January 9, 2016

On the Road Again with 101 Objects

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Dr. Kurin uses a 3D printed replica of Lincoln’s Top Hat during his talk about his book at the Sullivan Museum and Library. Photo credit: Sullivan Museum

Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Richard Kurin, helped kick-off our 20th anniversary year at the Sullivan Museum and History Center (Vermont) in September and he’s on the road again sharing stories from his recent book, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, with Affiliates across the country.  Since 2013 he’s visited 11 Smithsonian Affiliates and will travel to two more in January and February 2016.

On January 11, Kurin visits History Colorado in Denver. As an expert storyteller, Kurin tells the story of the nation through some well-known treasures and unexpected objects that inspire learning and curiosity in everyone. He’s noted, “using objects to tell the story of the nation presents a great opportunity. Rather than learning history by memorizing names and dates, objects have a way of conveying historical times and events in a dramatic but tangible way.”

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The very first stop on the “101 Objects” book tour was at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Photo credit: NMAJH

On February 16, he’ll visit the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh where he’ll continue to “wow” visitors with stories about the Star-Spangled Banner, Abraham Lincoln’s Hat and less-well-known objects like Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.

And keep a lookout…Dr. Kurin often travels with 3D printed replicas of some of the treasures in the books. If he uses one, snap a photo and tag us at #SIYN20 and share with us! In the meantime, enjoy these photos of Dr. Kurin’s travels through Affiliateland speaking about his book.

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Dr. Kurin traveled to the West coast and visited the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Seattle in 2014 for a gallery talk about the book. Photo credit: NW MAC

 

October 27, 2011

Remembering America’s Real War of Independence

Most of us know little about the War of 1812.  What were its causes, when did it start, who were its heroes and how did it end?  If we remember anything at all, it may be the burning of Washington, D.C., the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry – the event that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem – and perhaps Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans (fought two weeks after the signing of the treaty that ended the war).  For most of us the rest is a long-forgotten chapter in dusty old textbooks.  An upcoming exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will assemble a remarkable number of paintings and artifacts from the War of 1812 in an effort to remind us that it was this war that completed the unfinished business of the American Revolution and secured our true independence from the British, once and for all. 

The Star Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

As the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 approaches, two artifacts stand out as enduring symbols of this era:  the original Star Spangled Banner, on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and the USS Constitution, the victorious naval vessel, still commissioned and now docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. 

The USS Constitution near the USS Constitution Museum in Boston. Photo by Smithsonian Affiliations.

On October 20, I had the honor of announcing our new Affiliation with the USS Constitution Museum, thus symbolically joining these two great artifacts into one family.  Both tell us much about the sacrifices of prior generations and the many hardships endured along the road to freedom. Both are also amazing examples of the combined efforts of generations of concerned citizens, public officials, historians and museum professionals to preserve these precious legacies  of our nation’s early and fragile years. 

We hope that the upcoming Bicentennial of the War of 1812 will draw further attention to the work that museums are doing to preserve our nation’s past and draw lessons for our future.  Are there any War of 1812 stories, artifacts, or historic landmarks in your communities?  Let us hear from you so that we can work together to present the fullest picture of this critical part of our history. 

Harold A. Closter
See more photos from Harold’s visit to the museum here.

Smithsonian Affiliations Director, Harold Closter, with USS Constitution commanding officers. Photo by Smithsonian Affiliations.

 

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