December 1, 2013
The votes are in—123,039—and today, December 1, 2013, marked the 100-day anniversary of the birth of the giant panda cub on August 23. This afternoon in a festive ceremony, attended by Ambassador Cui Tiankai from the People’s Republic of China, Kerri-Ann Jones of the U.S. State Department and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough, the female cub was given a name.
Bao Bao, meaning “precious or treasure” in English, was the name bestowed upon the much-celebrated new cub. It was one of the five Mandarin Chinese names, including Ling Hua (darling or delicate flower), Long Yun (long means dragon and yun is charming), Mulan (a legendary woman), Zhen Bao (treasure and valued) selected by a officials and voted on by the cub’s online fans.
“When this cub was born last summer, I was thrilled,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, according to official reports. “It was a great moment for the National Zoo. Bao Bao symbolizes 41 years of research and collaboration both at the National Zoo and in China. We’re grateful to everyone around the world who voted to name her and help us celebrate today.”
The ceremony also included special video messages from First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and First Lady of the People’s Republic of China, Peng Liyuan. After the naming ceremony, Chinese lion entertainers danced their way to the giant panda yard where Tian Tian, the father of the cub, was treated to a frozen concoction of specialty foods.
Zoo officials haven’t set an exact day yet when the cub will make its public debut, except to say “January 2014.”
October 17, 2013
The doors of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and galleries will open today, following the 16-day government shutdown. The National Zoo will reopen on Friday, October 17 at 10 a.m.; but the Pandacam is expected to go live Thursday afternoon. Regularly scheduled hours—10 to 5:30 for the museums located on the National Mall, and 11:30 to 7 for the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery—are to resume. Programs will also get underway, but officials recommend checking the Institution’s website for updates on rescheduling and reimbursement for previously canceled events.
The Smithsonian’s fall calendar of exhibitions has a number of much anticipated shows in the works including the highly acclaimed “Dancing the Dream” at the National Portrait Gallery and the Sackler Gallery’s much-anticipated “Yoga: The Art of Transformation.”
As the doors open and the staff welcomes visitors, a number of old favorites await the crowds—the Hope Diamond, the Wright Flyer, Lincoln’s Top Hat, the Ruby Slippers, to name a few of the 137 million artifacts and artworks held in the collections. The Zoo, meanwhile, promises to release an update later today of the panda cub’s growth over the past two weeks.
Five exhibitions you won’t want to miss include:
“You Can, You Will, You Must” Just before the government shutdown, the National Museum of American History installed a stunning billboard from the World War II era. The poster was conserved and reassembled in 12 separate parts and looks just as fresh and vibrant as it did at the beginning of the war, when it debuted.
“Mud Masons of Mali” On view in the Natural History Museum’s African Voices Focus Gallery, this exhibition profiles three generations of masons: master mason Konbaba, 77; masons Boubacar, 52, Lassina, 49, and Salif, 33; and apprentice Almamy, 20. They belong to the Boso ethnic group, which founded present-day Djenné (pronounced JEN-NAY) in the 13th century A.D.
“The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery” The National Postal Museum’s new 12,000-square-foot addition, which opened last month, features some 20,000 philatelic objects, including America’s most famous stamp, the Inverted Jenny.
“Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry” The how features 20 poignant images of life under the sea. Brian Skerry, an award-winning National Geographic photographer, has spent the last 30 years documenting the world’s most beautiful—and most imperiled—marine environments.
“Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds” Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci was an early innovator in the science of aviation? Between 1505 and 1506, the legendary polymath created his “Codex on the Flight of Birds,” an 18-page notebook containing detailed observations on aerodynamics. A digitized version of the d0cument went to Mars on the Curiosity Rover in 2011. The original codex is at the National Air and Space Museum, but only until October 21, so hurry in.
September 25, 2013
Nothing like a free show and this Saturday, September 28, all the fun is on us. The ninth annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live invites readers to download a free ticket for two and explore the collections of 1,500 participating museums from all 50 states, including dozens of Smithsonian Affiliate museums, a vast network of partners in communities around the nation.
Be sure to let us know in the comments about where you’ll be using those free tickets: but if you’re in one of these neighborhoods, may we suggest:
Be a Child Again in Philadelphia The exhibitions and programs at the National Museum of American Jewish History are sure to spark enthusiasm from all members of the family, young and old, especially the new exhibit “The Snowy Day and Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” which the New York Times has called “an exploration of universal childhood dreams.” This is the first major exhibition to pay tribute to the award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983), whose books include Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair and The Snowy Day.
Swing Time in Kansas City Located at the crossroads of 18th & Vine, the Jazz District of Kansas City, Missouri, the American Jazz Museum showcases the preservation, exhibition and advancement of the story and spirit of jazz. On view is the Smithsonian traveling exhibition “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music,” (Aug. 1- Oct. 27) a look at the social history and individual creativity that produced stars like Tito Puente, Ritchie Valens, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana and Selena with conversations, performances and workshops.
Cowboys in Cody The award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, says it has a “uniquely American story” to tell about American west, beginning with “the land and its first peoples, and extends through the centuries to the present day—western experiences that refine the spirit of our nation.” So grab your cowboy hat and learn about the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, as well as the Plains Indians and the natural history of the greater Yellowstone area.
Pilots in Dallas More than 30 aircraft and display galleries rock the world for aviation buffs at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas. The museum boasts of some stellar collections that include early biplanes, the Apollo 7 command module, historically significant military and general aviation aircraft, numerous commercial airline artifacts, as well as a World War II exhibit, and an extensive history of Southwest Airlines. But the must-see artifact here is the iconic flying disk, the Chance Vought V-173. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a flying pancake!
Silver and Gold on Wall Street For all your future little financiers, there’s nothing like the Museum of American Finance in New York City. Here you can pay homage to the almighty dollar and check out the museum’s new exhibition “The Fed at 100,” which opens on Museum Day. The place is chock full of exhibits on financial markets, money and banking and entrepreneurship, not to mention a section on America’s financial pioneer Alexander Hamilton. But perhaps, the costliest artifact of all is the 18 karat gold Monopoly set on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. A real gem!
Stay All Day, and Then Some, in Daytona Located in the lush 90-acre Tuscawilla preserve in Central Florida, the Museum of Arts and Sciences is the kind of place where you might need to go back, and then back again. There’s popular Americana including vintage automobiles, railway cars and the museum boasts of its world class collection of Coca-Cola advertising memorabilia. Also on location to be explored is the Cuban Foundation Museum, a children’s museum, a “visible storage” building, a giant ground sloth skeleton as well as African artifacts, a Chinese art collection and a planetarium. Write home if you get lost!
Choo-Choos in Baltimore The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is the repository of one of the most comprehensive collections of railway artifacts in the world, and is home to one of the Smithsonian’s most treasured artifacts, the 12-and-a-half ton, 1851 locomotive, the Pioneer. Restored to its 1901 splendor, and constructed of wrought and cast iron with copper boiler tubes and a wooden cab, the passenger locomotive carried Union troops and supplies into Western Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. See other facets of railroading including everything from dining car china to the clocks and pocket watches that kept the trains run on time. UPDATE 9/25/2013: The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum will not be open to the public on Museum Day. The satellite locations—B&O Ellicott City Station and Mount Clare Museum House—will accept Museum Day Live! tickets for September 28th and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum will accept tickets that were already downloaded on the 29th. Questions can be addressed to MuseumDay@si.edu
September 18, 2013
G. Wayne Clough, the Smithsonian’s 12th secretary, announced that he will retire in October 2014.
“I am confident that with our initiatives underway in bioconservation, education, digitization and fundraising, this is the right time to announce my plans for next fall so that an orderly transition can begin,” said Clough, whose six-year tenure has included millions of dollars in fundraising as well as the recruitment of new leadership to the Smithsonian’s museums and research facilities.
Clough oversees a budget of $1 billion that includes federal and non-federal funds, 6,400 employees and more than 6,200 volunteers. He has brought in more than $900 million in contributions to the Institution and hired top leadership, hailing from major research organizations across the country, including new directors for the National Zoo, the American History Museum, the African Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Archives of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
In 2008, when the regents tapped the former civil engineer and president of Georgia Institute of Technology for the post, Clough shared his vision for the organization with Smithsonian.com. “I think that the Smithsonian has huge assets and resources that can be used in different ways that can be shaped to address issues in a way not possible if everyone stays confined in one space. It’s not a question of changing what those assets are; it’s a question of looking at them in a different way.”
His signature project, or the Grand Challenges, organized under the umbrella of four themes—Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe, Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet, Valuing World Cultures and Understanding the American Experience—has expanded funding for scientific and cultural research, interdisciplinary collaborations, as well as for collections and conservation. In his most recent publication of the e-book, Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age, he addresses the future of museum scholarship in digitizing artifacts, crowdsourcing research and opening up collections for public interpretation and consumption. “Looking down the road,” he says, “we will see people engaged in the creative activities of the Institution. In the past, the creative activities were entirely behind the walls of museums and collection centers. The public only got to access that through labels in exhibitions, which told them what we thought. Now, in this new world, people actually will help us design exhibitions, and it will be interactive.”
Coming from a background in education, the Secretary has also forged a uniquely new relationship between museums and the classroom. In November, a new education facility, Qrius, will open at the National Museum of Natural History. A mashup between a children’s museum, a classroom, a field research station and a scientific lab , Qrius will feature visits and interactions with the museum’s scientists and researchers. Clough been at the forefront of bringing Smithsonian scholarship to teachers and providing resources that are linked to state standards. Within the Institution, the secretary has also promoted educational opportunities for hundreds of fellows, interns and research associates.
The search for a new Secretary will be conducted by a committee of the Board of Regents.