September 24, 2013

‘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.

September 10, 2013

Swingin’ with the Smithsonian in Daytona Beach

15038_10151615476644102_362315537_nSpecial thanks to Monica Reardon, Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern, for authoring the 2013 #MuseumDayLive! Affiliate blog series.

The Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) is a science and history museum located in Daytona Beach, Florida.  This Affiliate’s collections showcase a multitude of topics, which include Coca-Cola® memorabilia, paintings of Florida, a giant ground sloth skeleton, celestial charts, and more.  Not to mention a planetarium, an open storage building, and two off-site exhibit areas.  The Museum, since joining Affiliations in 2000, has featured a variety of Smithsonian objects, exhibitions, and programs.

In that spirit, MOAS will be welcoming speakers, musicians and affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution to Daytona Beach for its 3rd Annual Septembers with the Smithsonian series of events. Beginning September 6th, MOAS will be featuring an exhibition as well as special speakers from the Smithsonian Institution and other Smithsonian Affiliates.

“Septembers with the Smithsonian was created to share the benefits of our Smithsonian Affiliation with our community,” stated MOAS Executive Director, Andrew Sandall. “It’s a chance for us to show the diversity of the subject matter museums preserve. Any form of art, either physical or performed, has influenced people’s lives and made them who they are today – the same pieces have different meanings and interpretations for each of us and become part of us.”

A fellow Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the Orange County Regional History Center, has generously loaned the artworks in Highwaymen: African-American Folk Artists of Florida which will be on exhibition through the Fall. On September 12, visitors can explore Florida’s marine environments at the Smithsonian Marine Station with Dr. Valerie Paul, Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Ft. Pierce. In addition, Underwater Archaeologist Chuck Meide, from the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum–another Smithsonian Affiliate– will talk about the British Revolutionary Warship, the “Storm Wreck” on September 18. Other speakers will present topics such as archeology, biology and paleobiology, some of which will be highlighted in the Museum’s Natural History Festival on September 21st.

969531_10151615475654102_177155945_nOn September 28th from 7-9pm, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) will perform “Swingin’ with the Smithsonian,” featuring vocalist Lena Seikaly. The SJMO will perform selections from the Ella Fitzgerald song book. A special matinee concert for children, “Swingin’ with the Smithsonian Junior” has been added to the concert schedule this year, and will take place Saturday, September 28th from 2-3pm at MOAS.

“Septembers with the Smithsonian was created to share the benefits of our Smithsonian Affiliation with our community. We are looking forward to each of this year’s exciting events at MOAS,” stated MOAS Executive Director, Andrew Sandall.

This year, Smithsonian Museum Day Live! is September 28th. Visitors who present the Museum Day Live! ticket will gain free entrance for two at participating venues for one day only. One ticket is permitted per household, per email address. This ticket is not valid for “Swingin’ with the Smithsonian” or “Swingin’ with the Smithsonian Junior” concerts. This project received financial assistance from VISIT FLORIDA. Exhibits and dates subject to change.

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

 

 

August 22, 2013

engineering ingenuity at the buffalo bill center of the west

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

Patent model, Smith & Wesson Magazine Lever Action Pistol. AF*251055. Image provided by Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Patent model, Smith & Wesson Magazine Lever Action Pistol. AF*251055. Image provided by Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West had its start as a log building in Cody, Wyoming, resembling Buffalo Bill’s TE Ranch house.  Mary Jester Allen intended the museum to be a national shrine and memorial to her uncle, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and to the early pioneers of the American West.  The collections grew and so did the Museum, with the intent of preserving and conveying the “Spirit of the American West.” 

The Center has participated in Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! since becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2008. On view at the Cody Firearms Museum in time for Museum Day Live! this year are 64 unique firearms from the National Firearms Collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American HistoryThe exhibit is divided between patent firearms (the prototype design submitted by firearms inventors), firearms with interesting provenance, and international firearms with gorgeous embellishments.  The collection includes a Smith and Wesson Lever Action Patent Model and a Colt Patent.

The Smith and Wesson Lever Action Patent Model was the first lever action prototype firearm designed by Smith and Wesson.  Smith and Wesson’s original company, The Volcanic Repeating Arms Co. was actually named after the nickname for the pistol, the Volcanic pistol. However, this patent did not bring them financial success and they sold the rights to a shirt manufacturer named Oliver Winchester. Winchester would go on to use this patent; his lever action rifles becoming synonymous with the American West.

Revolver, patent model.  Colt Paterson Revolver.  AF*251084.  Image provided by Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Revolver, patent model. Colt Paterson Revolver. AF*251084. Image provided by Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The Colt Patent is connected to Samuel Colt, another name famous in the American West, particularly for revolvers.  Colt’s revolver is the first successful percussion firearm ever patented.  The design from this model would go on to be the production type Colt Paterson.  As noted by Ashley Hlebinsky,Firearms Curatorial Resident, “You pretty much cannot see a Western film without seeing a variation of a Colt Revolver and a Winchester Lever Action.”

Hlebinsky would like visitors “to not only see some amazing firearms and representations of engineering ingenuity, but to understand the people who made the firearms and who owned and used them.”  She hopes that the “artifacts are able to convey a story about the people involved in the process – from the trial and error methods of the patent process (some patent models were never produced, while others became infamous) to the experiences of those who owned the guns.”

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

 

August 15, 2013

“Train” your eyes on adventure at the B&O Railroad Museum

Special thanks to Monica Reardon, Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern, for authoring the 2013 Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! blog series.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is located where the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad came into being during the late 1820s, in Baltimore, Maryland.  The collection grew from a late 19th century trade show exhibit of railroad artifacts.  An actual museum came about in 1953, when the B&O Transportation Museum and its collection were designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  The B&O Railroad Museum has been a Smithsonian Affiliate since 1999.  It has on loan a variety of Smithsonian artifacts relating to the history of American railroad.

One of the many Smithsonian artifacts on view at the B&O during Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! is the Pioneer, an 1851 locomotive.  The locomotive had once pulled passenger trains, had been used for two Civil war raids, and had been displayed at World’s Fairs and Expositions as an “operating relic.”  It had even been on view at the Smithsonian from 1963-2001.  The B&O teamed up with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to restore the Pioneer to its 1901 appearance.  B&O was able to accommodate the project in its own restoration facility.  The locomotive is a rarity because its type was not used by very many U.S. railroads, and because of its age for a preserved locomotive.

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

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July 19, 2013

Featured video: Smithsonian Firearms in Cody

Sharing a great article from By Katharine MacKnight at KULR-8 TV in Billings, Montana.

In 1876, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History established the National Firearms Collection in Washington, DC. It’s the home to nearly 7,000 artifacts. Sixty-four of them are now on display at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Firearms Exhibit. It’s one of the largest collections of firearms to come out of the Smithsonian.

“It’s for people who love firearms and know a lot about them and also for people who don’t know a lot and would like to come in and learn why it’s important to American history,” says Ashley Lynn Hlebinsky, Firearms Curatorial Resident at the Buffalo Bills Center of the West Firearm Exhibit.

“Journeying West: Distinctive Firearms from the Smithsonian” is an exhibition at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It was a carefully researched and planned out process that took Curator Warren Newman years to bring together.

Read the entire article here- http://www.kulr8.com/story/22879382/smithsonian-firearms-in-cody
KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

July 10, 2013

A unique experience: a peek into a two-week visiting professional residency at the smithsonian

Special thanks for this guest post to Jessica Crossman, Experiential Learning Department Program Coordinator at the San Diego Museum of Man, a Smithsonian Affiliate in San Diego, California. Jessica spent two weeks in April 2013 at the Smithsonian.

This year I had the honor of being selected to participate in the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program.  My goal while in Washington, D.C., was to learn about how best to create hands-on/interactive exhibits that effectively integrated educational material and to study the use of technology in these types of exhibits.  The museum where I work, the San Diego Museum of Man, is redoing the hands-on part of our Ancient Egypt exhibit.  Because of this, those of us working on the exhibit wanted to explore different ways we could approach the idea of interactivity in an exhibit.  I spent time at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian Latino Center.  At each of these places I learned how these Smithsonian institutions approached hands-on/interactive exhibits in their own unique way.

Forensic Anthropology Lab

In the Forensic Anthropology Lab at the National Museum of Natural History.

My first week in DC was hosted by NMNH.  The members of the exhibits department were kind enough to meet with me, let me attend some of their meetings, and brain storm ideas with me about our exhibit at the Museum of Man.  Coming from the Education Department at my own institution, I gained a whole new perspective on what it takes to make an exhibit while learning great logistical ideas and questions to bring back to the Museum of Man, such as how to think about being able to make our exhibit easily adaptable for future changes and how to think about our goals regarding exhibit interactivity.  Members of the education department met with me to talk about our education programs and gave me tours of their education spaces in the museum including the Discovery Room, the Q?rius Lab, and the Forensic Anthropology Lab.  It was wonderful to see the exhibits from their educational point of view and to hear what their education goals were in the creation of these spaces.  One of the most important ideas that I got out this week was the idea of putting the visitor in the role of the “scientist” both in the wording of text panels and in the execution of interactive elements, such as providing tools (microscopes, magnifying glasses, etc.) for the children to use to make scientific observations in the Discovery Room.  This approach helped the team at the Museum of Man reform how we wanted to approach our own exhibit.

My second week I spent most of time at NMAI, with some time spent at the Zoo and the Latino Center.  At NMAI both the exhibits team and the education team gave me tours of their highly hands-on exhibit for kids called imagiNATIONS, which is designed to show children the innovations and inventions that different Native American Nations have created in order to meet their own specific needs.  While learning about this space I was told that people stay and learn when they feel safe and smart.  This is something that was taken into account when the NMAI team created this space.  While this idea was a simple one it was one of the most important of my trip because once I shared it with the Museum of Man exhibits team it helped us rethink how we wanted to physically design our space so that our visitors would have more of a sense of comfort and would stay longer to learn.

ImagiNATIONS

At ImagiNATIONS education space in the National Museum of the American Indian.

My time at the Zoo was focused in learning about their exhibit development process and in getting a tour of their new elephant exhibit.  It was wonderful to see an approach to technology as a means of visitor participation in their exhibit in the form of a photo booth.  It was fun, effective, and even left visitors with a message of conservation on the photo strips that took home with them.  This low tech use of technology was in contrast with the use of technology that I saw at the Latino Center.  While at the Latino Center I was given demonstrations of immersive gaming experiences that put students at the site of an archaeology dig, of Augmented Reality at use in exhibits, and of the Latino Center’s digital collections.  It was truly amazing to see what possibilities high tech, digital interactives might hold for our visitors.

Along with all of these wonderful learning experiences I met some truly talent and kind people that I hope to keep in touch with.  And of course this trip provided the Museum of Man some new ideas for our hands-on exhibit space.  There was even talk about possible future collaborations between the education department at NMNH and the Museum of Man as well as the Latino Center and the Museum of Man.  I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally through this wonderful opportunity.

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