcca.aam.

April 27, 2011

what’s the big [education] idea?

In keeping with this year’s education theme at the annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, we’ll be hosting a series of roundtable discussions in a session titled “What’s the Big Idea: Revitalizing Education Through Partnership and Collaboration.” 

 This dynamic session will follow a format well-known to most  museum professionals.  Smithsonian colleagues from across the Institution will present at their tables for 10 minutes each about their current projects, with the express goal of encouraging ideas for collaboration or input from Affiliates.  After the talks, all participants at the table – Smithsonian and Affiliate staff – will be encouraged to brainstorm ideas and next steps on ways to participate, partner, or stay in touch as projects develop.  During the last half hour, we’ll ask a representative from each table to “share out” so everyone in the room can reap the benefits of every table’s discussion.

Each table represents a theme that Smithsonian educators are thinking and talking about at our own meetings and workshops.  The Smithsonian educators form an array of content across art, science and history, and will be addressing the following themes:

  • Education technology
  • Dedicated spaces for education
  • Citizen Science/Citizen History programs
  • Early Childhood Education in museums
  • You + Your Schools + the Smithsonian. 

Affiliate conference attendees are encouraged to consider the project descriptions attached here, and to join that table that best aligns with their home museum’s strengths and interests.

We anticipate a lively and fruitful discussion, and hope to see you there!    

April 26, 2011

coming up in Affiliateland, May 2011

Sliding into summer with lots of activity!

FLORIDA:
The South Florida Museum opens SITES’ Hidden Life of Ants in Bradenton, 5/7.

PENNSYLVANIA:
Smithsonian researcher Warren Perry presents a lecture on “William E. Doster’s Defense of the Lincoln Conspirators” at the Historic Bethlehem Partnership in Bethlehem, 5/8.

MONTANA:
Dr. Rick Potts, Director of the Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History will lead a workshop and lecture focused on human evolution at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, 5/13.

CONNECTICUT:
Hunt Hill Farm celebrates Steinway in May with Anna Karvellas, project director for the Steinway Diaries exhibition at the National Museum of American History, presenting a lecture on “The William Steinway Diary,” 5/14.  Smithsonian Scholar Robert Wyatt will speak on Steinway artists past and present in New Milford, 5/21.

CALIFORNIA:
Riverside Metropolitan Museum celebrates “Smithsonian Week” in Riverside, 5/19.

TEXAS:
The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future will display a painting by Lois Mailou Jones, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, in its exhibition, Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color in Dallas, 5/21.

 

affiliates collaborate to Spark! imaginations

Despite being the world’s largest museum complex, one of the challenges at the Smithsonian Institution remains taking the unique offerings away from the invisible walls of the National Mall and “encourage inventive creativity in young people” who may never visit Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has met this opportunity head on by launching the Spark!Lab Outreach Kit Project, through a distribution of six organizations including five Affiliate museums. This collaboration is seen as an effort to extend the reach of Spark!Lab—the center’s hands-on invention activity center—beyond the boundaries of the National Museum of American History. The kits will be designed to replicate some of the most popular Spark!Lab activities and provide opportunities for partner museums to connect their collections and exhibitions to themes of invention and innovation.

The Spark!Lab kits will test and engage students in a variety of interactive stations including “Shaping Space,” a structure building activity; “Now What?,” a problem-solving game; “Snap Circuits,” which gives visitors the chance to use real circuit components to create and test their own electric inventions; and “Soundscapes,” which encourages children to use items, including musical ramps, xylophone staircases and bridges with bells, to create music and sound pathways for marbles. The “Spark!Lab Jr.” program helps learners under the age of 5 develop inventive thinking and problem-solving skills. 

“At the Lemelson Center we believe that a playful approach to problem solving can spark new ideas and lead to great inventions,” said Arthur Molella, director of the center. “This outreach project allows us to reach children outside of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and inspire a new generation of inventive Americans.”

During this pilot program, Spark!Lab kits will be featured at the following Smithsonian Affiliate museums-the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Annmarie Garden in Solomons, Maryland, the Western Science Center in Hemet, California, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

“Science Museum Oklahoma is excited to partner with the Smithsonian and offer a new challenge to our younger guests!” said Suzette Ellison, vice president of Programs and Interpretation at the museum.

An educator at Annmarie Garden inventing with a Spark!Lab kit

“We are very excited to introduce the Spark Lab kits in our classrooms,” said Jaimie Jeffrey, Education Director at Annmarie Garden. “As an arts center, teaching children to apply creative problem-solving skills and innovative thinking to everything they do is paramount for us. These kits are great reinforcements for these strategies in all of our kids’ and family programs.”

The Lemelson Center expects to develop an online Spark!Lab “tool kit” based on evaluations and ‘lessons learned’ from the in-museum activity kits. The on-line content will outline Spark!Lab’s educational philosophy, mission, and vision, and will include simple at-home activities and a list of additional resources for parents and kids.

The Spark!Lab Affiliate program is supported by a gift from the LEGO Children’s Fund.  And be sure to meet the Spark!Lab staff at the annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference in June.

April 25, 2011

kudos Affiliates! May 2011

Bravo to the five Affiliates awarded IMLS’ 2011 American Heritage Preservation grants!

were five of 54 museums nationally to receive the  grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium received a $2,948 grant to conserve native son and nationally known artist Alexander Simplot’s painting of the steamboat Virginia titled Steamboat Taking on Wood. Plimoth Plantation received $1,153 to preserve and protect house the museum’s 130-item rare book collection which provides perspectives on both the seventeenth century and the legacy of the English colonists and native Wampanoag people living in seventeenth-century Plymouth Colony. The Senator John Heinz History Center received $2,975 to conserve the Adam Saam discharge paper, which is believed to be the only surviving example of the elaborate pre-printed form of discharge paper from the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Wing Luke Asian Museum will use their $3,000 grant to conserve the painting, Rock Island Dam, by Japanese-American Painter Takuichi Fujii. The Wisconsin Maritime Museum received $3,000 to purchase equipment to record temperature and relative humidity levels in its newly expanded museum facility and on the submarine USS Cobia, a National Historic Landmark vessel.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust has awarded Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (Fishers, Indiana) $100,000 to support the 1863 Civil War Journey Exhibit.

The Arizona State Museum (Tucson, Arizona) was awarded a $400,000 grant from the federal preservation competition Save America’s Treasures. The project entitled Saving Woven Wonders of American Heritage will rehouse the most comprehensive collection of Southwest Native American woven basketry in a climate-controlled space, which will include visitor visibility, to mitigate threats from light, temperature, humidity, insects, and abrasion.

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum (Manitowoc, Wisconsin) will be part of a $39,550 Joint Effort Marketing grant presented by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to market a new multi-community sales promotion, “Wisconsin’s Schooner Coast Passport.

April 13, 2011

NASA + Smithsonian + Smithsonian Affiliates = Blissful retirement for space artifacts

Space Shuttle Endeavour is moments away from touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, bringing to a close the STS-113 mission to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

On April 12, 2011 NASA announced new homes for three space shuttles soon to be retired from the space program at the end of this summer. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center   will receive the Discovery and the California Science Center  a Smithsonian Affiliate in Los Angeles, California,  will receive the Endeavour.  

But NASA isn’t just retiring the gigantic shuttles.  Hundreds of space artifacts are also included in the retirement plan and several more Smithsonian Affiliates will have the honor of exhibiting them.   

 These NASA objects join Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) artifacts already on long-term loan to these Affiliates and enjoyed daily by museum goers across the country.

The Saturn V Rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Photo courtesy U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

  • At the Adler Planetarium, visitors can see the Gemini 12 Space Capsule flown by Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin in 1966.
  • The Aerobee 350 Sounding Rocket has recently been conserved at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and will be on view for visitors to the museum soon. 
  • From space food to drawings to space suits, The Museum of Flight has delighted visitors to the museum with NASM artifacts for many years.
  • The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is home to the Saturn V Rocket and many other artifacts such as space instruments and technical devices.

 Of course, the history of the American space program and many more historic artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum can be can be seen in numerous Smithsonian Affiliate museums from Portage, Michigan to San Diego, California.  There are 168 Smithsonian Affiliates in 40 states, D.C., Panama and Puerto Rico.  More than 1,000 artifacts are currently on view at Affiliates across the country just waiting for visitors to experience the Smithsonian in their own neighborhood.  Visit a Smithsonian Affiliate in your community today!

Gemini 12 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Photo courtesy Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.

 

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