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March 24, 2011

2011 affiliations conference: let’s eat!

More and more museums are exploring ways to use food and foodways as an extension of their missions, and as an additional pathway to community engagement.  (Here’s an example, and what some Affiliates are doing.)  Whether exploring historic and cultural traditions around food or promoting an agenda of sustainability, food is increasingly appearing in the repertoire of museum programming. And we know this issue carries national importance, as the American Association of Museums recently announced its collaborative proposal for Let’s Move Museums and Gardens as a way to address the First Lady’s focus on healthy, active lifestyles that incorporate good food.

At the National Museum of the American Indian, the Mitsitam Café (mitsitam means “Let’s Eat” in the local Piscataway and Delaware languages) is a prime example of how food allows visitors to “experience Native cultures and indigenous foods in ways that appeal to all the senses, transcending the limits of a museum exhibition,”  according to Museum Director, Kevin Gover.  Mitsitam Executive Chef Richard Hetzler researched indigenous foodways from five general cultural landscapes in North and South America as represented in the Museum’s collections.  The result is a seasonal menu (the entire café changes some of its dishes 4 times per year) that reflects the food available to Native Americans, and their attitudes toward preparing it.  Visitors see their tamales being made by hand and salmon roasting on an open fire pit – both ancient Native techniques.  The menus are updated and refreshed for the 21st century palette, but the food also finds its way to interpretative carts, festivals and public programs.  One cannot help feeling the connection to native culture that flows uninterrupted from the galleries to the café.

Using food as an interpretation tool will be the topic of a session at the annual Smithsonian Affiliations Conference this year, and what better time to do it than over breakfast?  NMAI Chef Richard Hetzler will prepare a dish from his internationally-acclaimed Mitsitam cookbook, while discussing the Museum’s philosophy toward foodways education.  Other Affiliates who are exploring this topic are welcome to share their programs at the session as well.  And of course, we’ll all enjoy a buffet of Native breakfast foods to get our creative juices flowing. 

Bon appétit!

To see the full agenda and to register for the 2011 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, click here.

September 27, 2010

si authors on the road

Filed under: enewsletter feature,General,You Heard It Here First — Tags: , , , — Jennifer Brundage @ 7:27 pm

Just in time for the holidays, two new books featuring the Smithsonian will be available this fall, with authors ready to travel to Affiliates for programs and book signings.  For more information or to pursue a booking, please contact us at affiliates@si.edu.

NMAI's new cookbook features historical descriptions and artifact links

Mitsitam = Let’s Eat! 

The Mitsitam Café Cookbook documents America’s truly indigenous foods, as featured at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).    Anyone who has visited this groundbreaking museum resource – a destination in its own right – knows that the Native story told in the Museum’s galleries is brilliantly complemented by the culinary traditions available to savor in the museum’s café.  Written by the Mitsitam café’s executive chef Richard Hetzler, this cookbook showcases 90 home-tested recipes.  Each dish was researched and developed to highlight indigenous foods that are the staples of five Native American regions in North and South America.  The book features a historical description for each of these recipes that have been enjoyed by NMAI visitors since its opening in 2004.  In addition, images of artifacts from NMAI’s collection, as they pertain to Native foodways, appear throughout.

Richard Hetzler is available to travel to Affiliates for book signings, and can talk about a range of topics, including preparing food from Native ingredients and traditions; developing a local seasonal menu;   developing the café’s concept with Museum staff, and more.  Program ideas could range from a simple lecture and cooking demonstration, to a cooking class, or a “meet/eat with the chef” meal for your members, or a dialogue with a content specialist from your museum or region.   

NASM's Autobiography, coming out October 2010

A Soaring Museum and its Treasures 

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) welcomes eight million visitors a year and holds vast collections of aircraft, rockets, spacecraft, and related artifacts—so many, in fact, that they all add up to the world’s largest aerospace collection.  Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography is the first and only complete history and behind-the scenes tour of this great museum.

 Beautifully illustrated with over 70 photographs and artworks, and engagingly telling the history of 150 years of flight development, the Autobiography does full justice to the soaring museum and its treasures.  Written by curators and scientists who protect and work with these collections, the book reveals the stories of many of the artifacts.  It shares the untold narratives between the Smithsonian Institution and the heroes working in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration.  In addition, innovative features have been specially designed for this book, including “Superlatives”—record makers and record breakers; and “Curator’s Choice” – selected objects deemed most fascinating.

The book was edited by Michael J. Neufeld, chair of the Space History Division at NASM.  Michael Neufeld is available to visit Affiliates to discuss and sign this extraordinary book, at once a stunning keepsake of a world-class museum experience, a fitting tribute to the legends of aviation, and a colorful resource on the history of flight.

 

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