October 8, 2015

Kids go bonkers for Superman suit

The signature blue, red and yellow suit worn by mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent wore as Superman is at the Ohio History Center, the headquarters of Ohio History Connection, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to a loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The suit, worn by actor George Reeves in the 1950s televeision show, is part of 1950s: Building the American Dream, a new exhibit at the History Center.

Read the O Say Can You See? blog about this loan.

The Columbus Dispatch posted this video the day the suit was unveiled. They were on hand to see some local school children go bonkers over the suit. Check it out below.

And read the entire Columbus Dispatch story here.

Follow @SIAffiliates, @amhistorymuseum, and @OhioHistory on Twitter to follow the #superman weekend (October 10, 2015 the exhibition opens to the public).

September 28, 2015

Smithsonian that Way

appiconLet’s be honest; not everyone has the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. And not everyone may know that there is a Smithsonian Affiliate in their local community. But what if I told you one app is trying to do just that—help people discover Smithsonian Affiliates in their own neighborhoods?!

blog_app_imageThe Smithsonian Mobile app is not only a digital guide to the Smithsonian in D.C., but it also helps visitors discover the nearest Smithsonian Affiliate in our network of more than 200 partners. “Smithsonian that Way” augmented reality (AR) uses your smart phone’s camera to show the broad reach of the Smithsonian. One filter shows Smithsonian museums. Another filter shows Smithsonian libraries and archives. A third layer shows a tiny sample of the vast amount of Smithsonian research taking place on the National Mall and beyond. And a final filter shows Smithsonian Affiliates, our partners bringing the Smithsonian to communities around the nation.

Each Affiliate location in the app gives an overview of the organization and links to the Smithsonian Affiliations website, where you can learn more about our Affiliate network or navigate to the Affiliate you are interested in visiting.

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood?



Affiliates in the news! October e-newsletter edition

Congrats to these Affiliates making news!  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.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (Staten Island, NY)
Staten Island Museum Is Reopening in Snug Harbor Complex
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, Snug Harbor consists of an 83-acre campus with 28 buildings, including a music hall, an art lab, nine botanical gardens, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Noble Maritime Collection, the Snug Harbor Artist Residency Program and the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

NASA boilerplate, BP-1207, was delivered to the New Mexico Museum of Space History Wednesday after it was restored and painted by Holloman Air Force Base airmen. (Tara Melton — Daily News)

NASA boilerplate, BP-1207, was delivered to the New Mexico Museum of Space History Wednesday after it was restored and painted by Holloman Air Force Base airmen. (Tara Melton — Daily News)

New Mexico Museum of Space History (Alamagordo, NM)
ASA boilerplate returned to museum: After being restored by airmen, boilerplate will be highlighted for six months
Over two years ago, BP-1207 was awarded to the New Mexico Museum of Space History as part of the Smithsonian Affiliates Program and is on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

South Dakota State Historical Society (Pierre, SD)
Lt. Gov. Michels to emcee Native American Day
At the conclusion of the speakers’ comments, Spiritual Leader Roy Stone of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation will lead attendees into the gallery for a special Cleansing Ceremony and Prayer with the newly displayed effigies including the Great Sioux Horse Effigy from South Dakota and horse memorials borrowed from the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the National Museum of the American Indian.

UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, TX)
Smithsonian Exhibit on Display in Texas Educates about Sikh Culture
The permanent exhibit was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and originally opened in 2004.

National World War II Museum (New Orleans, LA)
The World’s Top Museums, According to Travelers
Honoring nearly 600 institutions worldwide, the Travelers’ Choice awards have recognized the favorite museums that serve as cultural treasure troves for our community of millions,” says Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “These world-class museums provide an enriching experience that can be both inspiring and educational for travelers around the globe.” Travelers’ Choice Awards – Non-Art Museums in the US Top 10: #3. The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA.

National Museum of Industrial History (Bethlehem, PA)
National Museum of Industrial History gets closer to mid-2016 opening in Bethlehem
The museum will include 23 pieces on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s 1876 centennial exhibition. The collection includes the likes of the Frick Eclipse portable steam engine and the Linde Wolf ammonia compressor, the oldest surviving large-scale refrigeration compressor in America.

Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN)
Conner Prairie to host annual Museum Day Live
“It’s so valuable to us because we are networked with the largest museum in the country. We’re able to take advantage of special speakers, special exhibits and they assist us with consultations. We’re affiliated with other museums across the country. It’s a nice network for us,” said Brodt.


NASM curator, John Grant, at the Abbe Museum.

Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, Maine)
Acadia Night Sky Festival enters 7th year of stargazing
The festival starts with a presentation by keynote speaker John A. Grant III, a geologist at the Center for Earth & Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum. Grant will present “Exploring Mars with the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity Rovers.” Following Grant’s presentation, attendees may enjoy the “Stars Over Sand Beach” event, where attendees can gaze at Acadia’s amazing night sky and learn about constellations guided by an Acadia National Park ranger.

Youth photos of cosmos to be shown at Abbe
The museum’s partnership with schools in the Wabanaki communities gave students the opportunity to research, learn about and photograph the cosmos using telescopes owned and maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “The goal of the YCCC II program is to use hands-on exercises to teach youth how to control the MicroObservatory robotic telescopes over the internet and take their own images of the universe,” said Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy. “Here at the Abbe, the project also encouraged students to choose subjects based on Wabanaki stories about the stars. Each student had the opportunity to research traditional stories and interpret them in a modern context using 21st century technology.”

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland
The Abbe Museum, the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, is pleased to announce its participation in the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II (YCCC II) program. By partnering with schools in the Wabanaki communities, students had the opportunity to research, learn about and photograph the cosmos using telescopes owned and maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The resulting exhibit, Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland, will open on Sept. 10 to coincide with the Acadia Night Sky Festival. 


Portrait of Beth Levine (Lady with Red Bow), Philip Pearlstein (b. 1924), 1985, Oil on canvas. For the exhibition “Beth Levine: First Lady of Shoes” at the Long Island Museum.

Long Island Museum (Stony Brook, NY)
Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes
In addition to Levine’s iconic footwear, visitors will find photos, paintings, illustrations, film footage and other artifacts on display. The curator said even those who aren’t footwear aficionados will appreciate Levine’s work. “I think you can see these shoes as works of art,” Verin said. “You can really see a brilliant mind and talent at work.” 

The Air Zoo (Portage, Michigan)
RADIO- WSW: Air Zoo’s ‘Black Wings’ Exhibit Tells of Journey to Integrate the Skies
The Smithsonian Institution exhibit about pioneering black aviators and astronauts soon leaves the continental U.S. for good, but people can still see it until Oct. 4th at the Air Zoo in Portage. WMUK’s Earlene McMichael finds out why the exhibit was created and what’s in it from a Smithsonian official and Air Zoo CEO Troy Thrash.

Rhode Island Historical Society (Providence, Rhode Island)
Rhode Island Historical Society partners with Smithsonian
The Rhode Island Historical Society is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian. The organization announced Wednesday its partnership with the Smithsonian Affiliations program. 

Langevin_RIHS_Smithsonian_Affiliate_blogSmithsonian Proportions
While seeing the Hope Diamond or the Apollo 11 capsule may give a sense of awe – and is certainly inspiring – only a vanishingly small number of us will have the opportunity to fly in space or own a 45 karat diamond. Most of us have a GPS in our pockets today to help us get around, though, so when we see Roger Williams’s pocket compass, the connection is instantaneous. I hope this new affiliation will help people around the Ocean State experience that thrill of connection in a state so steeped in tradition and history.

The Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, Alaska)
Anchorage Museum Hosts Arctic Programming During President Obama’s Visit to Alaska
The Anchorage Museum is co-hosting events in collaboration with the upcoming GLACIER (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) Conference, an event hosted in Anchorage Aug. 30-31 by the U.S. Department of State and the Secretary of State John Kerry to broaden awareness of critical issues the international community faces in the Arctic. Approximately 150 foreign ministers and 300 members of the international press will attend the conference, with President Barack Obama giving closing remarks. The Anchorage Museum has created multiple exhibitions and programs focused on the contemporary and future Arctic as part of its Polar Lab programming and is home to the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.

Space Center Houston (Houston, Texas)
Eleven-year-old inventor takes part in Space Center Houston programs
Space Center also offers Space University. According to the website, “SpaceU is a week long immersive, STEM rich learning experience that teaches not only about space exploration, but about traveling to and sustaining life upon a distant planet. Where better to train like an astronaut than in the very heart of where it all began?


September 15, 2015

Here’s what’s happening in your neighborhood in time for Smithsonian Museum Day

In the spirit of the Smithsonian Museums, which offer free admission every day, Museum Day Live! is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Live! ticket… for free.

We’ve compiled a list of exhibitions by region so you can see what is happening at Smithsonian Affiliates during Museum Day. Download your ticket today!

Click here to view the complete list of Smithsonian Affiliates participating this year.


Tampa Bay History Center (Tampa, Florida)

Florida’s Got the Blues
Augustine at 450: A Look at the Oldest European Settlement in the U.S.

Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (Kennesaw, Georgia)

Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited

US Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, Alabama)

Science Fiction, Science Future

Upcountry History Museum – Furman University (Greenville, South Carolina)

The Forgotten War: Korea 1950-1953

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Orange County Regional History Center (Orlando, Florida)

Long Way to the Top: Hard Rock in Orlando, 1972-1985

100 Historic Orlando Icons

The Museum of Arts and Sciences (Daytona Beach, Florida)

Septembers with the Smithsonian

Faces from the Past: Portraits from the MOAS Collection

John James Audubon: Prints from the MOAS Collection

Contemporary Paintings from the MOAS Collection



“Awkward Family Photos” at Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Peoria Riverfront Museum (Peoria, Illinois)

Awkward Family Photos: The Exhibition

Science Rocks! 2015

Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan)

Ten: The Exhibition




Museum of American Finance (New York, New York)

Legal Tender

America in Circulation

Long Island Museum (Stony Brook, New York)

Gilding the Coasts:  Art and Design of Long Island’s Great Estate Era

Beth Levine:  First Lady of Shoes

Young Island:  William Sidney Mount’s Scenes of Childhood

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture (Baltimore, MD)

Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr.

Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (Hershey, Pennsylvania)


“A Family Affair: Station Wagons” at AACA.

A Family Affair:  Station Wagons

Motorbikes for the Masses

Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Tribute Car

1932 REO Royale

Cammack Tucker Collection (The World’s Largest Collection of Tucker Automobiles)

Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)



UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, Texas)

Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab

Our Part of Victory: Texas in World War II

Denver Art Museum (Denver, Colorado)

Fritz Scholder (1937-2005); "Indian and Contemporary Chair;" oil on linen; 1970; Smithsonian American Art Msueum, Gift of Judge and mrs. Oliver Seth. On view at the Denver Art museum.

Fritz Scholder (1937-2005); “Indian and Contemporary Chair;” oil on linen; 1970; Smithsonian American Art Msueum, Gift of Judge and mrs. Oliver Seth. On view at the Denver Art museum.

Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967-1980

The Durham Museum (Omaha, Nebraska)

Omaha – Shizuoka: 50 Years of Friendship, 1965-2015

This May Hurt a Bit: Medicine in Old Omaha

Station to Station: KETV and the Burlington

Union Station: Built to Last

Montana Historical Society (Helena, Montana)

Our Forgotten Pioneers: The Chinese in Montana

Eloquence in Wood: The Art of John L. Clarke

New England

Pleiades Star Cluster Simone, 7th Grade, Indian Township School. Part of Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos at the Abbe Museum.

Pleiades Star Cluster
Simone, 7th Grade, Indian Township School. Part of Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos at the Abbe Museum.

Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum & History Center (Northfield, Vermont)

Women of Norwich: Trailblazers and Torchbearers

Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, Maine)

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos exhibition 

Coming Home

2015 Waponahki Student Art Show

Four Directions of Wabanaki Basketry

Layers of Time: Archaeology at the Abbe Museum


Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (Seattle, Washington)

Titanoboa: Monster Snake 

The Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, Alaska)

Polar Night: Life and Light in the Dead of Night

"Home Field Advantage" at the Anchorage Museum.

“Home Field Advantage” at the Anchorage Museum.

City Limits

Florian Schulz: To the Arctic

Home Field Advantage: Baseball in the Far North

Vox Van


August 26, 2015

Affiliates in the news!

Congrats to these Affiliates making news!  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.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol, VA)
1-YEAR-OLD Birthplace of Country Music Museum reflects on success, but work ahead
“Our goal going forward is to make sure we’re reaching different audiences in different ways. “I think we need to serve a broader public. One of our goals is to reach audiences who don’t think they’re interested in the Bristol Sessions.” 

UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, TX)
Exhibition in Texas Depicts The Legacy Of Sikhs & Punjab
“We’ve been in America for over 100 years,” Singh says. “Yet no one knows or has heard about us.” In hopes of changing that, Singh partnered with UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures to help bring an updated version of the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit, Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab, to San Antonio. 


The Wolfsonian (Miami, FL)
Wolfsonian exhibit explores the artistry and social implications of the Newcomb Pottery Enterprise
The traveling exhibition, organized by the Newcomb Art Gallery in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute’s Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), also features jewelry, metalwork, needlework, linoleum prints and bookbinding. A lavish and scholarly catalog complements the ample wall texts and typically elegant presentation in the sixth-floor galleries. The Wolfsonian has contributed a fine audio guide, collateral programming and its own American Arts and Crafts-style artisan display tables.

PinPoint: On Newcomb Pottery at The Wolfsonian, Florida International University
Women, Art, and Social Change is an exciting complement to The Wolfsonian’s core collection, with the lifespan of Newcomb Pottery aligning closely with the collecting period of the museum,” stated curatorial and exhibitions assistant Whitney Richardson, who is organizing The Wolfsonian’s presentation of the exhibition.

24de926e39ccf2e4e9a0b115028fea581fab7341North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, NC)
Where the Wild Things Aren’t: Cats Avoid Places Coyotes Roam
“Domestic cats are estimated to kill billions of birds and small mammals each year,” says lead author Roland Kays, a zoologist with NC State’s College of Natural Resources and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. “Knowing where they hunt helps assess the risk to wildlife.” The study is part of the eMammal project, which enables citizen scientists to collaborate with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and NC State University to document animal activity. Co-author Robert Costello is with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Tavis Forrester, Megan C. Baker and William McShea are with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
Smithsonian exhibit sets out how Pittsburgh region propelled war victory
As a part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, the Heinz History Center will host guest speaker Dr. Jeremy Kinney. The curator from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will discuss the Pittsburgh area’s integral aeronautics contributions to the Allied Forces victory. 

We Did It! History center looks back at WWII

g_cover_22106399_ver1.0_640_480Memphis Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum (Memphis, TN)
Housing History: Memphis Music Hall of Fame opens its doors on Beale Street
“We’re almost there,” says John Doyle, executive director of the Smithsonian-[affiliated] Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which has overseen the development and creation of the Hall. “We’ve got a few more touches and final things to get ready, but it’s almost a reality.”

National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA)
Richard Avedon: Family Affairs
Additions to the NMAJH show include a photograph of a 12-year-old Avedon with his colleagues in the YHMA Camera Club; an Avedon self-portrait as a teenager with classmate James Baldwin, both reflected in a mirror; Avedon with his large format camera, photographed by Ginsberg; an installation photo from Avedon’s 1962 exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution;

National Inventors Hall of Fame (US Patent And Trademark Office) (North Canton, OH)
Smithsonian to host innovation festival at National Museum of American History
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will host an innovation festival September 26 and 27 as a signature event of the collaboration between the Smithsonian and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Thirteen companies, universities, government agencies and independent inventors, selected by a juried panel, will participate in the festival, which will explore how today’s inventors are creating the world of the future

Allen Ginsberg’s Family, Paterson, New Jersey, May 3, 1970. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation. From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Gift of the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Allen Ginsberg’s Family, Paterson, New Jersey, May 3, 1970. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation. From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Gift of the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (Greenville, SC)
Innoskate spotlights Greenville’s skateboard culture
The aim of Innoskate is “to change perceptions about skateboarding, to educate people about the science and the innovation behind the sport, and also, to really think about skateboarding as a way to bring life back into communities that are in need,” Halverson said.

Innoskate at the Children’s Museum (VIDEO)

Mississippi Department of Archives and History (Jackson, MS)
Old MHP command bus could end up in Smithsonian

South Dakota State Historical Society (Pierre, SD)
Sioux horse effigy returned to Cultural Heritage Center
“We wanted to do something special to mark the return of the effigy to South Dakota,” said Jay Smith, museum director for the State Historical Society. “We are designing a new display for the effigy that will include loaned effigies from the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the National Museum of the American Indian.”

July 27, 2015

July-August Kudos to Affiliates!

Congrats to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments:


Allied Arts announced more than $2.55 million will be distributed to various nonprofit arts organizations during fiscal year 2016. Among the top grantees are Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) ($429,220).

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has pledged a three-year, $1 million grant to Union Station, Kansas City, Inc. (Kansas City, MO) to help expand the production of Maker Faire Kansas City.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced 69 Our Town awards totaling nearly $5 million through the Our Town program, including $150,000 to the Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK) to support Polar Lab, a creative placemaking and artist engagement project.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service has announced a $330,000 cooperative agreement to Lowell, Massachusetts, for continued work on a multi-modal transportation improvement project for the Lowell National Historical Park.

The federal grants from the Department of Natural Resources including $37,460 to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (Fishers, IN) to repair and restore the 1823 Conner House at the Conner Prairie Museum.

A stingray touch tank and new historical exhibits are part of a planned $2.3 million expansion project at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, IA). The new attractions are part of the museum’s “River of Innovation” project, a multi-faceted effort that will strive to connect science and technology with the history and culture of the Mississippi River. The museum was awarded a $468,000 Community Attraction and Tourism Grant through the Vision Iowa program in addition to a $250,000 contribution from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to support the project.

The Hubbard Museum of the American West (Ruidoso Downs, NM) has received $7,500 grant from The Hubbard Foundation to support equipment for its interactive exhibits.

Dr. Pepper Snapple and national nonprofit KaBOOM! have awarded the Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA) a $13,200 Let’s Play Improvement Grant to use toward the purchase of an Imagination Playground in a Cart, an innovative playground equipment system.

Achievements and Recognition

PACTV is a bronze winner in the 35th annual Telly Awards for its documentary short titled “Paddling Through History.” “Paddling Through History” is a documentary short about the importance of the traditional dugout boat, or mishoon, to the history of the Wampanoag People. This documentary was produced on behalf of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program (WIP) at Plimoth Plantation (Plimoth, MA).

Marietta Mullen, Director of Colonial Interpretive Training at Plimoth Plantation was selected to receive the Leadership in History Award of Merit, from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for her exemplary achievement in reviving and preserving the story of Mayflower II.

Leadership and Staff Changes

The Irving Arts Center’s (Irving, TX) executive director Richard Huff has been chosen to receive one of the annual leadership awards of Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit that works to advance the arts and arts education across the country. Richard will receive the Selina Roberts Ottum Award, for outstanding contributions in the local arts agency field. Todd Eric Hawkins has been named the Center’s new executive director for Richard, who retires on July 31.

Amy Hollander has been named new executive director for The National Museum of Industrial History (Bethlehem, PA).

Space Center Houston (Houston, TX) has welcomed Tracy L. Lamm to the newly created position of chief operating officer in the midst of great growth for the nonprofit museum and education foundation.

May 4, 2015

Katharine Hepburn at The Durham Museum

Special thanks for this guest post to Amy Henderson, National Portrait Gallery’s historian emerita. Amy is a cultural historian specializing in “the lively arts”—particularly media-generated celebrity culture. Her books and exhibitions run the gamut from the pioneers in early broadcasting to Elvis Presley, Katharine Hepburn and Katharine Graham.

In the late 1980s, I met writer-director Garson Kanin at a Washington dinner party, and he set the stage for one of my happiest adventures as a cultural historian at the National Portrait Gallery. When I discovered that Garson, who wrote and directed all of the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy movies, lived next door to Herself in New York, I whined until he promised to give me her address. My excuse? The Portrait Gallery needed a fine portrait of the iconic actress!

Garson’s introduction worked, and I got to know Miss Hepburn in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I would have coffee and cookies with her when I traveled to New York, and we always went on an exploration of all the portraits she kept in her townhouse; there were a lot, since she had known artists her entire life.

She mentioned “all the costumes” on the upper floor, but I never got a glimpse. Now, thanks to the Durham Museum in Omaha, the costumes are on full view. “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen” is drawn from the Kent State Museum’s Hepburn Costume Collection, and features more than 35 costumes worn in 21 films and 6 stage productions—and some of her private life clothes.


Mick Hale, Director of Education at the Durham, heard that I had curated a 2007 Portrait Gallery exhibition celebrating Hepburn’s centennial, and invited me to speak about her life in conjunction with the Durham’s costume show. I eagerly accepted, and spoke at this Smithsonian Affiliate in April. Talking about her life, I focused mainly on Hepburn’s remarkable ability to fashion her own image, even in the heyday of the Hollywood studio system when studios configured their stars to reflect their own particular movie “brand.”  E.g., Warner Bros. had a “Murderers’ Row” of gangsters, while MGM boasted “all the stars in the heavens.”

The Durham has been a Smithsonian Affiliate since 2002, and Mick Hale estimates that they have hosted 25 or so traveling exhibitions such as the Hepburn costumes. Other recent speakers have included Mike Neufeld from the National Air and Space Museum, who spoke about the Apollo 8 mission during the Durham’s “1968” exhibition; and Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Richard Kurin, who shared his stories about 101 Smithsonian artifacts last Fall when the Durham hosted the Franklin Institute’s traveling exhibit “Identity: An Exhibition of You.”


My visit was enormous fun. First, the museum itself is lodged in what had been a stunning Art Deco train station that opened in 1931; lofty ceilings and a sense of bustle create an instantly uplifting “wow” museum experience. Second, for me it was great to see the costumes Hepburn wore during her long stage and screen career. Her waist was TINY—20”—and it was fascinating to see costumes from such landmark performances as the Broadway version of the Philadelphia Story. I also lingered over the section that spotlighted her impeccably tailored tan slacks, of which she had dozens.

My visit came at the end of Mick Hale’s tenure as education director at the Durham. After ten years, he is heading toward new challenges, directing a leadership initiative in Lincoln. But his dynamic partnership with the Smithsonian will remain firmly rooted at the Durham. “The museum and I are very proud of what we have done with the Smithsonian,” he told me, “and I know the quality work and collaboration will continue for a long time.”

image003All photos courtesy of the Durham Museum.

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