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October 8, 2014

road report: Harold in San Antonio

I had the pleasure of announcing our new Affiliation with The Witte Museum in San Antonio on October 7, 2014.  By coincidence The Witte was also celebrating its 88th birthday, so it was a double pleasure.  Marise McDermott, President and CEO presided over the announcement ceremony which included San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council member Keith Toney.  Kind words were spread all around; as always I was humbled and honored to represent the Smithsonian.

San Antonio River runs by the Witte Museum, creating a 13 mile trail from Breckenridge Park to downtown.

San Antonio River runs by the Witte Museum, creating a 13 mile trail from Breckenridge Park to downtown.

I met many wonderful people at the Witte and discovered interesting connections between the Witte and the Smithsonian, especially in the field of paleontology and archaeology.  Dinosaurs once ruled south Texas, and Witte Museum Curator of Paleontology and Geology, Thomas Adams, Ph.D., is literally hot on their trail – uncovering dino tracks and other significant fossil remains.  Harry Shafer, Ph.D, Witte Museum Curator of Archeology, Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University,  has been studying rock art along the lower Pecos River, among the most sophisticated finds in North America.

San Antonio's Chili Queens are alive and well (and widely appreciated) at the Witte Museum.

San Antonio’s Chili Queens are alive and well (and widely appreciated) at the Witte Museum.

The Smithsonian has many long-term interests in San Antonio.  The Smithsonian American Art Museum includes works by artists, Jesse Trevino and Mel Casas; Smithsonian Folkways documents the musical heritage of San Antonio, from legendary corrido singer Lydia Mendoza to Grammy Award winning Los Texmaniacs; and the Smithsonian Magazine recently paid tribute to San Antonio’s fabulous Chili Queens, 19th century food entrepreneurs who helped make the taco the world’s favorite meal.

The new South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum -- a taste of more to come.

The new South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum — a taste of more to come.

There’s a lot going on at the Witte on which to build our partnership and more to come when the museum completes Phase II of its grand expansion project in 2017.

Angelica Docog and Aaron Parks of the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, our other Affiliate in San Antonio, joined the festivities and then brought me back to see an amazing exhibit on Texas Quilts on display in their facility in Hemisphere Park.  We talked about several new exhibits they are planning to install including one on Sikh history and culture from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Angelica filled me in on the success of their Smithsonian Youth Access Grant, Young Historians/Living Histories and how it helped the Institute build bridges to San Antonio’s Korean community.

What would a Texas be without a long-horned steer?  This might be one of the longest long-horns.

What would a Texas be without a long-horned steer? This might be one of the longest long-horns.

One cannot visit San Antonio without feeling a sense of vibrancy – a growing city with a strong economy, a major convention and tourist destination, a proud history and a bright future.  How wonderful to see our Affiliate colleagues leading the charge.

Tomorrow, I get to announce another new Affiliate – Space Center Houston.  It’s a good week for lifting off!

May 28, 2014

The Evolution of a Dino Hall

Photo courtesy Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian Institution.

Photo courtesy Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian Institution.

On April 28, 2014, the National Museum of Natural History’s Fossil Hall closed to the public to begin a 5-year renovation. The Hall will undergo the largest and most complex renovation in the Museum’s history. The new exhibition will showcase the Museum’s unrivaled fossil collection and present the most current scientific research.

New fossil displays and scientific stories, informed by the most current research, will give fresh meaning to ancient life. And new techniques for fossil display and collections management enable researchers to tell new stories with historic specimens. Visitors to the new hall will explore how life, environments, and ecosystems have interacted to form and change our planet over billions of years.

Many museums are in similar situations when determining how to upgrade a popular exhibition space. Meeting 21st-century technology demands, presenting the most current scientific research as well as incorporate the latest educational programs in an inviting and accessible way are all things to consider when reinvigorating an exhibition space.

At the 2014 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, Affiliate attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the NMNH staff organizing and executing the Fossil Hall renovation. Those in attendance will share their own experiences and take away ideas for reshaping a new story in old exhibits.

The session, The Evolution of a Fossil Hall: Bringing a Modern Lens to an Ancient Story, takes place at the National Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, June 25. All registered Affiliate attendees are welcome to join.

The panel consists of:
Kara Blond, Director of Exhibitions, National Museum of Natural History
Kathy Hollis, Paleobiology Collections Manager, National Museum of Natural History
Steve Jabo, Fossil Preparator, National Museum of Natural History

There’s still time to register to attend the Affiliations National Conference and discover something new!

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, or have an application in progress and would like to attend the Conference, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee for more information.

This exhibit sketch featuring a Triceratops and soaring pterosaur brings the world in which the T. rex lived to life, and is just one possibility of what visitors could see after the museum’s largest, most extensive exhibition renovation is complete. The Nation’s T. rex arrived at the National Museum of Natural History on April 15, and will be the centerpiece of the museum’s new 31,000-square-foot dinosaur and fossil hall, which is slated to open in 2019. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

This exhibit sketch featuring a Triceratops and soaring pterosaur brings the world in which the T. rex lived to life, and is just one possibility of what visitors could see after the museum’s largest, most extensive exhibition renovation is complete. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

July 16, 2012

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012: Dinosaur Dig

Special thanks to Smithsonian Affiliations intern, Neema Amadala (University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada), for this guest post.

In contrast to the University of Illinois’ cool, canopied hard-court, Lisa and I stumbled back in time to a dinosaur dig. It was a 100 degree day (or 38°C for those of us metrically inclined) and perhaps an inopportune time to be outside digging for dinosaurs. In my opinion, the best part of being a Smithsonian Affiliations intern is meeting the Affiliates: seeing the dedication they have to their projects is wonderful. For this reason, I hoped to meet a celebrity of sorts, Dr. Alan Grant of Jurassic Park fame. Not the fictional character but Dr. Jack Horner on whom Sam Neill’s character in the trilogy was the partial inspiration for and paleontological advisor to. To my chagrin, Dr. Horner had left the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival but there were still dinosaurs to discover.

Visitors watching intently at the preparation of a specimen. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

On this particular dig, we were under the cover of the Museum of the Rockies (MOR), a Smithsonian Affiliate in Bozeman, Montana. I watched as children and adults wandered in, fascinated as always, by these prehistoric creatures who we discover anew every day. Festival goers could choose to conduct their own dinosaur dig, learn how casting a fossil works, watch a member of the Field Crew prepare a specimen for the lab or just learn more about Montana’s prehistoric past. Everyone on the dig was engaged and the wealth of experience and excitement MOR brought to the Folklife Festival was visible on the faces of all who passed through on the dig.

Lisa Lundgren, with MOR’s educational team, helped visitors learn about the history not just beneath the soil of Montana’s badlands but visible in its multicolored sedimentary strands. Explaining MOR’s own connection and contribution to fossil history Lisa and I were introduced to Maiasaura or ‘good mother lizard’: a giant dinosaur that unlike its contemporaries raised and fed their hatchlings. There were plenty of tactile and visual aids to keep us engaged and connected to the subject matter and like the children around me, I relished my time with the dinos.

Smithsonian Affiliations intern Lisa Hung with Lisa Lundgren from Affiliate, Museum of the Rockies. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

This time travelling experience showcased the expertise and knowledge that Affiliates can bring to the Smithsonian. Being an Affiliate can be about more than the loaning of artifacts, there can be an exchange of programs and expertise along with interaction with the community at large. Not only did the Festival provide exposure to visitors about Montana’s primordial past, perhaps embedding MOR as a potential stop on a future trip, but also enriched the learning experience that the Smithsonian seeks to provide to all.

July 16, 2010

affiliates in the news: week of July 12

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week! 

The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion will consist of a build-out of the existing 940 Magazine St. warehouse.

National World War II Museum (New Orleans, LA)
For the past 10 years, visitors to the National World War II Museum have gazed upon such carefully restored artifacts as tanks, Jeeps and Higgins landing craft.By next spring, they should be able to watch restorers preparing those treasures for prime time…READ MORE

Frazier International History Museum (Louisville, KY)
WKU graduate student selected for prestigious Smithsonian internship…READ MORE 

MSU paleontologist Jack Horner and team arrive in August 2007 at a site on the Hell Creek Ranch to excavate a Triceratops (Photo by Lon Bolick)

Museum of the Rockies(Bozeman, MT)
MSU finds Triceratops, Torosaurus were different stages of one dinosaur… READ MORE

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science (Raleigh, NC)
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Tuesday introduced the director of its new Nature Research Center and accepted a $1.5 million gift to support the centerREAD MORE  

Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN)
Kids often hear “Look, don’t touch.” At Conner Prairie, families are encouraged to explore with all their senses…READ MORE

New York State Museum (Albany, NY)
A New York State Museum paleontologist has become the only scientist in the U.S. selected to participate in an all-expense paid research program in Spain that will enable him to investigate the effects of climate change on mammals over the last 2 million yearsREAD MORE 

 

Francis Koenig, founder of AnnMarie Garden, lived long enough to see the first permanent sculpture installed as he requested, a sculpture fountain dedicated to the oyster tongers. (Annmarie Garden, Baltimore Sun / July 14, 2010)

Annmarie Garden(Solomons, MD)
…Today, Annmarie Garden is a Southern Maryland gem — a woodland preserve dotted with art ranging from world-class sculptures to whimsical fairy houses created by staff…READ MORE

 

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