April 17, 2014

adventures with affiliations!

Special thanks for this guest post to Rachel Brummond. Rachel interned with the Affiliations office this spring and helped us build our e-marketing for the Smithsonian Affiliations Membership Program. Rachel is wrapping up her Junior year at Luther College in Iowa with a Major in Management/Political Science. Many, many thanks for everything Rachel!

My Dream: Living in DC with the Smithsonian in one hand and the Capital in the other!

My Dream: Living in DC with the Smithsonian in one hand and the Capital in the other!

I have dreamt of being a part of the Smithsonian Institution since I was a little girl on her first vacation to Washington, D.C. After that, when others wanted to be princesses, ballerinas, firefighters and policemen, I wanted to grow up to be THE curator of THE Smithsonian Museum. Little did I know that the Smithsonian is actually a network of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoo, and nine research facilities, each with their own curators, directors, membership staff, and programs.  I also had no idea that the Smithsonian is a living organism that includes a nationwide partnership program that consists of more than 180 Affiliates in more than 40 states, Puerto Rico and Panama. That first trip marked the beginning of a remarkable journey to where I am today—an intern learning from the same organization that I ooh’d and ahh’d about as a child.

This spring I had the incredible opportunity to join the D.C. intern-pack as a membership communications intern at Smithsonian Affiliations, leading to some Seriously Amazing opportunities through the Smithsonian and specifically with the Affiliations office. I have visited countless museums, had private tours, attended share-fairs, and been thoroughly immersed in the culture and collaboration that the Smithsonian embodies. The Affiliations office has brought me a much better understanding of the nationwide partnerships that we facilitate, and of course has led to an extensive growth of my photo collection that documents my life in the nation’s capital!

Two of my favorite museums: The National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum!

Two of my favorite museums: The National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum!

Being an intern for the Smithsonian has been such a learning experience! Smithsonian curators and researchers have important and serious work to do, so it’s always fun to see a lighter side of their jobs from time to time. For instance, every April Fool’s day the National Museum of American History hosts a “conference on stuff” with a lighthearted theme for all Smithsonian staff and visitors. Harold Closter, director of our very own Affiliations office, emceed this year’s salt-themed event and had some very “punny” quips for the audience. It was so fun to see the Smithsonian staff operating in an off-the-cuff, fun, but still well-researched way! I was also encouraged to explore the Smithsonian in-between projects, so I took “museum Fridays” and went to discover as many Smithsonian museums as possible while I was here. I saw 12 of the 15 museums that are currently open and in D.C.—a considerable success that appeals to the learning buff in me!

One of the most memorable experiences was the arrival of The Nation’s T.Rex. To me, this loan really shows the amazing partnerships that the Smithsonian creates with Affiliates across the country. The Wankel T.rex was discovered in Montana and lived at the Museum of the Rockies, a fabulous Smithsonian Affiliate, for the past two decades. It was so fun to participate in the social media plan by crafting tweets to talk about the dino’s arrival and about its 50-year vacation to the National Museum of Natural History. What a fantastic way to outline the network and partnership program that the Affiliations office facilitates. I am so proud to have been a part of an Institution so committed to the increase and diffusion of knowledge—even if their audience doesn’t always live in the DC area.

That’s what the Affiliations office is all about, bringing the Smithsonian to people around the country in order to create access to the incredible collection of knowledge, artifacts, and amazing culture that embodies the Institution. It’s been an adventure to say the least, and I am so grateful that the Affiliations office was willing to have me as a part of their team!

Here it is! The Wankel T.Rex was one of my favorite projects. Special shout out to Museum of the Rockies!

Here it is! The Wankel T.Rex was one of my favorite projects. Special shout out to Museum of the Rockies!

December 11, 2013

New Smithsonian Neighbor playlist: Civil War 150

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we created a Civil War 150 playlist on our Smithsonian Neighbor YouTube page. Check out these videos from our friends at the Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and see if you spot the two artifacts on loan from the National Museum of American History! Do you have videos you’d like us to share on our YouTube page? Email Elizabeth Bugbee with the links and we’ll add you to our playlist!

Dog Jack: Hero Dog of the Civil War

Strong Vincent – Civil War Hero

Rodman Cannon

Allegheny Arsenal

November 14, 2013

3rd successful year of “September with the Smithsonian” in Daytona Beach

Special thanks for this guest post to James “Zach” Zacharias, Senior Curator of Education and Curator of History at the Museum of Arts and Sciences Daytona Beach, Florida.

Zach Zacharias and Dr. Valerie Paul with "Highwaymen" on loan from fellow Affiliate, Orange County Regional History Center. Photo courtesy MOAS.

Zach Zacharias and Dr. Valerie Paul with “Highwaymen” on loan from fellow Affiliate, Orange County Regional History Center. Photo courtesy MOAS.

Several years ago the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) was looking for ways to increase attendance during the traditionally slow month of September.  After a few brainstorming sessions, the curatorial and education departments came up with a brilliant idea to tie September MOAS with the Smithsonian Affiliations program.  Access to the Smithsonian’s vast offerings is a perfect fit for MOAS’s educational goals.   We wanted to try something radical and different- something that had never been done before.  Thus came September with the Smithsonian. It proved to be all we had hoped for, and now is in its third year.

This year we included Smithsonian Affiliates from around the state to lend their expertise to content. This year also marks the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon.  Florida has been celebrating with statewide initiative called Viva 500. Naturally, our theme for this year’s event focused on Florida’s history and natural history. The ideas revolve around having a Smithsonian related event every week during the month and on different days.  The first key to success was to contact our Affiliate National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas and discuss our theme. With Alma’s expertise, she was able to guide us to the resources and make contacts for our event.

Our first week started out with Dr. Valerie Paul, Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.  Her presentation, Exploring Florida’s Marine Environment, focused on the mission of the Smithsonian’s center and how it relates to Florida’s all-important ecosystems.  Dr. Paul highlighted the cutting edge research that the Smithsonian is conducting for medical research and the important issues in Florida’s fragile coral reef ecosystems.

Our second week, Chuck Meide, Underwater Archaeologist from St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, a fellow Smithsonian Affiliate, gave a presentation on the underwater archaeological excavation of a colonial era shipwreck.  It sank off the entrance of St. Augustine Inlet during the British loyalist evacuation of Charleston in 1782.

Dr. Kathleen Lyons in an interview with WROD's Cadillac Jack at the MOAS Natural History Festival. Photo courtesy MOAS.

Dr. Kathleen Lyons in an interview with WROD’s Cadillac Jack at the MOAS Natural History Festival. Photo courtesy MOAS.

September with the Smithsonian heated up in the third week of the month with our annual weekend event MOAS Natural History Festival.  It focused on the natural history of Florida and featured huge displays of fossils, shells, minerals and other specimens.  Community partners such as the local Audubon Society, local fossil club, and many other organizations made this community event a hit with families. Dr. Kathleen Lyons from the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History presented two lectures focusing on the legacy of the giant ice age animals that once dominated Florida landscape from Giant Ground Sloths to Mastodons.

Our month long series culminated with free admission during Smithsonian magazine Museum Day Live! and two performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.  It is the orchestra-in–residence at the National Museum of American History.  For the third year in a row, this world-class jazz band has traveled to Daytona Beach to play for sold-out crowds.  This year, the theme was Swinging with the Smithsonian featuring the Ella Fitzgerald Song Book.

Members of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Photo courtesy MOAS.

Members of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Photo courtesy MOAS.

The Jazz Masterworks Orchestra conducted a matinee jazz show for kids called Swingin’ with the Smithsonian Junior.  Young musicians from the community flocked to the performance to hear this great educational event. The musicians demonstrated their instruments, discussed the concept of jazz music, and focused the importance of playing an instrument no matter what age or level you are at.

The featured evening event was under the executive direction of Kennith Kimery and artistic director and principal saxophonist Charlie Young.   With special guest vocalist Lena Seikaly, it showcased the music of legendary songstress Ella Fitzgerald. The audience was treated to some of Ella’s best and most famous works.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach Florida has developed a long-standing relationship with the Smithsonian Affiliations program to bring resources to our community that would normally be out of reach.  The ability to bring in scholars, programs, and artifacts has allowed the MOAS to enrich our members and community and inspire lifelong learning.

September 24, 2013

Bring 101 Smithsonian Objects to your Neighborhood!

101objectsbookOk, so we can’t actually send 101 artifacts on the road all the time, but we can send Smithsonian Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture Richard Kurin! Aided by a team of top Smithsonian curators and scholars, Richard’s new book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, is a literary exhibition of objects from across the Smithsonian that together offer a marvelous new perspective on the history of the United States.

After the success of his book tours in Affiliateland—Madcap May: Mistress of Myth, Men, and Hope and Hope Diamond: The Legendary Story of a Cursed Gem—Richard is looking forward to visiting Affiliates again and sharing these fascinating stories from American history.

Richard kicks off the Affiliate tour on Tuesday, November 12 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. One of the unexpected selections in his book is a vial of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine—which just happens to be on view at NMAJH in their Only In America gallery, on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.


Richard traveled to more than 10 Affiliates during his book tour for “Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem.”

Ranging from the earliest years of the pre-Columbian continent to the digital age, and from the American Revolution to Vietnam, each entry pairs the fascinating history surrounding each object with the story of its creation or discovery and the place it has come to occupy in our national memory. He sheds remarkable new light on objects we think we know well, from Lincoln’s hat to Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Julia Child’s kitchen, including the often astonishing tales of how each made its way into the collections of the Smithsonian. Other objects will be eye-opening new discoveries for many, but no less evocative of the most poignant and important moments of the American experience. Some objects, such as Harriet Tubman’s hymnal, Sitting Bull’s ledger, Cesar Chavez’s union jacket, and the Enola Gay bomber, tell difficult stories from our nation’s history, and inspired controversies when exhibited at the Smithsonian. Others, from George Washington’s sword to the space shuttle Discovery, celebrate the richness and vitality of the American spirit. In his words, each object comes to life, providing a near-tactile connection to American history.

Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution.

Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution.

Publishers Weekly called it a “humanistic approach to storytelling (he even includes digressions on things that didn’t make it in, like the ubiquitous stuffed animal named after the first President Roosevelt: the Teddy Bear) which makes for immersive, addictive reading.”

Beautifully designed and illustrated with color photographs throughout, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects is a rich and fascinating journey through America’s collective memory, and a beautiful object in its own right.

Interested in booking Richard for a speaking engagement and book signing at your organization? Contact your National Outreach Manager. Availability is February 2014- June 2014.

Interested in stocking your shelves with a great gift? Pre-order here!

National Youth Summit: Freedom Summer



Freedom Summer: National Youth Summit
freedomsummerA collaborative program at the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Affiliates

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) announces the next grant opportunity for its popular National Youth Summit series. Smithsonian Affiliates are invited to apply to join the conversation during Freedom Summer on February 5, 2014.

Nearly 50 years ago, college students from across the country came together in Mississippi for a large scale, grassroots education and voter registration project known as Freedom Summer. Working in collaboration with PBS’s AMERICAN EXPERIENCE series and through the Smithsonian Affiliate network, NMAH will engage young people with the powerful story of this campaign in the strategies of the civil rights movement and their lessons for modern day activism.

Eight (8) Affiliates will be awarded $3,000* for implementation of a Regional Youth Summit.

To qualify, your organization must agree to the terms in the Expectation Form which include:

  • Maintain or have partnerships with local school districts to organize a regional conversation at the Affiliate organization in conjunction with the national webcast.
  • Have a facility which can host a discussion immediately following the webcast to include students and Freedom Summer movement veterans and scholars.
  • Have the technical capacity to watch the live webcast of the National Youth Summit at the Affiliate organization.

Freedom Summer: National Youth Summit
Students across the country will join together for a virtual National Youth Summit on Freedom Summer and civic engagement. At the NMAH in Washington, D.C., or at a location in Mississippi, civil rights activists and scholars will participate in a panel discussion about the 1964 youth-led effort to end the political disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Deep South, and discuss the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future. Students will be invited to submit questions for the panel online.  Participating students will be encouraged to think of themselves as makers of history and asked to consider their ability to be active and engaged citizens. The National Youth Summit webcast will be preserved on the NMAH website, enabling students and teachers to continue to explore this important topic.

Regional Youth Summit at Affiliate organizations
Over the past fourteen years, the Smithsonian has reached audiences nationwide through its partnership with more than 175 Affiliate museums and educational and cultural institutions. Eight (8) Smithsonian Affiliates will work with their local high schools to organize a Regional Youth Summit in conjunction with the webcast of the National Youth Summit. Immediately following a live viewing of the National Youth Summit webcast, the Affiliate organization will host a discussion between Freedom Summer movement veterans, scholars, and young people. In preparation, participating schools will receive screening copies of The American Experience film Freedom Summer, as well as a Conversation Kit to support classroom discussion and to encourage students to use the lessons of history to make a more humane future.

How to apply: (Note:Applying for the grant is not mandatory to participate in the program. Affiliates are encouraged to include the event in their programming even if a grant is not received)

  1. Fill out the Application Form
  2. Sign the Expectation Form
  3. Freedom Summer FAQs

Questions? Contact Aaron Glavas, Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager or Elizabeth Bugbee, Smithsonian Affiliations External Affairs Coordinator.

**Final award based on proposed itemized budget.


‘old betsy’ makes multi-generational connections in Peoria

Special thanks to Monica Reardon, Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern, for authoring the 2013 Smithsonian #MuseumDayLive! blog series.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum, located in Peoria, Illinois, focuses on interdisciplinary learning, ranging from art to science to history and then some.  The space includes a planetarium, a sculpture garden, art studios, gallery spaces, and more.  The museum even has a “Green Tour,” which showcases the museum’s sustainable aspects.  Most importantly, it plays a role in the community it is in.

"Old Betsy" at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

“Old Betsy” at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

In fact, this Affiliate found a piece of its own community’s history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  “Old Betsy,” a 1931 prototype of the first diesel engine mass-produced by Caterpillar, Inc. was brought back to Peoria.  The engine is now an iconic object in the museum’s display of local history, and in the telling of the story of local manufacturing and innovation.  On loan to the museum since 2012, visitors during Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! can get a close-up look at the 3,500 pound “Old Betsy,” officially called Caterpillar Diesel Engine No. 1.

“Probably the most rewarding aspect of having “Old Betsy,” as the engine prototype has long been known, on display at Peoria Riverfront Museum is the reaction of retired Caterpillar, Inc. employees who see it….They immediately comment on their memories of the engine when it was displayed at Cat” noted Kristan H. McKinsey, Curator at Peoria Riverfront Museum.  These memories can lead to “multi-generational conversations about a myriad of topics such as farming, invention, Caterpillar and this community.”

She adds “I hope that visitors might understand that museums play many roles in society, and “Old Betsy” demonstrates several of them.”

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood? Find out which other Affiliates are participating in #MuseumDayLive on September 28, 2013, here.

Check out a video from a local Peoria news station on the arrival of “Old Betsy” here- Historic piece comes to museum

Installing Old Betsy

“Old Betsy” arrives at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

September 19, 2013

Small artifacts, big impact at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Special thanks to Monica Reardon, Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern, for authoring the 2013 Smithsonian #MuseumDayLive! blog series.

An Affiliate since 2001, the National Museum of American Jewish History was established in 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The museum explores and interprets the American Jewish experience through exhibitions and public programs.  It tells the stories of Jews who migrated to America from around the world, eventually becoming today’s Jewish Americans.

Albert Einstein's Pipe. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Albert Einstein’s Pipe. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

During Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! this year, visitors can explore artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, such as Albert Einstein’s pipe and a vial of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.  The artifacts have been on view since November 2010; both installed in the museum’s Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame.

Only in America® is an innovative combination of multimedia, original artifacts and interactive experiences.  It illustrates the choices, challenges and opportunities of eighteen Jewish Americans, which include Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk.  Ivy Weingram, associate curator, points out

“visitors to Only in America® have the opportunity to explore both the personal and professional sides of our honorees.  Some are represented through the iconic objects of their careers—Salk’s vaccine, Spielberg’s camera, Berlin’s piano—and others, like Einstein’s pipe, lend a personal touch to an otherwise monumental figure.”

Polio Vaccine Vial. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Polio Vaccine Vial. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Her favorite artifact of the exhibition would have to be the vial of polio vaccine.  “It is one of the smallest artifacts in the exhibition, but its impact is undoubtedly among the greatest. I always think about that as I pass it in the gallery—how tiny and easily overlooked it is, but where would the world be without it?”

Weingram would love for visitors to be able to make connections between their own lives and the achievements and contributions of the 18 individuals.  “The laws of our land, the songwriting that has influenced generations of American music, over a century of innovations in American Judaism, game-changing sports heroes, scientific discovery—all are represented in Only in America®. Where do you feel their impact? How have they affected the way you live your life every day? How do you perpetuate their legacy?”

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood? Find out which other Affiliates are participating in #MuseumDayLive on September 28, 2013, here.

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