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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!

January 27, 2014

affiliates in the news

Congrats to these Affiliates making news! Each month we highlight Affiliate-Smithsonian and Affiliate-Affiliate collaborations making headlines.  If you have a clipping highlighting a collaboration with the Smithsonian or with a fellow Affiliate you’d like to have considered for the Affiliate blog, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee.

Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana)
Museum of the Rockies T. rex to arrive at Smithsonian in April
The T. rex unearthed in Montana in 1988 will arrive at the National Museum of Natural History on April 15 on a 50-year loan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Smithsonian is planning a new, 31,000-square-foot dinosaur hall that is scheduled to open in 2019.

Jack Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, provides scale for Tyrannosaurus rex fossils at the excavation site near the Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana in June 1990. Named for its discoverer, Kathy Wankel, the Wankel T.rex is estimated to have weighed six to seven tons. Photo courtesy Museum of the Rockies.

Jack Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, provides scale for Tyrannosaurus rex fossils at the excavation site near the Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana in June 1990. Named for its discoverer, Kathy Wankel, the Wankel T.rex is estimated to have weighed six to seven tons. Photo courtesy Museum of the Rockies.

American Textile History Museum (Lowell, Massachussets)
American Textile Museum Receives Major Gift
The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA has received a major gift of $1 million from the late G. Gordon Osborne and his wife, Marjorie, who passed away last year.

January 23, 2014

Unearthing Paleontologists in Miami

A special thanks for this guest post to Michelle Beumer, Restoration and Social Action Coordinator at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida.

Ever wanted to be a Paleontologist? Last Thursday, over 100 fifth grade students from Goulds Elementary School in Homestead got to experience a day in the life of a paleontologist. Through a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science staff joined Goulds Elementary students for a fossil whalebone scavenger hunt, a live science webcast with Dr. Nick Pyenson, and a question and answer session hosted by the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science staff member, Ta-Shana Taylor is our very own whalebone expert, and guides the students through their scavenger hunt activity. Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science staff member, Ta-Shana Taylor is our very own whalebone expert, and guides the students through their scavenger hunt activity. Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

To jump-start the immersion experience, students were sent on a mission to hunt for special whale fossils.  Through various stations, students took a trip around the world exploring different fossil-rich locations. Students dug through buckets of sand (not unlike real paleontologists) to find their bone.  Working as a team, students then had to figure out the story of their whalebone in a broader picture by comparing results in each of the five world locations. Then Smithsonian scientist Dr. Nick Pyenson discussed his research on the webcast and showed some of the specimens that be found through his work in Peru, Chile, the eastern United States, Panama, and Vancouver, while answering questions that students from around the country asked via a live chat window. The students from Goulds Elementary learned basic whale anatomy and how that corresponds to our own human anatomy, what whale species are rare and common now versus millions of years ago, and how paleontologists discover and dig up history.

Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

The new Q?RIUS (pronounced “curious”) collection at the National Museum of Natural History will be presented through a series of live webcasts. From January until June 2014, nine live webcasts will air that examine a wide range of scientific topics that are perfect for you and your classrooms to watch, participate in, and enjoy. Each webcast is based on the Next Generation Science Standards and entices students to explore core science concepts through real-world connections.

Explore the topics in the schedule to access a package of classroom activities, lessons, readings and other related resources that support each webcast program.

Join us in our scientific adventures and tune in to watch real Smithsonian scientists talk about their research and answer your questions, live!

Join the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the National Museum of Natural History on February 12th to become Bird Detectives with featuring Carla Dove.

Students watching the Q?RIUS webcast from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

Students watching the Q?RIUS webcast from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Frost Museum of Science.

November 22, 2013

What to see at a Smithsonian Affiliate in your neighborhood

It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving break. We’re all excited about seeing friends and family and taking a little break from school and work. So here are a few ideas for including the Smithsonian in your holiday plans from our Affiliate partners across the country:

Midwest

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurt, Illinois, hosts Modern Designer Jewelry from the Smithsonian, an exhibition that features jewelry from American Jewelry designers from 1960 to 2009 from the collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

Mid-Atlantic

Take an in-depth look at Pennsylvania’s significant role during the Civil War at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. In its new major exhibition, Pennsylvania’s Civil War, you can find a tintype camera and portable printing press on loan from the National Museum of American History.

Mountain Plains

Apollo Boilerplate Command Module on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

Apollo Boilerplate Command Module on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

More than 21 artifacts on loan from the National Air and Space Museum are on view at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamagordo. Get an up-close look at an Apollo Boilerplate Command Module and see the training coveralls worn by New Mexico astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist to walk on the moon.

If you’re in San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures is currently displaying two exhibitions from the National Museum of the American Indian and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Native Words, Native Warriors tells the story of soldiers from more than a dozen tribes who used their Native languages while in service in the U.S. military. Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America celebrates the vibrancy, creativity and history of American Indian skateboarding culture.

New England

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the rich tradition of gathering together at harvest time and celebrating the abundant joys of the season. At Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, visitors can learn all about the settlement of the Plymouth Colony in the 17th century.

Southeast

Go on safari at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina. Fourteen specimens—from a tiny eastern mole to a mountain gorilla—are on loan from the National Museum of Natural History.

The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, Florida, includes five works of art from the National Air and Space Museum collection in its exhibition Paintings of the Space Age.

The Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, Florida, has Earl Cunningham’s painting Seminole Indian Summer Camp on view from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in its Earl Cunningham gallery. 

Seminole Indian Summer Camp, ca. 1963, Earl Cunningham, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Michael and Marilyn Mennello.

Seminole Indian Summer Camp, ca. 1963, Earl Cunningham, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Michael and Marilyn Mennello.

West

Arizona State Museum, in Tucson, celebrates the creative work of American Indian directors, producers, writers, and actors during the Native Eyes Film Showcase, in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian and many others.

If you’re in California, visit the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and see I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story. Created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and organized for travel by SITES, the exhibit tells the story of how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of our nation’s history.

Check out the San Diego Air and Space Museum where you can see nearly 30 space-related artifacts on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

 

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood? Find an Affiliate here.

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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 6, 2013

every time i visit your museum, bling bling

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

Housed in an historic bank building on Wall Street in New York City, the Museum of American Finance is dedicated to preserving, exhibiting and teaching about American finance and financial history.  The founder, John Herzog, began with two exhibits in a U.S. Custom House in 1988.  Since then, this independent, non-profit museum has gradually expanded in exhibits and programs to what it is today, including becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2001.

Monopoly Game Pieces

Monopoly Game Pieces

The museum currently has on display a unique piece on long-term loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Visitors during Smithsonian Museum Day Live! can get up close to a golden, bejeweled Monopoly set worth $2 million, created by jeweler Sidney Mobell.  The board and pieces are solid 18-karat gold and encrusted with 165 precious gemstones including diamonds, rubies and emeralds.  Bling Bling!! Even the dice are blinged-out with 42 full-cut diamonds marking the number dots on the die.

“We have quite a few finance-related board games in our collection, and games are a great way to introduce basic financial concepts to visitors. It made sense to borrow the Monopoly set for display,” noted Becky Laughner, Director of Exhibits & Archives.

The “eye-catching” Monopoly set attracts a variety of visitors from grade-school students to bank executives.  “We display many paper documents, and the Monopoly set could not be more different, while still assisting us in teaching financial history and promoting financial literacy.”

Laughner hopes that the game helps visitors “to understand that learning about finance can be fun and interesting.”  She adds,

“We hope visitors leave [the Museum] with a better understanding of money, finance and US history, and we realize that these topics are common threads that run through almost every aspect of our lives.”

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

Monopoly Board Game

Monopoly Board Game

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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