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September 27, 2012

SI-Q: What tells stories of life and death but never speaks a word? #SeriouslyAmazing

By Cara Seitchek, Writer, Smithsonian Affiliations. Part of our Seriously Amazing Affiliates blog series.

Russell in the field with other Citizen Scientists. Photo courtesy Danielle Leland, riverside Metropolitan Museum.

“The only single unambiguous personal record of a scientist’s research is in his field book. They can contain stories of life and death that are fascinating,” said Rusty Russell, collections manager for the U.S. National Herbarium located in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).

On most days, Russell is surrounded by the quiet of the Herbarium and many shelves of dried plant specimens that record centuries of expeditions around the world. In his 30+ years working for the Department of Botany, Russell has brought order and innovation to these collections – creating a bar coding system, scanning specimens into a digital library, and placing botanists’ field books online.

For eight years, Russell has been bringing his encyclopedic knowledge of plants to Smithsonian Affiliate Riverside Metropolitan Museum (RMM), creating citizen science programs that take residents into the field and help them build their own collections of indigenous plants.

“Our citizen science weeks came about in an interesting way,” said James Bryant, RMM curator and a former student of Russell’s. “I discovered some specimens in our collections that had been collected by Edmund Jaeger, who also collected for the Smithsonian. When I contacted Rusty, he pulled the NMNH specimens and we started talking about the history of the mountains in this area and how they had been affected by climate change.”

Russell works in the field to bring Citizen Science Week to Riverside, California. Photo courtesy Danielle Leland, Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

The challenge of exploring an area that had not been studied for 70 years intrigued both men and soon, Russell was leading a team to explore the Santa Rosa – San Jacinto Mountains slopes that Jaeger had studied. This initial field trip grew into a larger program that brings California residents into the field to make their own observations and field notes. Every spring, Russell travels back to Riverside to lead a week-long citizen science program.

In one program, the week focused on wildflowers and how floral areas transition to the nearby desert. Activities included short hikes, making pressed flowers, workshops, and lectures, all designed to increase citizen awareness and appreciation of the region’s environments.

Russell’s visits to Riverside have increased the community’s awareness of the importance of their environment. The City of Riverside is now planning a city-wide citizen science project for its open spaces and was just awarded a California State Parks grant for $780,000 to build a nature center that will be the base for even more citizen science projects. “Rusty’s prominence in the field and our relationship with the Smithsonian contributed to Riverside receiving the grant,” said Bryant. “Citizen Science Week has been a catalyst for many spinoffs.”

These spinoffs include an invitation for Bryant and Russell to speak at a conference at the California Academy of Sciences, which is exploring how to create a state-wide citizen science program. The University of California, Riverside provides scholars and experts to serve as the research arm of the citizen science efforts, while nearby Redlands company ESRI has worked with RMM to create a geographic information system software for digital field notes, which is used by a wide network of volunteers who document plant changes and responses to climate change. “Our citizen scientists use this to collect and provide this data to scientists like Rusty,” said Bryant. “It’s sparked a revival of interest in this area.”

Russell in the classroom in Riverside, California. Photo courtesy Danielle Leland, Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Both Russell and Bryant agree that RMM’s active relationship with the Smithsonian has benefits for both institutions. “Riverside is also helping the Smithsonian,” said Bryant. “We have helped the Smithsonian establish a presence in our community, and as a result we are providing the Institution new research data, programs and new members.”

The nice thing about this project is that it brings smaller places together with the Smithsonian,” said Russell. “Many people may not have the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., but through this kind of outreach, the Smithsonian plays an ongoing role in this community.”

September 25, 2012

2013 National Conference: Connect, Collaborate, Engage!

Join us in Washington, D.C., June 10-12, 2013! Each year we try to raise the bar a little higher and create an unforgettable conference where unexpected connections are made, new collaborations are forged, and new ideas are discovered.  

As we begin planning the 2013 Affiliations National Conference, we’d like to hear from our Affiliates. Tell us what sessions you’d like. Is there a behind-the-scenes tour you’d like to see? Is there a Smithsonian expert you’re dying to hear from? Is there a topic you’d like to hear more about? We want to know! Email Elizabeth Bugbee with your ideas.

Perhaps you have a session idea of your own you’d like to present? We are opening up the conference to Affiliate session proposals. Click here for our Session Proposal Form.  

Please follow these guidelines when submitting a proposal:

  1. Session idea must be a collaborative opportunity which aims to reach out to larger, more diverse audiences.
  2. Session idea must align with one of the Smithsonian’s grand challenges:
    Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
    Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
    Valuing World Cultures
    Understanding the American Experience
    Revitalizing Education
  3. We’d like the conference sessions to be as participatory as possible, so sessions that ask attendees to actively participate are encouraged. 

Let’s make the 2013 Affiliations National Conference the best yet!  

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee for more information. 


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

kudos affiliates! funding news for October 2012

As summer turns into autumn, Affiliate accomplishments continue to shine!

The Massachusetts Cultural Council approved a proposal to create and name one of the state’s newest cultural districts, the Canalway Cultural District.  The District encompasses two Affiliates – the Boott Cotton Mills Museum (operated by the Lowell National Historical Park) and the American Textile History Museum (Lowell, Massachusetts).

Conner Prairie (Fishers, Indiana) is the recipient of a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant will help efforts to integrate science into exhibits and programming over the coming years and create new science-based interactive fun for guests.

PetSmart Inc. is contributing $50,000 to sponsor a cultural diversity series “Unity Through Diversity” at the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, Arizona). The series will focus on various musical traditions that unite people.

The Birmingham Civil Rights District has been named Attraction of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department. The district, which includes The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church, was awarded at the Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) announced the award of a $3 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The grant will be used to fund the extension of the Oklahoma Museum Network (OMN) program, a consortium of museums strategically located across the state working together to provide high quality, hands-on educational experiences. 

Richmond County Savings Foundation presented Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens (Staten Island, New York) with a $30,000 award to support the new Heritage Farm project, which combines urban farming with education as well as support for Island feeding programs.

Long Island Museum (Stony Brook, New York) announced that its Long Island Long Ago school program was awarded a grant from Target Corporation. The grant will help the museum reach more than 12,000 Long Island school children annually, including those from underserved communities. In addition, The Long Island Museum was selected to receive a grant from the Greater Hudson Heritage Network for the conservation of several carriages and sleighs that will be featured in two new exhibition galleries in the Carriage Museum. 

History Colorado (Denver, Colorado) was selected to receive Mountain Plains Museum Association’s Leadership and Innovation Award.

College Park Aviation Museum (College Park, Maryland) received an Anacostia Trails Heritage Area Inc. grant for $500 to support the “Aviation Meets Art” program.

10 Affiliates received Museums for America Program Grants from The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

  1. Chabot Space and Science Center Foundation (Oakland, California) Award Amount: $149,885Chabot Space & Science Center will use its grant to support and expand its Galaxy Explorers/Champions of Science program, a teen education program to enhance their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) knowledge and proficiency through hands-on, standards-based science enrichment and experimentation; to provide students with meaningful and challenging volunteer and work experience; to allow them to build crucial interpersonal and professional development skills; and to give them an opportunity to give back to their communities through science outreach.
  2.  San Diego Air & Space Museum (San Diego, California) Award Amount: $124,500The San Diego Air & Space Museum, with its partner the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, will increase public access to its photo and video collections online through the two-year Great Explorations project.
  3. History Colorado (Denver, Colorado) Award Amount: $144,895History Colorado will inventory approximately 4,500 items stored at the Museum Support Center in Pueblo, Colorado, in order to gain physical and intellectual control of the collection, improve collections access, and make collections resources and associated information broadly available for research and use.
  4. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center (Mashantucket, Connecticut)  Award Amount: $32,430Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, a tribally owned and operated institution in southeastern Connecticut, will use its grant to develop new programmatic explorations aided by handheld technologies. Each program will consist of a multimedia, in-depth exploration of an aspect of Pequot Indian history, accessed through the use of touch-screen technologies and enriched by images, oral histories, and objects.
  5. Miami Science Museum (Miami, Florida)  Award Amount: $149,955The Miami Science Museum will develop an exhibit addressing the intellectual needs of adults who accompany young children (aged three to six) to science exhibitions. The goal is to provide access to science for young learners while simultaneously providing rich learning opportunities for adults, thereby optimizing outcomes for multigenerational audiences.
  6. HistoryMiami (Miami, Florida)  Award Amount: $140,700HistoryMiami will present the Cultural Heritage Spotlight Series, an annual artist-in-residence project highlighting Miami area traditional artists and cultures.
  7. National World War II Museum, Inc. (New Orleans, Louisiana)  Award Amount: $150,000The National World War II Museum will use the grant to support The Campaigns Pavilion Road to Berlin, composed of two exhibitions, The Road to Tokyo: Asia-Pacific Campaign Gallery and The Road to Berlin: European-Mediterranean Campaign Gallery. The objectives of this project are to implement an interactive technology to allow visitors to digitally collect content, to provide a digital device for visitors to follow the stories of WWII historical figures; to create a mechanism to collect data of user interactions, and to develop a tool to collect visitor information to facilitate post-visit communications.
  8. American Textile History Museum (Lowell, Massachusetts)  Award Amount: $94,806The American Textile History Museum will accession, catalogue, and scan 2,600 photographs of textile workers, textile mills and machinery, and views of textile cities and towns from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as 1,950 insurance maps of textile mills dating from 1872 to 1953. This project constitutes the final phase of a four-phase effort to improve intellectual control of and online access to the museum’s library and curatorial collections through the Chace Catalogue.
  9. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, North Carolina)  Award Amount: $129,697The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will develop experiential programming and purchase educational supplies and equipment for its Earth Observation and Biodiversity (EOB) Investigate Lab. The EOB Investigate Lab will engage adults and teens, in authentic science research to prepare them for college, the workforce, and science and civic literacy.
  10. Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, Texas)  Award Amount: $131,289The Museum of Nature and Science will create an expanded and highly productive volunteer program to complement its move to a newly built state-of-the-art facility in downtown Dallas. The museum will develop a comprehensive updated volunteer program focused on recruitment, job placement, training, and evaluation in order to provide superior customer experiences and efficient operations, while building strong attendance and membership.

One affiliate received a Museum Grants for African American History and Culture from The Institute of Museum and Library Services:

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)  Award Amount: $29,841
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will develop an institutional succession plan to provide professional development opportunities to mid-level managers and to mentor and train identified managers and directors to enhance their leadership and managerial skills.

 

 

coming up in affiliateland in october 2012

OHIO
The Springfield Museum of Art will host an opening event for the Jack Earl: A Modern Master-A Retrospective exhibition featuring loans from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Springfield, 10.3.

Harold Closter will attend the Ohio Historical Society’s Affiliations Announcement in Columbus, 10.30.

LOUISIANA
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art will host an opening for Art for Art’s Sake exhibition featuring loans from the National Postal Museum. Linda Edquist, conservator, will attend the opening in New Orleans, 10.6.

PENNSYLVANIA
The Senator John Heinz History Center will host an opening for Gridiron Glory: Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition featuring loans from the National Museum of American History in Pittsburgh, 10.6.

The Historic Bethlehem Partnership will host Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, for a lecture program and book signing in Bethlehem, 10.14.

ILLINOIS
The Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences will open their new facility, the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Harold Closter and Aaron Glavas from Smithsonian Affiliations will be in attendance in Peoria, 10.11.

NEW YORK
The Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages will host a public lecture on Elvis and 1950s culture by Amy Henderson from the National Portrait Gallery in Stony Brook, 10.15.

NATIONWIDE
9 Affiliates: Durham Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Senator John Heinz History Center, History Colorado, Miami Science Museum, The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, Oklahoma Historical Society, Sonoma County Museum, and the South Dakota State Historical Society will host viewing parties and programs as part of the National Museum of American History’s National Youth Summit on the Dust Bowl, 10.17.

WASHINGTON
The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will host the National Museum of American History’s Buffalo Bills’ Wild West Warriors exhibition in Spokane, 10.17.

WISCONSIN
Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager Aaron Glavas will attend the Milwaukee County Historical Society’s Affiliations Announcement in Milwaukee, 10.18.

FLORIDA
The Museum of Arts & Sciences will host Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Undersecretary for History, Art, and Culture, for a book talk in Daytona Beach, 10.20.

The Polk Art Museum will be hosting the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition In Vibrant Color: Vintage Celebrity Portraits from the Harry Warnecke Studio in Lakeland, 10.27.

ARIZONA
The Heard Museum will host SITES’ Native Words, Native Warriors in Phoenix, 10.27.

CALIFORNIA
Smithsonian Affiliations’ External Affairs Coordinator Elizabeth Bugbee will attend the Western Museum Association’s Conference in Palm Springs, 10.21-24.

GEORGIA
Curator Michelle Delaney from the National Museum of American History will serve on a panel presentation at the Booth Western Art Museum’s Annual Cowboy Festival in Cartersville, 10.26.   

 

September 11, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation – American history through her Ships

This summer I had an opportunity to experience American history from an interesting perspective – on the water.  My travels took me to three Affiliates whose ships – actual, life-size, working ships – punctuate important moments in our history.   The Mayflower II, the USS Constitution, and the Charles W. Morgan all illustrate the crucial contributions of “sailors” (of all types) to our nation’s success.  

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, [we] fell upon [our] knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought [us] over the vast and furious ocean.”   Especially today, a visitor to the Mayflower II can still deeply appreciate these words by the Plymouth colony’s first governor, William Bradford.  The magnitude of this bravery is inspiring to imagine.    

On one of the upper decks of the Mayflower II, in Plymouth harbor.

The Mayflower II is a faithful reproduction of the original, historic ship that brought the Pilgrims to the coast of Massachusetts in November 1620 (and was given to the United States by the British in 1957).  Exploring the decks of the ship and its cramped quarters, it’s easy to imagine the fears and anxieties of its 102 passengers, including 3 pregnant women, who lived there for over ten weeks.  Also on board were all the food, clothing, furniture, tools and other items they would need to start a life in a foreign land.

The travails of such a voyage and the biographies of its passengers are fascinating.  But the interpreters’ discussion of the Mayflower Compact is equally inspirational.  After the tumultuous voyage and a protracted start to finding an anchoring spot on Cape Cod, the community on board collectively decided to delay disembarking until they had a self-governing treaty in place.  That act, and their subsequent diplomacy with the indigenous Wampanoag, reveal the very early beginnings of what American democracy would look like, both in its best and worst incarnations. 

Plimoth Plantation, Smithsonian Affiliate, does a great job of telling both sides of this story in all of its sites – from the ship to the Wampanoag Homesite and the English Village.  What I quickly realized is that the Pilgrim story is much more complex than the one we celebrate at Thanksgiving, and well worth delving in deeper to appreciate. 

“Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!”  Up north in Boston, I toured the USS Constitution.  Most know her by her nickname, Old Ironsides, based on this exclamation by one of her sailors.  The ship sits in the Charlestown Navy Yard next door to Smithsonian Affiliate, the USS Constitution Museum.

I learned that it was George Washington himself who commissioned the building of the USS Constitution  in the Naval Armament Act of 1794.  And today, the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world; it’s still an active duty vessel in the U.S. Navy. 

Ready to go onboard the USS Constitution, in Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard

Most importantly, she is undefeated.  The USS Constitution fought in several wars, most famously in the War of 1812.  That war, often called the Second War of Independence, definitively established the power and resolve of our new nation.  The celebrated victories of the USS Constitution incarnated that resolve.  She is most famous for her victory over the HMS Guerriere in July 1812, when the British ship’s 18-pound iron cannonballs, shot at close range, “bounced” off her sides.  (Her hull is not, in fact, made of iron, but of oak.)  The battle was over in 35 minutes. 

Touring the ship is amazing, but it’s in the museum where the story gets really unpacked.  Here, you come to understand what life was like on the ship – how much sailors were paid, what they ate and wore.  You can even try out how they slept, on hammocks only inches apart from one another.  Being there this summer as the museum commemorates the 200th anniversary of that fateful victory was especially moving, another reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of our military that solidified the foundation of our nation.

“The story of the American whaling industry… is a rousing chapter in American history…emblematic of a vastly larger story.”  So Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough describes the iconic Charles W. Morgan ship, docked at Smithsonian Affiliate Mystic Seaport in southern Connecticut.

The Morgan is the crown jewel of the Seaport’s collection, America’s last surviving wooden whaleship, and a designated National Historic Landmark since 1966.  Built in 1841, she made 37 voyages in her 80 years of service, surviving countless hazards of the sea such as ocean storms, Arctic ice, and even, a cannibal attack.

But why is a whaleship so important to American history?  Before kerosene and petroleum were discovered later in the 19th century, whale oil (and other byproducts) were  the primary commodity used for illumination and lubrication.  Think about that – American lighthouses, lamps, candles, street lights, and industry machines were all powered by whale oil, and kept our economy moving forward.  As Herman Melville said in the great whaling novel Moby Dick, it was considered “as rare as the milk of queens.” 

Checking out the Morgan’s blubber room.

Her effect on our economy is not the only important story.  The Morgan literally sailed all over the world, and attracted an incredibly diverse global crew who eventually became U.S. citizens.  The ship is the last surviving reminder of a major international economic force, but also, a living piece of history that tells great stories of adventure, hardship and immigration. 

All three of these amazing ships still sail.  All three have been, or will be, on the water again – the Mayflower II at its 50th anniversary in 2007, the USS Constitution this summer to commemorate its 200th anniversary victory, and next summer, the Morgan will embark on her 38th voyage to the New England ports she visited decades ago.

So here’s to the ships, their passengers and crews, that so bravely shaped our history.  Huzzah!

 

 

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